For a fifth consecutive season, the University of Louisville is headed to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
The Cardinals received timely hits from Josh Stowers, who drove in four RBI, and Logan Taylor, along with late-game shutout pitching from closer Lincoln Henzman to claim a come-from-behind 8-7 victory over Xavier to win the Louisville Regional.
The game, the second of the day for Xavier, included multiple lead changes for each team, with both squads threatening to score in nearly every inning.
"It was a fun game," said U of L head coach Dan McDonnell. "I can imagine for a fan watching it there would be a lot of emotion. This is like a boxing match back and forth and back and forth."
Xavier struck first, scoring a pair in the top of fourth inning when the Musketeers combined for three hits. A single to center by catcher Nate Soria drove in two for the game's first runs.
The Xavier lead was short-lived as Louisville's hot-hitting Josh Stowers connected for a three-run home run in the top of the fifth to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 3-2.
The region's third-seeded team plated a run in each of the next two innings to grab a 4-3 advantage, but saw it disappear in the bottom of the sixth when Louisville scored three on RBI's from Jake Snider, Logan Taylor and Brendan McKay.
The pesky Musketeers, who reached the NCAA post-season by winning the Big East Conference tournament, refused to quit. A pair of hits and a Louisville error in the seventh fueled a three-run rally that gave Xavier a 7-6 lead.
With two runners on base and just one out, McDonnell called for closer Lincoln Henzman from the bullpen. The call proved to be the right one, as the junior registered a strike out and made a great defensive play on a ball hit up the middle to end the Xavier scoring threat.
"You know when I’m walking out there on the mound there’s nobody on base in my mind," Henzman said. "I’m doing my thing. It’s me and Colby (Fitch) and when Coach looks at me and says it’s my game now."
Facing the Cardinals closer, who leads the nation with 16 saves, Xavier batters failed to record another hit through the games final 2.2 innings.
Trailing by a run, Colin Lyman hit a one-out single and scored on a Stowers double to right-center. Following an infield single by Jake Snider, Stowers was driven home on a single by Taylor to give U of L the 8-7 lead.
The victory was Louisville's 50 of the season against just 10 losses.
The Cardinals advance to the Super Regional round and will face the winner of the Lexington Regional, which will have a deciding game on Monday between host Kentucky and N.C. State.