Top-seeded Louisville saved its ace and still took care of business against No. 8 Pittsburgh with an 8-4 win in the first round of the Big East Tournament Wednesday night.
Cardinal skipper Dan McDonnell opted to save newly-named Big East Pitcher of the Year Justin Amlung and instead gave the ball to sophomore Chad Green. Green (5-0), who had made just four mid-week starts and hadn't thrown more than 1.1 innings against a Big East foe, worked five solid innings and left the game with his team leading 4-1.
"Chad Green is a talented pitcher," McDonnell said. "We had all the confidence in the world that Chad was going to give us a quality start. ... And the key to offense is getting the two-out hits and two-strike hits. It seemed like we did a little bit of both."
The Panthers cut the U of L lead to one at 4-3, but the Cards responded with four two-out runs in the home half of the eighth to put the game out of reach.
Cole Sturgeon may have been the star of stars for Louisville on day one of the tournament. The versatile sophomore was 3-for-5 with a triple, played the first seven innings in left field, and then pitched the final two to earn his third save of the season.
The undisputed offensive MVP, however, was shortstop Alex Chittenden, who was a perfect 4-for-4 at the dish and scored a pair of runs.
"This is not the basketball tournament. You don't get a bye," McDonnell said. "There's no advantage in Big East baseball. It doesn't matter what seed you are. The top four teams get to wear the white uniform the first day. You've got to play. You've got to throw strikes, make all the plays and get timely hits, and we were able to do that tonight."
The Cards will face the winner of Wednesday's nightcap between No. 4 South Florida and No. 5 Connecticut tomorrow night at 8 p.m. The winner of that game will receive an off day on Friday and will be just one victory away from a spot in the Big East title game. Louisville took two of three from both the Bulls and Huskies during the regular season.
Over on the flip side of the bracket, the higher seeds had little trouble notching their first wins of the tournament. No. 2 St. John's pounded seventh-seeded Notre Dame 12-2, while No. 3 Seton Hall beat No. 6 Rutgers 6-1.