LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Looking for a sweep in its first weekend series of the season, the seventh-ranked Louisville baseball team suffered a 4-2 loss to visiting Western Michigan on Sunday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Broncos (1-5) scored a run in the first inning and added three more in the third before holding off several challenges from the Cardinals (5-2) in the finale of the three-game series. It was the first loss of the season at home for Louisville, which opened the series against WMU with a 21-8 win on Friday and a 8-0 victory on Saturday.
“We had a bad flow to the game in the first three innings and didn’t get a quality start on the mound, but we still had chances to win,” said Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell. “Offensively, we had opportunities but we couldn’t get a big hit today. We put runners on base in just about every inning, but you also credit Western Michigan because they made pitches and made plays when they had to. We just weren’t able to do enough today.”
The first run of the afternoon came in the top of the first inning when WMU second baseman Theo Piccirilli connected for a RBI single up the middle to score third baseman Grant Miller against Louisville righty starter Jared Ruxer (Indianapolis, Ind.). Two innings later, the Broncos increased their lead to 4-0 in the third with a three-run inning, including two unearned runs. After catcher Brett Sunde delivered a RBI groundout for the first run of the inning, a two-out fielding error by the Cardinals on a groundball that would have ended the frame allowed two more runs to reach home.
The Cardinals broke through for their first run of the day in the fourth inning on a RBI single from senior third baseman Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind.) to score sophomore first baseman Danny Rosenbaum (Lafayette Hill, Pa.). An inning later, Louisville cut the deficit to 4-2 when senior outfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky.) earned a bases loaded walk from Western Michigan starter Keegan Akin to score junior shortstop Sutton Whiting.
Louisville had a chance for much more in that fifth inning after the bases loaded walk to Gardner with no outs. Righty reliever Gabe Berman entered from the Broncos’ bullpen and got back-to-back strikeouts of Rosenbaum and junior second baseman Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky.) before a groundball out off the bat of Chittenden ended the inning. The Cardinals also missed on chances to cut into the deficit in the seventh and eighth innings when the leadoff hitter in each frame reached base but was left stranded at first to end the inning.
Ruxer suffered his first loss of the season and dropped to 1-1 overall after allowing four runs, including two earned, on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks in 4.0+ innings of work in the starting role. Berman earned the win for the Broncos and improved to 1-0 on the season after striking out six and allowing just one hit in five strong innings of relief.
The Cardinals’ bullpen pitched well in relief of Ruxer as junior lefty Kyle McGrath (Louisville, Ky.) led the way with four strikeouts and only one hit allowed in two innings of shutout work. Senior outfielder and lefty pitcher Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky.) followed by striking out three in two innings of scoreless relief before junior righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill.) struck out two without allowing a run in the ninth.
Rosenbaum finished with two hits, a stolen base and scored once for the Cardinals at the plate, while shortstop Andrew Sohn had three hits and scored once for the Broncos.
Seventh-ranked Louisville will continue its 17-game homestand with a pair of mid-week games at Jim Patterson Stadium against Eastern Illinois (Tuesday, 3 p.m., ET) and Morehead State (Wednesday, 3 p.m.) and admission is free for both.
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Louisville Postgame Notes
- The Cardinals dropped to 3-1 at home this season and 217-76 (.740 winning percentage) all-time at Jim Patterson Stadium since its opening during the 2005 season.
- Louisville has allowed opponents to score in the first inning in four seven games this season for a total of seven runs. The Cardinals are 3-1 in those four games.
- Including Sunday’s series finale, the Cardinals are 3-2 this season in games when their opponents score the first run of the game.
- With his 0-for-3 day at the plate, senior outfielder Jeff Gardner’s seven-game hitting streak (dating back to the Cardinals’ 2013 finale at the College World Series) was halted.
- Gardner did earn a walk, while Cole Sturgeon and Danny Rosenbaum each had hits on Sunday allowing all three players to reach base safely in the seventh straight game this season.
- Rosenbaum has hit safely in five straight games overall.
- In the Cardinals’ four games this week, Rosenbaum led the team in hitting going 7-for-15 (.467 average) with six runs scored and two RBI. For the season, Rosenbaum is hitting .417 with one home run and six RBI.
- Gardner had another strong week at the plate going 6-for-13 (.462 average) with four RBI in four games. For the season, Gardner leads the Cardinals with a .440 average along with one home run, 10 RBI and a .800 slugging percentage.
- In his return to the field this weekend following a three missed games with a fractured nose, Sutton Whiting was 5-for-11 (.455 average) with five runs scored.
- Cole Sturgeon was 6-for-16 (.375 average) with two doubles, a home run and six RBI while being hit by four pitches and walking once in four games. Overall, the senior outfielder is hitting .379 with a team-leading nine runs scored.
- In his four games this week, Zach Lucas hit .313 (5-for-16) with two home runs, eight RBI and a stolen base.
- Junior closer Nick Burdi has not been afforded a save opportunity through the first two weeks of the season, but the righthander has been very good out of the Louisville bullpen. In three outings, he has six strikeouts and only one hit without allowing a run in three innings pitched.