No. 2 Louisville welcomed Northern Kentucky to the Derby City for a rare college game at Louisville Slugger Field and needed a rally to defeat the upset-minded Norse 6-4.
In the first meeting between the two schools since 1985, NKU received a solo home run from TJ Alas in the first inning to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. The Norse offense continued through the next two innings, plating four runs on seven hits during the game's first three innings.
Prior to the fourth inning, Cardinals skipper Dan McDonnell reminded his team of the importance of being able to rebound from a slow start.
"You've got to be able to bounce back and not panic," said McDonnell, who saw his team quickly respond.
The Cardinals, who managed just two hits during that opening three innings, began its rally back in the bottom of the fourth inning. Drew Ellis connected for a one-out solo home run over the left field wall to put the home team on the scoreboard. Following another out and a walk drawn by Devin Mann, sophomore catcher Zeke Pinkham hit his first home run of the season, driving in a pair, to trim the NKU advantage to 4-3.
An inning later Josh Stowers opened with a leadoff double, but two consecutive outs threatened to leave him stranded until Ellis drove a two-strike pitch for his second home run of the game to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead.
"I'm confident in my approach and my ability," Ellis said. "Every time that I go up to the plate I think that I can get a hit. I show up to the park thinking that I can barrel every ball that I see. Unfortunately that's not the case, but I just feel good right now and I'm hopefully going to continue."
Pinkham, a product of Elizabethtown High School, added an insurance run in the eighth inning when he singled up the middle to drive in Colin Lyman.
The opportunity to have his best offensive outing at Slugger Field, home of the the Triple-A Louisville Reds, was an experience that Pinkham had only imagined as a youngster.
"It was like a dream come true," Pinkham said. "I used to come here for games as a kid to watch the Bats play.
"I was just trying to help my team win. That's all I was trying to do."
The two home runs lift Ellis back into the team lead for home runs on the season with 12, while his 41 RBI equals Devin Hairston for the team high.
"I've said Drew Ellis' name more than anybody's name this year and rightfully so," said McDonnell. "The edge he plays with, how hard he plays, the toughness, the fight and then the versatility on defense. Offensively he can do so many things"
2,729 fans attended the game which served as a preview of the ACC Tournament that will be held at Slugger Field.
"I thought, 'what a great preview to the ACC tournament,'" McDonnell said. "This is exactly what we envisioned."
The Cardinals improved to 35-6 overall. They'll return to Jim Patterson Stadium this weekend to host Toledo (14-27) for a three-game series.