McClanahan, a senior second baseman, established a single-game record with his seven RBI and now has a record 12 for the tournament. His 11 total bases in a game is also a new mark, and he tied the single game records for hits in a game (5) and home runs in a game (2). He is now 11 for 16(.688) with six runs, four doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI in three tournament games.
The Card won their 40th game of the season for just the second time in school history, joining the 2007 squad at the plateau. It is the second time in three seasons in the BIG EAST that UofL is in the championship game, falling to Notre Dame 7-0 in the 2006 title game, also held at Bright House Field in Clearwater.
The Cards put two on in the first on consecutive singles by McClanahan and Chris Dominguez, but a hot shot up the middle was gloved by VU pitcher Josh Eidell to end the inning and the threat. Louisville then took the lead in the second.
Andrew Clark walked and Phil Wunderlich's ground ball to second was mishandled by Ryan Arcadia, putting runners at the corners. Drew Haynes's infield single scored Clark, and a walk to Josh Richmond loaded the bases before McClanahan continued his trek into the record books by hammering a playoff pitch into the bullpen in left field for his first career grand slam, and a 5-0 Cardinal lead.
The Wildcats (30-28) clawed back for three runs in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Dain Hall, and RBI fielder's choice of the bat of Joe Cotter and an RBI double by Arcadia.
Haynes singled leading off the fourth and moved to second on a sac bunt by John Dao. Richmond was hit by a pitch, and McClanahan followed with an RBI single. An out plater, Stewart Ijames single through the right side made it 7-3 Cards.
In the fifth, James Doblier's two-run double plated a pair of unearned runs and cut the lead to two runs.
McClanahan shifted the momentum back in favor of the Cardinals, smoking the first pitch of the sixth inning out to left for his second home runs of the game and 10th of the season to make it 8-3.
In the seventh the Cards piled on four more.
With two down, Dao and Richmond singled, and McClanahan drove in his seventh run of the game with his fifth hit, an RBI single.
Dominguez then took a 3-0 pitch and crushed it off the scoreboard in left-center field for a three-run home run for a 12-5 cushion.
Dain Hall's RBI single in the eighth trimmed it to 12-6, but Richmond got the run back in the ninth with a solo home run, his sixth of the season for the final margin.
McClanahan followed with a chance at the first six-hit game in BE Championship history, but hit a hard one-hopper to third that was handled by Hall.
Zack Pitts started the game for the Cardinals, but exited after two innings, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk, striking out one.
Freshman Thomas Royse tossed a career-long six innings out of the bullpen to earn the win, giving up three runs, just one of which was earned on four hits and a walk, striking out four to improve his season record to 4-0.
Gabriel Shaw retired the side in order, striking out one in the ninth.
VU starter Josh Eidell (4-6) took the loss, giving up seven runs, two of which were earned on eight hits and four walks in five innings, striking out three. Four other pitchers followed him to the hill, each surrendering at least a run.
The five hit game for McClanahan was the first for a Cardinal since Derrick Alfonso had five hits against Miami in the Columbia Regional on June 1, 2007. The last time a Cardinal drove in seven runs was that same week on June 4 when Dominguez plated seven in a win over Missouri.
Haynes, Clark, Dominguez and Richmond each had two hits, with Richmond scoring four runs.
The Cardinals and Bearcats met for a three-game series in Louisville 4/25-27 with UC opening the set with an 11-2 win and the Cards capturing the series with a 13-4 win Saturday and a 9-3 victory in the rubber game.
The meeting will mark the 160th meeting all-time between the two and the seventh on a neutral site, with the Bearcats winning five of the previous six. The Cards were 0-4 against UC in the Metro conference tournament and 1-1 in the Conference USA tournament. The teams will be meeting for the first time in BIG EAST post-season play.
It is the third conference title game in the Cardinals' history, falling 5-4 in the 1992 Metro championship to Tulane and the '06 BIG EAST title game.