CRAWFORD | Louisville rallies to beat Radford, 11-6, in NCAA Tournament opener
It wasn’t exactly how University of Louisville coach Dan McDonnell might’ve drawn it up, but the Cardinals powered to an opening-game NCAA Tournament win over Radford.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It wasn’t exactly how University of Louisville coach Dan McDonnell might’ve drawn it up, but the Cardinals powered to an opening-game NCAA Tournament win over Radford, using their biggest offensive game in a month to beat Radford 11-6 at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kade McClure, Louisville’s No. 2 starter, cruised through three perfect innings, and the Cards sent 10 batters to the plate to seemingly take control in a 6-run fourth. But the long inning may have taken something out of McClure, who gave up a two-out grand slam to Adam Whitacre in the top of the fifth, then a two-run triple to the same player in the sixth and the game was tied 6-6.
At that point, the air seemed taken out of the Patterson Stadium crowd. It could’ve gotten worse, with Whitacre at third and two out. But Sam Bordner came in for Louisville and got the strikeout, then Jake Snider got momentum back with his first career homer, a two-run shot to right, in the bottom of the inning and the Cards were back in control.
"This is a fun spot to be in," Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. "These guys worked so hard to be in the 1-0 vs. 1-0 game, so I’m very happy for them. As we saw, it’s not easy. You can’t take teams for granted. We saw out there, these games are hard. We put up a six-spot, and sometimes in the regular season teams will fold, but in the tournament, they don’t. Radford put up four, and fortunately we didn’t panic."
McClure pitched well to open the game and wound up with seven strikeouts and only two walks in 5 2/3 innings, but the six runs allowed weren’t exactly the get-well start that McDonnell had hoped for. But Josh Stowers gave the Cards three hits and three RBI from the No. 8 spot as the Cards got seven hits and six RBI from the bottom three of their batting order. Stowers said there was no panic in the game.
"We never felt like we were going to lose," Stowers said. "We just needed to keep playing our game."
They also got a couple of sensational defensive plays in playing their third straight error free game of the postseason. A diving catch in center field by Logan Taylor in the robbed Danny Hrbek of a hit after Radford had gotten a leadoff single in the sixth. An outstanding throw to the plate by Stowers after a fly ball kept Radford from chipping into a 9-6 lead in the seventh. And second baseman Devin Mann ranged deep behind the bag at second to rob Radford of a leadoff single in the eighth.
The Cardinals move on to face Oklahoma, a 7-2 winner over Xavier in Friday’s first game on the U of L campus. They improved to 48-10 on the season.
The Cards avoided the fate of a couple of their Atlantic Coast Conference rivals. No. 2 overall seed North Carolina lost to Davidson 8-4 on its home field. ACC Tournament champion Florida State lost 3-1 at home to Tennessee Tech. Both face elimination games on Saturday.
The Cards face a chance to play for their fifth straight NCAA regional title on Sunday.
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