LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Facing a six-run deficit with just six outs to go, the No. 8 Louisville baseball team rallied for two runs in the eighth and four more in the ninth before Alex Chittenden’s game-winning RBI single in the 12th scored Will Smith to lift the Cardinals’ to an 8-7 series-clinching walk-off win over Memphis on Sunday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Chittenden, a senior third baseman from Indianapolis, Ind., completed the furious rally for the Cardinals (23-8, 4-2 American) by sending the first pitch from Memphis (18-14, 3-6 American) closer Bryce Beeler back up the middle and into centerfield allowing Smith to score without a play at the plate. Smith, a freshman catcher from Louisville, was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved to second on a wild pitch before taking third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Danny Rosenbaum (Lafayette Hill, Pa.).
Sunday marked Louisville’s largest deficit overcome for a victory since earning an 8-7 home win over Bowling Green on Feb. 20, 2010 after trailing 7-0 in the first inning. Overall, the Cardinals have eight come-from-behind wins this season, including two when trailing after seven innings.
Smith, who came off the bench as a defensive replacement to start the eighth, was 2-for-2 with a double and a career-best two RBI, while the game-winning single was the only hit of the day for Chittenden. Junior second baseman Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky.) was 3-for-5 with two RBI and Rosenbaum was 2-for-5 with one RBI as the Cardinals finished with a 16-12 advantage in hits. Junior shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa.) chipped in with a single, three walks, two stolen bases and two runs scored, while senior outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky.) scored twice after singling and walking.
On the mound, junior righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill.) delivered a huge outing from the bullpen striking out five while allowing only one walk and no hits in three innings of shutout relief to earn the win and improve to 2-0 on the season. Sunday marked the longest outing for Burdi since he delivered three innings of shutout relief in Louisville’s 4-3 win in 14 innings against Alabama on March 8, 2013. Overall, Burdi has 28 strikeouts to just five walks while opponents are hitting just .132 against him in 12 relief appearances and 15.0 shutout innings this season.
After struggling for much of Sunday’s deciding game, Louisville started the rally in the eighth inning on a RBI single through the right side by Smith to score Sturgeon. Rosenbaum followed with a RBI single up the middle to score freshman Nick Solak (Woodridge, Ill.) and cut the deficit to 7-3.
The comeback kicked into overdrive in the ninth inning with back-to-back one-out walks to Whiting and Sturgeon by Tigers’ reliever Conner Porter. After a single to left field by senior Shane Crain (Lexington, Ky.) loaded the bases, Whiting scored from third on a RBI groundout to first by senior outfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky.). Lucas followed with a two-out, two-run single through the left side off Beeler to score Sturgeon and pinch-runner Mike White (East Orange, N.J.) and cut the deficit to a single run. The fourth and final run of the ninth was pinch-runner Colin Lyman (Algonquin, Ill.), who scored from first on a two-out RBI double down the left field line by Smith to pull Louisville even at 7-7.
The game started with Memphis plating the first run of the day in the top of the first inning on a RBI groundout by outfielder Kane Barrow to score second baseman Zach Willis. Louisville answered in the bottom of the first to make it 1-1 after Whiting singled, took second on a sacrifice bunt by Sturgeon, stole third and scored after a throwing error by catcher Carter White on the steal.
Following a scoreless second inning, the Tigers gained command in the third inning with a pair of runs against Louisville sophomore Anthony Kidston (Defiance, Ohio). After loading the bases with three singles, Memphis scored the first run when White was hit by a pitch sending Willis home and the second run after first baseman Tucker Tubbs walked to plate shortstop Ethan Gross for the 3-1 advantage.
An inning later, Memphis added to the lead on a RBI singles from Barrow and White off Louisville freshman lefty Drew Harrington (Elizabethtown, Ky.). The Tigers pushed two more runs across on a RBI single from Tubbs and a RBI single by third baseman Drew Griffin for the 7-1 cushion in the seventh.
Along with the dominant relief appearance from Burdi, Louisville also got 2.1 scoreless innings from junior righty Brandon Alphin (Mt. Washington, Ky.), 1.2 innings of shutout work from junior lefty Kyle McGrath (Louisville, Ky.) and one inning of scoreless relief from freshman lefty Robert Strader (Louisville, Ky.). Beeler suffered his first loss of the season and dropped to 2-1 overall for the Tigers after allowing two runs on three hits in 2.2 innings of relief. Barrow led the Memphis offense going 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Up next, Louisville begins a four-game road swing with a midweek visit to Purdue on Tuesday at 5 p.m., ET in West Lafayette, Ind.
Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter (@UofLBaseball) at http://twitter.com/uoflbaseball and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ulbaseball.
Louisville Postgame Notes
- Prior to Sunday, Louisville’s previous come-from-behind win this season when trailing after seven innings was the 7-6 win in 10 innings against West Virginia on Feb. 14 in Charleston, S.C. The Cardinals trailed 6-4 before scoring two in the bottom of the eighth to set the stage for the walk-off win against the Mountaineers.
- Sunday marked the Cardinals’ first walk-off win at home since a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame on March 29, 2013.
- The Cardinals played error-free baseball for the 12th time this season and improved to 10-2 in those games.
- The 16 hits on Sunday were the most for Louisville since they had 18 hits in the 18-2 win over Samford on March 15.
- The Cardinals improved to 18-0 this season when out-hitting the opponent.
- Louisville improved to 11-1 when scoring in the first inning and 9-6 in games against lefty starters.
- The Cardinals are 2-0 this season in extra-inning games.
- Louisville has not lost back-to-back games this season.
- The Cardinals used a season-high 22 players in Sunday’s game.
- With his three innings of shutout work on Sunday, junior Nick Burdi extended his career-best scoreless streak to 20.0 innings dating back to last June.
- Junior Kyle McGrath has been almost as impressive as Burdi as his 1.2 innings of shutout relief on Sunday extended his career-best scoreless streak to 18.0 innings.
- The three hits for junior Zach Lucas match a career-high marking the seventh time he’s accomplished the feat at Louisville.
- Junior Sutton Whiting had two stolen bases on Sunday marking the sixth time this season he has stolen two or more bases in a game. Overall, he is 20-of-24 on stolen bases this season.
- In a moment of National League baseball on Sunday, Burdi made his first collegiate appearance at the plate grounding out to shortstop for the final out of the 11th inning. When Burdi entered the game on the mound to start the 10th, he did so in the fifth position in the Cardinals’ lineup after designated hitter Danny Rosenbaum took over at first base.