CHARLESTON, S.C. (WDRB) --- Louisville senior captain and left fielder Jeff Gardner said he'd never had a walk-off hit at any level, let alone a walk-off home run. His solo shot Friday in the 10th inning gave the Cardinals a 7-6 comeback win against West Virginia in Louisville's first game of the season.
"It felt good. That's the first walk-off I've ever hit in my life," said Gardner after the game, speaking on the phone to WDRB. His teammates spared him though from the traditional post-game shaving cream pie for a walk-off homer. "Maybe if we were at home we would've been a little bit more prepared for something like that. Just a bunch of high-fives and hugs."
Louisville is playing in the Homewood Suites Tournament in Charleston, hosted by The Citadel.
The game-winning blast came on a fastball, with the count at 1 ball and 2 strikes, off of Mountaineers right-handed pitcher Corey Walter. Gardner pulled it down the right field line and hit it just far enough to clear the fence 337 feet away from home plate.
"I was telling guys it was probably the hardest ball I've ever hit in my life," said Gardner. "I feel like it didn't clear the fence by much. The wind was blowing in pretty good from right field all game. I think it may have helped me out a little bit and kept it fair, but it also kept it from going quite as far as it could have."
Making Gardner's walk-off homer even sweeter was it wouldn't have happened without Louisville coming back from deficits of 5-1 in the 4th inning and 6-4 after the 7th.
Gardner's double down the right field line in the bottom of the 8th scored Cole Sturgeon and cut West Virginia's lead to 6-5. The next batter, 1st baseman Danny Rosenbaum, tied it for UofL with another double to right, scoring Gardner.
Those game-tying hits both came with two outs.
A double and a game-winning round-tripper? Not a bad way to finish your first game of the year, after Gardner struck out, grounded out, and fouled out in his first three at-bats.
"Midway through the game I was thinking to myself, ‘We're down 5-1. If we can come back from this, it shows a lot about our team,' which was huge," said Gardner. "Coming back four runs down, it doesn't seem like much to the average fan, but in baseball, that's a pretty good number."
Louisville relief pitcher and 1st team preseason All-American Nick Burdi pitched a scoreless 10th inning to get the win. Joe Filomeno started on the mound for the Cardinals and struggled, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits in 4 innings. West Virginia hit 2 home runs off Filomeno. Jake Sparger kept the Cards in it, pitching the next 5 innings, giving up just 1 run.
Louisville's returns to the field Saturday against host school The Citadel at 2:30 pm.