For the second time in the Battle of the Bluegrass, the Cardinals dominated their in-state and top-rated adversary, piling up six runs in the third inning and riding exceptional pitching from a battery of hurlers in a 10-2 romp over the Wildcats on Tuesday evening at a packed Jim Patterson Stadium. After another signature victory over Kentucky, Matt Helms, who had a standout game, got a shaving-cream pie in the face by senior Stewart Ijames as he conducted media interviews on the field.
The latest haymaker No. 20 Louisville (29-12) landed on No. 1 Kentucky (35-7) came after the Cardinals' 12-0 onslaught in Lexington two weeks earlier and was witnessed by 3,862 fans, the largest crowd of the season and seventh biggest in the history of Jim Patterson Stadium. The last time Louisville won a season series against a top-ranked team came in 2005, when the Cardinals took two of three at home versus Tulane.
The Cardinals won back-to-back games over Kentucky for the first time since following a May 1998 victory with another in April of 1999. The Cardinals have dealt the Wildcats their only two losses this season against non-Southeastern Conference foes.
The matchup was even more anticipated than usual because of the teams' rankings and the fact that they were both coming off impressive weekends in pivotal series. Kentucky gained control of the SEC by claiming two of three against LSU, and Louisville is only one game back in the BIG EAST after securing two of three at conference co-leader South Florida.
Louisville essentially put the game away in a six-run third inning that saw eight straight Cardinals reach base before the Wildcats recorded an out. That outburst boosted Louisville's lead to 8-1, and they tacked on one run apiece in the fifth and eighth innings, respectively. The Cardinals racked up 11 hits and their pitcher-by-committee approach resulted in only five Wildcats hits.
Helms (Eufaula, Okla./Seminole State CC) reached base in all four plate appearances and made several nice catches in right field. He finished 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) went 2-for-4 with a double and three runs, and freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) added two hits, a run and an RBI. Sophomore designated hitter Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) chipped in a two-run single, and sophomore leftfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy HS) had a two-run double.
As has been their style all season, the Cardinals raced out in front in the first inning. After junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) reached on an error, Young lined a single to right center with two outs and Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic) walked. Chittenden, in his only at-bat of the game, drove in two runs with a single up the middle. Louisville has now outscored its opponents 69-9 in the first inning this season.
Ratajczak began the six-run third by clubbing a double to right center off Kentucky starter Sam Mahar, and Lucas singled through the left side before Mahar started losing his command. He hit Young and walked in a run after issuing Ijames a free pass. Chandler Shepherd then came on in relief and promptly hit junior Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) to force in another run. Gardner pushed two more across when he belted a ground rule double to right field, sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) walked, and Helms beat out a high chopper for an RBI single and became the eighth consecutive Cardinal to reach.
Sophomore centerfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) ended the streak with a productive out, tagging a sacrifice fly. When the damage was done, Louisville had built an 8-1 lead. Lucas made it 9-1 in the fifth with a sacrifice fly, and freshman outfielder Mike White (East Orange, N.J./Salisbury HS) followed Young's double with one of his own for a 10-2 advantage in the eighth.
Louisville used a whopping six pitchers in holding Kentucky to two runs, only the fifth time this season the Wildcats have scored two or less. In his first start of the season and third of his career, sophomore right-hander Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS) improved to 3-0 after throwing three innings and allowing two hits and one run. Senior right-hander Travis Tingle (Louisville, Ky./Cleveland State CC) pitched two scoreless innings, sophomore left-hander Cody Ege (Cherokee, Iowa/Cherokee Washington HS) allowed one run over 1.1 innings and sophomore right-hander Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS), Sturgeon and senior right-hander Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS) teamed for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Five different players had one hit for Kentucky. Mahar (3-2) took the loss, allowing six runs on five hits in two innings. Shepherd then gave up three runs on four hits in 2.2 innings.
The Cardinals host BIG EAST co-leader Connecticut in a three-game series this weekend. Game times are 6 p.m., ET on Friday and 1 p.m., on both Saturday and Sunday.