LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The regular season is still winding down, but a Jim Patterson Stadium crowd of 3,239 got a postseason preview Tuesday night when No. 2 Vanderbilt paid a visit to No. 5 Louisville.
For eight innings, they saw a pretty good show, before Vanderbilt scored a couple of runs in the top of the eighth, and scoring a couple of more on walks in the ninth to walk away with a 6-2 victory, the 12th straight for the Commodores.
Louisville, which had won nine straight coming in, saw nine pitchers combine to walk eight batters, including three straight in the top of the ninth.
“We played good baseball for eight innings, but we can’t let what happened in the ninth inning cause us to lose focus on some of the other things,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell told Sean Moth on his postgame radio program.. “We struck out ten times, which is never a good thing. We didn’t play great defensively.”
Vanderbilt opened the scoring with a pair in the third, and Louisville answered with an RBI single from Lucas Dunn to pull back within 2-1. The Cardinals tied the game in the sixth when a double by Danny Oriente scored Logan Wyatt.
The Commodores took control when Harrison Ray hit a two-run double to right center in the eighth. Louisville couldn’t come up with a two-out hit with a runner in scoring position in their half of the inning, then couldn’t get out of the ninth, walking in two runs with two outs.
“We always say, throw strikes, make the routine plays defensively, get timely hits, and we fell short in all three of those areas tonight,” McDonnell said.
Louisville used nine pitchers. Some of that was McDonnell wanting to give a trio of relievers a chance to record an important out in a nationally televised game. In the end, none could deliver after McDonnell pulled Shay Smiddy with two out and two on in the ninth.
“I should’ve left Smiddy in to get that last out,” McDonnell told Moth. “But I wanted to give some guys an opportunity.”
Vanderbilt got 5 2/3 innings of 6-hit, 2-run pitching from starter Mason Hickman, and 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief from AJ Franklin, who got the win. Louisville got solid relief from Adam Elliott and Smiddy, but couldn’t close the deal. Michael Kirian (2-1) suffered his first loss of the season for the Cardinals, allowing a pair of runs in just 2/3 of an inning.
“It’s definitely a lesson for us in the importance of doing little things,” McDonnell said. “But we said in the outfield, as frustrated as we are tonight, let’s learn from this and go out and play good baseball on Friday.”
Louisville heads to Virginia for an ACC series this weekend with a chance to win the league regular-season title. They return for a home series against Florida State next weekend.
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