CLEARWATER, Fla. (News Release) – The 22nd-ranked and top-seeded Louisville baseball team saw its BIG EAST Championship title hopes ended on Friday night with a 6-2 loss to USF in an elimination game at Bright House Field.
With Friday’s loss, the Cardinals dropped to 39-20 overall and will now await their NCAA post-season fate until the NCAA Championship field is announced on Monday at noon ET on ESPNU. The Bulls (36-21) advance to a BIG EAST semifinal matchup against Connecticut on Saturday at 1 p.m.
For the second straight outing on Friday, the Cardinals struggled offensively as USF lefty starter Matt Reed and righty reliever Austin Adams limited Louisville to only four hits and just one earned run. U of L opened Friday with a 4-1 loss to Connecticut in a second round game that was postponed from Thursday because of rain. The Cardinals managed just four hits in each of Friday’s game, which matched a season-low.
Overall, Reed allowed one earned run and two total runs on four hits in 7.1 innings to earn the victory and improve to 5-3 on the season. Adams followed with 1.2 innings of hitless relief to earn his fourth save of the season.
For Louisville, freshman right-hander Jared Ruxer (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) suffered just his second career loss and dropped to 8-2 overall after allowing four runs on eight hits with two strikeouts in 6.0 innings. At the plate for Louisville, junior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) hit his sixth home run of the season, while junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) added two hits in the loss.
The Bulls wasted no time in finding the scoring column plating a run on three consecutive hits in the first inning against Ruxer. Designated hitter Daniel Rockhold had the key hit, an RBI single to left center to plate second baseman Luis Llerena for the 1-0 advantage.
After struggling for the first four innings against Reed, the Cardinals broke through for their first run of the night in the fifth inning when Wasserman connected on a 0-2 pitch for a solo bomb that cleared everything in right field and landed in the marsh outside the ballpark. It was the seventh career home run for Wasserman.
However, the Bulls answered immediately in the bottom of the fifth as leftfielder Alex Mendez hammered a 2-0 pitch from Ruxer over the right field wall for a three-run homer, his third of the season, to give his squad a 4-1 lead. Scoring on the home run for USF was catcher Andrew Longley, who reached base on a one-out single, and shortstop Kyle Teaf, who singled down the left field line.
Louisville trimmed the deficit to 4-2 in the eighth inning when pinch runner Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) scored from second on a throwing error by Teaf on a groundball off the bat of freshman pinch hitter Mason Snyder (Ottawa, Ill./Marquette Academy). The throw by Teaf from his shortstop position sailed over the head of first baseman Todd Brazeal allowing Gibson to score easily.
Any chance at a Louisville rally was ended in the bottom of the eighth when Rockhold sent a 0-2 pitch from senior righty Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS) just over the wall in left field to plate centerfielder James Ramsay for the final 6-2 margin. The home run for Rockhold was his seventh of the season.
Overall, Rockhold finished 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored, while Mendez was also 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run. Ramsay added two hits and a run scored for the Bulls.
Friday’s elimination marked the first time the Cardinals have not advanced to the semifinal round of the BIG EAST Championship since joining the league prior to the 2006 season. Louisville is now 19-10 all-time in the BIG EAST Championship.
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