LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jeff Thompson’s dominance on the mound extended from the Sunshine State to the Bluegrass State.
In his second start of the season, the junior right-hander tossed six shutout innings in leading the fourth-ranked Louisville baseball team to an 8-0 victory Saturday over Akron at Jim Patterson Stadium. It was the Cardinals’ second straight shutout of the Zips following their 7-0 win on Friday.
Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) earned his second victory after debuting with a 12-strikeout performance against USF in Clearwater, Fla., that netted him BIG EAST Baseball Pitcher of the Week honors. The 6-foot-6 hurler gave himself the opportunity for a repeat by striking out five and allowing four hits with three walks.
The Cardinals (5-1) won their fifth straight game while the Zips (0-5) remained winless on the season. Louisville rode Thompson’s strong outing and an efficient offense that needed only five hits through five innings to score six runs. Half of those runs came via sacrifice flies.
Eight different players accounted for Louisville’s eight hits. Junior third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) went 1-for-2 with two RBI, two runs scored and two steals. Junior outfielder Adam Engel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Loveland HS) doubled, scored and had an RBI, while junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) had a hit and scored twice.
Junior designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy) had a two-run double, freshman DH Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) added an RBI single and junior outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS), sophomore shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa./Louisville Ballard HS) and junior infielder Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) each registered one hit. After being hit three times Friday, junior outfielder Coco Johnson (Benton Harbor, Mich./Central Arizona College) walked on three occasions Saturday.
Thompson (2-0) has pitched 11 scoreless innings and accumulated 17 strikeouts this season for Louisville, which has taken the first two of the three-game series with Akron. A 2012 All-BIG EAST selection, Thompson worked out of a no-out, first-and-third jam in the second in the only situation where he faced trouble. He didn’t allow another runner beyond second base after that point.
After being held scoreless over the first two innings, Louisville plated two runs against Akron starter John Valek in the third. Engel led off the frame with a double to right center, moved to third on a fly out by Ratajczak and scored on Young’s sacrifice fly. Johnson, who walked and stole second, scored on Lucas’ two-out single through the left side.
The Cardinals scored a run in the fourth on Engel’s sacrifice fly and three more in the fifth, triggered by consecutive walks to Ratajczak and Johnson. The pair scored on Young’s RBI single and a wild pitch, respectively, before a sacrifice fly by junior outfielder Matt Helms (Eufaula, Okla./Seminole State CC) made it 6-0. The lead swelled to 8-0 in the seventh on Gardner’s two-run double to right center.
Freshman Jonah Philley (Louisville, Ky./Eastern HS) made his collegiate debut on the mound for Louisville, replacing Thompson to start the seventh and immediately recording his first strikeout. The righty bookended his outing with another strikeout, going 1.1 scoreless innings on Saturday.
Sophomore righty Brandon Alphin (Mt. Washington, Ky./Bullitt East) also made his first career outing, pitching a scoreless ninth and fanning the first batter he faced. Freshman lefty Adam Schemenauer (Kansas City, Mo./Park Hill South HS) tossed 2/3 of a scoreless inning and struck out one.
Valek (0-1) suffered the loss for Akron, allowing five runs on four hits with four walks in four innings pitched. Centerfielder Devan Ahart and third baseman Gerrad Rohan had two hits apiece for the Zips.
Louisville and Akron will meet in the series finale at 1 p.m., ET Sunday at Jim Patterson Stadium.
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Postgame Louisville Notes
- Louisville played error-free baseball for the first time this season.
- Louisville had three stolen bases to push its season total to 25 in only six games. Ty Young and Adam Engel lead the way with six each.
- Nick Ratajczak, Cole Sturgeon, Adam Engel and Sutton Whiting have all recorded at least one hit in all six games this season.
- Ratajczak has hit safely in 11 games overall dating back to last season.
- Jeff Thompson has averaged 8.5 strikeouts over his first two starts this season after averaging 4.9 in 15 starts in 2012.
- Louisville posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since March 12-13, 2011 when they had wins of 8-0 and 7-0 at Pepperdine.
- Louisville scored seven runs or better for the fifth straight game. The Cardinals have averaged 10.2 runs during their five-game winning streak.
- Louisville’s three sacrifice flies matched their season total over their first five games.
- In his Louisville debut, freshman righty Jonah Philley needed only 12 pitches to complete his 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.
- Junior Aaron Gershenfeld saw the first action of his career for Louisville. He had one plate appearance and caught the ninth inning.