After having their mid-week game against Kentucky canceled, the Cardinals (23-8, 9-3 ACC) returned to action this weekend, hosting the No. 22 Tar Heels in a premier ACC matchup. Not only did the play on the field live up to the hype, but Jim Patterson Stadium had a scare on Sunday that resulted in a 7 hour and 19 minute game.
The Cards knew they would have their hands full against one of the best pitching staffs in the entire country, boasting a team ERA of 3.44. It’s safe to say that number will be elevated as they leave Jim Patterson Stadium with two losses.
Friday Night Blues
It was all North Carolina on Friday as the Tar Heels scored early and often against Louisville, putting up 12 runs in the first four innings. The Cards battled back, but it wasn’t enough as they fell short, 13-9.
Tate Kuehner (L, 4-2) gave up 6 hits and 8 runs (6 earned) in just 2 innings to pick up his second loss of the season. On the bright side, Ben Wiegman, Adam Dowler, Will Koger, and Jacob Ferris each tossed a scoreless inning to keep the Tar Heels bats quiet for the final four innings.
The offense never laid down, scoring 9 runs and tallying 11 hits. Ben Bianco, Cameron Masterman, Dalton Rushing, and Jack Payton all homered for the Cards.
Metzinger Walk-Off Home Run Evens Series
Entering the 9th inning on Saturday, Louisville held on to a 8-6 lead as they tried to even the series. With two outs and two runners on, Alberto Osuna hit a pop-fly to right field. Isaac Humphrey appeared to settle under it, which would have secured the victory, but he misjudged it and the ball popped out of his glove, allowing both runs to score, tying the game.
Fast forward to the bottom of the 10th when Metzinger stepped to the plate, the score knotted at 8. I’ll let Sean Moth walk you through the rest.
At the plate, Metzinger led the way with 3 hits, while Rushing and Bianco each added two hits and a home run apiece.
Although Jared Poland didn’t pick up the win, he recorded another quality start, throwing 6 innings, giving up just 5 hits and 3 runs. Garett Schmeltz and Ryan Hawks got in trouble and handed the ball over to closer, Michael Prosecky (W, 2-0) who tossed the final 3.1 innings.
Isaac Humphrey Gets Redemption
The rubber match on Sunday was one of the craziest games I have seen in a long time. With the Cards trailing 5-1 in the 6th inning, the stadium was emptied as the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office received a bomb threat for Jim Patterson Stadium. The threat was received via an online public forum similar to Reddit.
After a lengthy and thorough search, including bomb sniffing dogs, the teams were allowed to finish the game. For safety purposes, only essential personnel were allowed to re-enter the stadium, as fans had to catch the rest of the game from home.
Fast forward to the 9th inning, Louisville was trailing 5-1 and couldn’t seem to get any momentum going on offense. The Cards squandered many opportunities, leaving runners on base, having runners thrown out at the plate, and not playing small ball that we have become accustomed to under Dan McDonnell.
Fortunately, the offense was saving it for the end of the game, scoring 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th, forcing extra innings for the second consecutive day.
In the bottom of the 14th, Louisville loaded the bases with no outs. Humphrey stepped to the plate and redeemed himself from the dropped routine ball a night ago, lacing a ball down the right field line, scoring Payton to secure the series victory.
The Cards bullpen has taken a lot of heat recently, but they shined on Sunday, holding the Tar Heels to 5 runs, all coming in the 2nd and 3rd innings. It took eight different bullpen arms, but they each pitched in to throw 11 straight scoreless innings.
Ben Wiegman (W, 1-0) picked up his first career victory after throwing .2 innings to relieve Kade Grundy in the top of the 14th.
Louisville will be back in action Tuesday night as they host Cincinnati before heading to Tallahassee next weekend. The Seminoles just dropped the series to Georgia Tech and will be in need of a series win after falling to 7-8 in ACC play.
The Cards have moved all the way up to 28th in the RPI with an SOS of 58, both season highs.