LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It doesn’t matter whether the game is epic in scope or a conventional contest: The Louisville baseball team’s pitching staff has delivered this season and particularly over the first two outings against visiting Alabama.
The latest marquee pitching performance came Saturday in a brilliant dual effort from Jeff Thompson and Dace Kime, as the duo combined to hold the Crimson Tide to a mere two hits in the fifth-ranked Cardinals’ crisp, series-clinching 6-0 victory in front of a record March crowd at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Louisville’s pitching staff collected its third shutout of the season and, with nine scoreless innings Saturday, has blanked Alabama over the last 21 innings spanning back to the second inning of Friday’s epic 14-inning, 4-3 win over the Tide (8-6). The Cardinals (11-2) have yet to yield an earned run in the series, which concludes at 1 p.m., ET on Sunday, and have not given up an earned run in 26 consecutive innings. Admission to the series finale is free.
Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) boosted his record to 4-0 and for the third time in those four starts didn’t allow a run to cross the plate. The junior right-hander fired seven scoreless innings and struck out four while allowing two hits and issuing two walks. A 2012 All-BIG EAST selection, Thompson allowed a single runner past first base and departed after a perfect seventh inning to the delight of 3,022 fans, the most for a March game since Jim Patterson Stadium opened in 2005.
Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS), often utilized as a mid-week starter, picked up right where Thompson left off when he entered in relief to start the eighth. The junior right-hander pitched two perfect innings and struck out two to sew up Louisville’s first shutout since an 8-0 victory over Akron on Feb. 23.
Alabama starter Jon Keller (2-2) matched Thompson with scoreless innings through six frames, but Louisville finally broke through in the seventh, erupting for all six of its runs. Keller took the loss but allowed a single earned run – two total – on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. The Cardinals did most of their damage against reliever Keaton Haack, piling up four runs, with just one earned, on two hits and two walks in his 0.2 innings of work.
Junior rightfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) and junior catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) had two hits apiece and both scored a run for Louisville, while junior third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) was 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. Junior centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) had a hit, two RBI and stole three bases to push his team-leading total to 18. Junior designated hitter Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) added a two-run double.
Louisville’s seventh-inning rally began when Sturgeon led off the frame by whizzing a line drive single to center and then stole second. Gibson moved him to third on a sacrifice bunt and reached on an errant throw to first on the play. After Haack replaced Keller, sophomore shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa./Louisville Ballard HS) broke the scoreless tie with an expertly placed RBI single through the vacated shortstop spot on a hit-and-run. Engel followed by punching a two-run single up the middle and past the drawn-in infield.
Junior leftfielder Coco Johnson (Benton Harbor, Mich./Central Arizona College) brought in Louisville’s fourth run with a ground out, Young walked and Chittenden greeted the newly entered Jake Hubbard by roping a two-run double down the left field line to cap the Cardinals’ scoring. Louisville outhit Alabama 8-2 and defensively played error-free baseball to back the Cardinals’ exceptional pitching.
Third baseman Kenny Roberts singled in the second and catcher Brett Booth added a single in the fourth for Alabama’s only two hits. Louisville had registered two hits through six innings before its seventh-inning surge. The Cardinals racked up six steals and were caught just once while the Tide didn’t record a theft.