Late rally sends St. John's past Louisville

The ninth-ranked Louisville baseball team allowed three unearned runs in a decisive eighth inning rally for St. John's and dropped a 6-5 decision in Thursday night's BIG EAST Championship second round game at Bright House Field.

With the loss, the top-seeded Cardinals (47-11) will face No. 5 seed USF on Friday at 7 p.m. ET in an elimination game, while St. John's (38-18) will play the winner of Friday's elimination game on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. Louisville and USF did not play during the regular season and have not met since the Cardinals earned a three-game sweep of the Bulls during the final weekend of the 2009 regular season to clinch the BIG EAST title.

Thursday's loss was the first ever for the Cardinals during the first two rounds of the BIG EAST Championship in their five years in the conference. Louisville is now 9-1 all-time during the first two rounds of the event. Louisville is now 14-5 all-time in the BIG EAST Championship and 12-3 in BIG EAST Tournament games at Bright House Field.

In the loss to the Red Storm, the Cardinals were led offensively by sophomore second baseman Ryan Wright (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead HS), who finished 4-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) added a pair of hits, including his 13th home run of the season, and two RBI as Louisville lost despite out-hitting St. John's 12-7. With their performances, both Wright and Ijames extended their season-long hitting streaks to 12 games each.

After a pair of scoreless innings to open the game, St. John's opened the scoring in the top of the third with two runs on two hits and one key Louisville error. With two runners on base, second baseman Matt Wessinger singled up the middle to score designated hitter Sean O'Hare from second, while catcher Joe Witkowski moved from first to third and then scored on a throwing error by centerfielder Josh Richmond (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills HS) for a 2-0 advantage.

Louisville answered back in the bottom of the third with two runs on two hits to even the score at 2-2. After junior outfielder Drew Haynes (New Albany, Ind./New Albany HS) started the inning with a leadoff walk from St. John's starter Bruce Kern and moved to second on a single to left by senior catcher Jeff Arnold (Louisville, Ky./Male HS), both players scored on a two-out RBI double down the left field line by Wright. Both Arnold and Haynes finished the game with two hits each for the Cards.

Following two more scoreless innings, the Cardinals moved into the lead for the first time in the sixth inning with an additional two runs on two hits. Ijames started the scoring with his home run to lead off the inning on a 1-0 pitch from Kern. Later in the inning, junior designated hitter J.J. Ethel (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe HS) hammered his first career triple over the head of Red Storm center fielder Jimmy Brennan and was then replaced by freshman pinch runner Kyle Grieshaber (Chesterfield, Mo./Marquette HS). After Kern was replaced on the mound by righty Ryan Cole, he fielded a suicide squeeze bunt off the bat of Haynes, but Grieshaber slide under the tag of Witkowski after the throw home for a 4-2 advantage.

The Red Storm cut the Cardinals' lead in half at 4-3 in the next inning as right fielder Jimmy Parque connected for his fourth home run of the season on the first pitch of his at-bat against Louisville freshman righty starter Matt Koch (Cherokee, Iowa/Washington HS). Koch finished with a no-decision after allowing just two earned runs and three total runs on five hits with a career best seven strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work.

St. John's regained the lead at 6-4 an inning later thanks to three unearned runs following two Louisville errors. The three-run inning started as Wessinger reached base on a one-out error by senior shortstop Adam Duvall (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) and then moved to second on a single to center by Joe Panik off Louisville lefty Dean Kiekhefer (Louisville, Ky./Oldham HS). After a walk to left fielder Jeremy Baltz by sophomore righty Tony Zych (Monee, Ill./St. Rita HS), the Cardinals recorded the second out of the inning on a 4-2 fielder's choice putout. However, the bases were cleared moments later as Parque singled to right field to score Panik and Baltz, while Greg Hopkins scored on a throwing error by Arnold.

The Cardinals cut the deficit to one in the ninth inning as Wright doubled to right center and scored on an RBI double down the left field line by Ijames, but he was stranded there to end the game with the final 6-5 margin.

Kiekhefer took the loss for the Cardinals to drop to 3-4 on the season, while Matt Carasiti earned the win to improve to 6-5. Despite allowing one run in the ninth inning, St. John's closer Daniel Burawa earned his team-leading ninth save of the season.

Cardinal Authority Top Stories