Cole Sturgeon of Louisville was tagged out at first as the Cards lost to Oregon State and exited the College World Series
VIDEO: Louisville reacts to blown call & special pinch-hit at bat for Ratajczak - CLICK HERE
OMAHA, Neb. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville baseball team needed starter Jeff Thompson to deliver like the Big East pitcher of the year to stop the Cardinals from exiting the College World Series after just the two-game minimum.
That didn't happen.
But it wouldn't have mattered if coach Dan McDonnell had started Justin Verlander or Sandy Koufax.
The Cardinals came to Omaha confident after handling second-ranked Vanderbilt in the Super Regional, but for too much of the trip they left their bats, gloves and poise in Nashville. They played 18 innings. They had 16 hits, but only two for extra bases. They made six errors. They scored four runs. The U of L pitchers walked 11 guys – and hit five more.
The Cardinals never led for a single inning.
They exited the College World Series without winning a game, backing up their 2-0 loss to Indiana Saturday with a dismal, unsatisfying 11-4 stumble against Oregon State Monday at TD Ameritrade Park.
"I'm sure our guys are disappointed," McDonnell said. "We just didn't play well, didn't play clean there in the third and fourth innings and it got out of hand. Unfortunately, that happens, especially when you're playing a really good opponent."
Thompson survived only 3 2/3 innings, his shortest start in his last eight games. It was only the second time this season he failed to pitch at least five innings.
"I didn't feel 100 percent, I guess you'd say, but I was able to make effective pitches and keep the ball down," Thompson said.
The Cardinals' fielding wasn't anything to put on a keepsake postcard either. Coco Johnson bobbled the ball while chasing a double into the left-field corner, allowing the first run to score. Catcher Kyle Gibson circled under and then back-pedaled in pursuit of a pop-up in foul territory. He whiffed while trying to catch it. Second baseman Zach Lucas rushed a toss to shortstop Sutton Whiting while trying to start a double play. Instead of getting two outs, Lucas didn't get any.
That was just in the third inning. The Beavers jumped to a 3-0 lead.
It got worse in the fourth inning. Much worse. Season-ending worse. Four singles. A walk. Another error (by Whiting). A hit batter. Another walk. Another single. Don't forget the blown call at first base that helped extend the inning. Oregon scored six of the runs after that call.
"We don't have the luxury of instant replay," McDonnell said. "It's unfortunate, obviously. I've got a bunch of text messages and about four different people walked up to me and said the guy was out. But I'm not going to blame an umpire.
"It's a bang-bang play and more times than not, they're right. If we play clean behind them, you know, we only give up a run. So I don't think that play cost us the game by any means. We gotta handle that better and just play cleaner. We just didn't play clean today."
McDonnell changed pitchers twice in that inning. It didn't matter. The Beavers scored seven runs. Write that down as seven runs in one inning after the Cards had allowed only six runs total in their previous three games.
Even the Funnel Cake vendors knew that the Cardinals 51-14 season was over. Rick Pitino, who flew to Omaha to enjoy the game, couldn't save the Cardinals.
Neither could the three runs Louisville scored in the seventh, two on a double by Adam Engel. Or even a surprise pinch-hitting performance in the eighth inning by Nick Ratajczak, who flew out to right field. Nothing special about that – except he did it with a separated right shoulder. McDonnell eventually worked 21 players into the game.
Too much Oregon State. Too much inefficient and sloppy play for Louisville to overcome.
"If our season had to end on a loss," McDonnell said, "I'd always want that loss to be in Omaha."