TUCSON, Ariz. (News Release) – Battling the extreme desert heat and an explosive post-season opponent, the 25th-ranked Louisville baseball team opened the Tucson Regional with a 3-2 victory over New Mexico State during day one of the 2012 NCAA Championship on Friday afternoon at Hi Corbett Field.
With the victory, the No. 3-seeded Cardinals (40-20) advance to a winners’ bracket matchup against top-seeded and No. 8 ranked Arizona, a 15-3 winner over Missouri, on Saturday at 11 p.m., EDT (8 p.m., MST), while New Mexico State (35-23) will play an elimination game against Missouri on Saturday at 7 p.m., EDT (4 p.m., MST).
Dealing with record heat ranging between 103 and 107 degrees throughout Friday’s game, junior right-hander Justin Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS) and senior righty Travis Tingle (Louisville, Ky./Cleveland State CC) combined to limit the high-scoring Aggies’ offense to just six hits. The 2012 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year and a Louisville Slugger All-American, Amlung earned his ninth win of the season after allowing one earned run on the six hits with five strikeouts in 6.0 innings pitched. Tingle followed by retiring all nine hitters he faced to earn his first save of the season and the second of his career.
At the plate, junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) led the Cardinals going 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored, while sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) was 2-for-3 with a double and a run.
The Aggies struck first in Friday’s game plating a run in the first inning against Amlung. New Mexico State catcher Zac Fisher connected for a two-out single to center to score second baseman Parker Hipp from second for the 1-0 lead. Hipp started the scoring chance with two-out walk and moved to second when shortstop Zach Voight was hit by a pitch before scoring moments later.
New Mexico State pushed its lead to 2-0 in the third inning with an unearned run against Amlung. For the second time, Hipp started the threat with a walk and after moving to second on a single to left field by Voight, advanced to third on a fielding error in left by sophomore Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS). Hipp scored moments later when a groundball off the bat of Fisher went under the glove of Ratajczak at second and into right field.
The Cardinals broke through for their first run of the day in the fourth inning when Ratajczak scored from third on a RBI sacrifice fly to deep left field by senior outfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS). Ratajczak started the inning with a leadoff single to center, moved to second when sophomore designated hitter Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) was hit by a pitch from New Mexico State starter Ryan Beck and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman third baseman Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS).
An inning later, Louisville gained its first lead of the game scoring two runs on three hits in the fifth for a 3-2 advantage. The inning started with a leadoff single to right field by junior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS), who then advanced to second on a wild pitch by Beck. After moving to third on a single up the middle by Gibson, Wasserman scored the tying run on a RBI groundout by Sturgeon. One batter later, Ratajczak connected for a two-out RBI double down the left field line to score Gibson for what turned out to be the game-winning run.
In the bottom of the inning, the Aggies threatened to regain command putting runners at first and second with no outs. However, Amlung got a flyout to center for the first out while sophomore Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS), Ratajczak and Wasserman combined for a nifty 643 inning-ending double play to halt the threat.
An inning later, New Mexico State got the tying run to second with one out before Amlung got a popup and a flyout to end the Aggies’ scoring chance. From there, Tingle retired the next nine NMSU batters to close out the win for Louisville.
Beck took the loss for New Mexico State and dropped to 5-7 on the season after allowing three runs on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk in 6.0 innings. Fisher led the Aggies’ offense with a hit and two RBI, while Hipp walked three times and scored twice.
Louisville Postgame Notes
- With Friday’s win, Louisville improved to 10-8 all-time in NCAA Regional games, including a 4-2 mark in opening round games.
- The Cardinals improved to 13-13 all-time in the NCAA post-season games.
- Louisville is 4-1 all-time in games played on June 1.
- Friday’s win clinched the Cardinals’ fifth 40-win campaign in the last six seasons, all under the direction of coach Dan McDonnell.
- Friday’s game was the fifth all-time between Louisville and New Mexico State with the Cardinals holding a 4-1 advantage.
- Louisville improved to 39-2 this season when leading after seven innings.
- The Cardinals are 8-7 this season in one-run games.
- Junior Justin Amlung made his 41st career start, which is tied for fourth all-time at Louisville with Mike Tisdale (2001-04).
- Amlung has pitched 109.0 innings this season, which third all-time on the Cardinals’ single season list.
- Senior righty Travis Tingle retired all nine batters he faced on Friday to earn his first save of the season and the second of his career.
- The two-hit performance on Friday marked the 20th multi-hit game of the season for junior Nick Ratajczak, which is tied for the team lead with sophomore Cole Sturgeon.
- Sophomore Kyle Gibson had two hits for the fourth time in his last five starts.
- With his leadoff single in the fifth, junior Zak Wasserman has hit safely in six straight games to match a career high.