A tense, controversial and ultimately pivotal 7th inning was the difference tonight as the Louisville Baseball Cardinals moved one step closer to advancing in the college baseball tournament tonight at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The starting pitchers for both teams kept things close through the first 6 1/2 innings, with Louisville's Jeff Thompson matching Miami's Bryan Radziewski 0 for 0 until Miami poked a run-scoring single through with 2 outs in the 6th inning. The Cards went down in order in the bottom half of the frame, but then their bats came alive in the 7th inning.
Well, sorta. Coco Johnson was hit by the first pitch of the inning, Jeff Gardner smoked a ball down the first base line that Miami's Chris Barr knocked down but couldn't handle for any outs, and what could have been a quick double play ended up as 1st and 2nd, no outs. The most controversial at bat of the game came next as Cole Sturgeon squared to bunt a couple times, failed to do so, and then with 2 strikes took a ball off both the fingers and the bat, falling to the ground and staying down for a few minutes. Miami's Coach came out to argue to no avail, and the Cards had bases loaded with no outs.
After Miami got a force at home on a slow grounder to 3rd, Zak Wasserman battled to a full count walk, tying the game. The very next batter, shortstop Sutton Whiting, suicide squeezed home a run, and after another walk, Nick Ratajczak cleared the bases with a double.
The Cards would need each of those runs, as the bullpen couldn't hold the lead. Kyle Funkhouser had 1 on, 0 out and appeared to get a strike out, but a catcher's interference led to 2-on no outs, and another walk brought a pitching change as Dan McDonnell went to superstar closer Nick Burdi to face Miami's best hitter, David Thompson. A run scoring groundout and a 2-run infield single made it 6-4. Burdi struck out Miami's hot-hitting catcher on 3 pitches then freshman Roger Gonzalez reached 2nd on rushed throw from Ty Young at 3rd. Drama ensued, but Burdi got a strike out to get out of it.
In the 9th inning, Miami hit the ball hard a couple times but it always found leather: 1-2-3 went the Canes and the Cards advance to Sunday's regional championship game.
Survive. Advance. One more win and we are onto the Super Regional.