Louisville's offense struck early, building a 7-0 lead midway through the game, to spark the No. 6 Cardinals to a 9-6 win at No. 9 Kentucky on Wednesday evening at a packed Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington.
While the 3,511 on hand witnessed an exciting contest between rivals, it was one that Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell would describe as not a "very clean" game.
The Cardinals opened the game with a run in the first inning on an RBI double by Brendan McKay that plated Devin Mann. Designated hitter Colby Fitch was hit by a pitch to open the third inning, which was followed with back-to-back fielding errors by Kentucky that would lead to three runs, including a pair driven on a bases loaded two-out single from redshirt freshman Drew Ellis to give Louisville a quick 4-0 advantage.
Ellis came up with another key hit for the Cardinals in the top of the fifth. Once again, with bases loaded, Ellis doubled to center to drive in three more runs and a 7-0 lead.
"I just show up ready to play and when my number is called, I'm ready," said Ellis, who finished 2-for-4 with five RBI.
The Wildcats plated their first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth on a Louisville throwing error. A wild pitch would allow another UK run to score in the sixth. A passed ball in the bottom of the eighth allowed another run and ignited a come-back attempt by the Wildcats, which was highlighted by a two-run home run from pinch hitter Dorian Hairston to pull the hosts with 7-6.
Colin Lyman connected for a two RBI pinch hit in the top of the ninth to cap the game's scoring.
"Two Top 25 teams that didn't play really clean," said McDonnell. "It wasn't clean baseball. It was maybe exciting baseball for the fans. They made some defensive mistakes, we made some defensive mistakes and when you do that against good teams, good offenses take advantage of it."
Devin Hairston, who scored a game-high three runs, and Blake Tiberi also enjoyed multi-hit outings, both going 2-for-4 at the plate.
Sophomore Kade McClure picked up the win, improving to 7-0 on the season. The right-hander allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings of work, while striking out five.
"He was good. He little bit of a wall in the fifth and sixth. He seemed to be behind every hitter, but he competed. We didn't help him as much as I would to there, but you have to tip your hat, that's a quality start again, as he's done for us all year in the midweek."
Zack Burdi, who gave up the two run home run in the eighth, rebounded to pick up his fourth save of the season.
Louisville improved to 26-7 on the season and climbed to No. 4 in the latest RPI ratings. Up next is a weekend series against Clemson at Jim Patterson Stadium.
"It's another ACC Top 25 team," said McDonnell. "They're having a good year. I'm just glad we're at home."