Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser struggled to throw strikes against Kennesaw State.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This time it was different. This time there was drama. This time the University of Louisville baseball team discovered what it was like to play from behind in an NCAA Tournament game.
It stirred some pacing in the first-base dugout, but it was something the Cards showed they could overcome. Good teams usually do.
Playing in front of the largest crowd (5,351) in the history of Jim Patterson Stadium, Louisville rallied with three runs in the eighth to defeat Kennesaw State, 5-3, Friday night in the NCAA Super Regional.
Freshman Nick Solak lined a high fastball into right-center field for a two-out double. The hit was Solak’s third of the game – and second double. It scored Zach Lucas and Kyle Gibson with Louisville’s fourth and fifth runs. The Cards had tied the game on a bunt single by Gibson earlier in the inning.
Louisville closer Nick Burdi, who was drafted with the 46th overall pick by the Minnesota Twins Thursday, pitched the ninth. Twins’ fans had to be ecstatic by Burdi’s performance.
Burdi struck out the first two KSU hitters, allowed a single and then closed the game with a pop out to third baseman Alex Chittenden.
Game Two will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Cards (49-15) can secure their second consecutive trip to the College World Series in Omaha next weekend with a victory. If Kennesaw State wins, the team will play the decisive game Sunday at 6 p.m.
The Cards scored first. Solak bounced a single into left field in the third inning, scoring Kyle Gibson, who started the inning getting hit by a pitch.
The lead didn’t last long. After retiring the first nine hitters with only two guys driving the ball out of the infield, Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser lost command of his fastball.
He walked the first two hitters in the third. The Owls scored their first run on an infield single off the glove of Louisville first baseman Grant Kay and the second when the Cards failed to complete a double play a grounder. Funkhouser threw 37 pitches in the inning.
The wildness and sloppy play continued in the fifth. Funkhouser walked Cornell Nixon, a .230 hitter. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. The run was unearned because Nixon moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Gibson bounced a risky throw to third base into left field.
Louisville cut the lead to 3-2 in the seventh. Alex Chittenden lined a two-out single to center field, scoring Solak, who had doubled.