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McClanahan powers Cards into Big East title game

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Thanks in large part to a monster performance from its No. 3 hitter, the Louisville baseball team is now one win away from punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Justin McClanahan went 5-for-6 and drove in a Big East Tournament record seven runs as the Cards throttled Villanova 13-6, and moved into Saturday afternoon's championship game.

McClanahan, who belted a grand slam in the second and a solo shot in the sixth, set or tied four more tournament records: RBI for a tournament (12), total bases in a game (11), hits in a game (5), and home runs in a game (2).

While McClanahan was busy breaking records, it was Chris Dominguez who provided perhaps the highlight of the tournament. Up 7-3 in the sixth, the co-Big East Player of the Year took a 3-0 pitch and hammered it an estimated 450 feet off of the scoreboard well beyond the left-centerfield wall. He finished the day 2-for-5 with three RBI.

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Photo courtesy of the Big East Conference

McClanahan's grand slam helped the Cards jump out to a quick 5-0 lead, but the Wildcats responded by plating three runs in the home half of the second. The inning proved to be the end of the line for starter Zack Pitts, who was yanked in favor of freshman reliever Thomas Royse.

Royse (4-0) was highly effective over the next six innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits on the way to picking up his fourth win of the season.

Gabriel Shaw worked a perfect ninth to seal the deal.

In three Big East Tournament games, the U of L offense has exploded for 46 hits and 40 runs. Their trio of victories have come by an average of nine runs, including an 11-run victory over Villanova in a game that was called in the seventh inning due to the mercy rule.

The Cards will compete for the crown with a Cincinnati team that has been almost equally dominant this week. The Bearcats have won all three of their games by outscoring their opponents 35-8. The Cards took two of three in the regular season series.

Probable Cardinal starter Bob Revesz was touched for three runs in just 2 2/3 innings against UC on April 27. Louisville went on to win the game 9-3.

First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m., and the game will be carried by ESPNU.