In one of the most anticipated series in all of college baseball this weekend, the Cards fell short on Saturday and Sunday, letting the series slip away after winning the opener on Friday night.
The Louisville Baseball program does not count moral victories, but you cannot be ashamed when you lose to the #5 team in the country on their home field. It is not the way Dan McDonnell would have liked the weekend to end, but the pitching staff is showing a tremendous amount of growth at the right time.
Over the last six games, Louisville has allowed just 20 runs, one of those games going into 12 innings. Not to mention, all six of the games were against Power 5 schools and five of the games were against teams that are top 12 in the country in batting average.
Against the Hokies, one of highest scoring offenses in the country, Jared Poland (W, 4-3) was incredible on Friday night. Poland tossed 6.1 innings, allowing just one run, and kept the Hokies offense guessing all night. He turned it over to Take Kuehner (S, 2) who finished the final 2.2 innings and allowed just one hit, securing the 8-1 victory.
Kuehner has not allowed an earned run in his last four outings (8.2 innings) and has become a reliable arm for the Cardinals bullpen late in the season.
Louisville held onto a slim 2-1 lead heading into the 8th inning and that is when the bats came alive, scoring 6 runs over the final two innings. Chris Seng and Isaac Humphrey each doubled in the 8th to get the scoring started.
Dalton Rushing homered in the 9th, his fourth consecutive game with a home run, to start the scoring in the 9th.
Brandon Anderson, the freshman from Madison Central, started at third base as Ben Metzinger filled in for the injured Christian Knapczyk at shortstop. Anderson also chipped in with 2 RBI and made a few really nice plays in the field this weekend. He has a bright, bright future at Louisville.
Louisville had a chance to win the series on Saturday, but they ran into one of the best pitchers in the ACC in Drue Hackenberg (W, 9-1). Hackenberg gave up just 2 runs in 6.1 innings of work, striking out 7 Cardinals batters on the way to a 4-2 Hokies win to even the series.
Carter Lohman (L, 1-1) took the loss for Louisville, but he deserves a lot of credit for his outing. After giving up 3 runs in the third inning, Lohman tossed three more shutout innings to help preserve the bullpen arms. If you take away one pitch, a two-run home run to Gavin Cross, that would have been a completely different ballgame.
Louisville had an opportunity to tie the game in the 9th inning, but timely hitting continued to be a thorn in their side. Brandon Anderson and Drake Westcott were sat down in order with the tying run on second base to end the game.
With the series tied at one win apiece, the Cards and Hokies battled it out on Sunday, both fighting for a Top 8 National Seed. Every time Louisville scored, Virginia Tech had an answer as the Hokies won the rubber match 6-4.
Recording just 6 hits for the game, Louisville just could not capitalize when they had the opportunities, stranding 7 runners for the game.
Like the game on Saturday, Louisville had the tying run on base in the 9th inning, but could not convert with the top of the lineup at the plate.
The Week Ahead
Entering the last week of the season, Louisville has a massive opportunity next weekend as Virginia comes to town for a series with major postseason implications. The Cavaliers are currently ranked #12 and are in the running to host a regional, the same boat Louisville is in.
As a reminder, since it is the last series of the season, the Virginia series will start on Thursday rather than the typical Friday through Sunday schedule. Before the Cards host Virginia, they will have to take care of business with EKU on Tuesday night at Jim Patterson Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 PM.
Hopefully Christian Knapczyk will be back next weekend as this offense has fallen off over the past two weeks. The team batting average, that once hovered around .320, has fallen to .304 after the series with Virginia Tech.
Of note, Notre Dame has taken over the ACC Atlantic Division this weekend after taking two games from Pittsburgh, but the Irish travel to Miami next weekend, so the division is still wide open.