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Louisville drops third straight ACC series

The Cardinals will return to action Tuesday evening against Bellarmine at JPS

Photo by Taris Smith (Louisville Athletics)

With the teams splitting the first two games of the series, Saturday setup a monumental rubber game between No. 21 Louisville (28-15, 9-12 ACC) and No. 16 Miami (28-16, 14-10 ACC) in front of 3,028 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium. With Carson Liggett starting for the Cards and Tate Kuehner (L, 2-2) available in the bullpen, Louisville fans felt confident heading into the game.

Liggett (3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 K) has been the anchor of the pitching staff this season, but he did not have his best stuff on Saturday. That is part of the game, it happens. He had trouble landing his fastball, but Liggett will bounce back. There is a reason he is 7-0 with a 2.31 ERA.

As expected, Kuehner was the first arm out of the bullpen, tossing the next 3.2 innings. He allowed 3 hits and 2 runs (0 earned), while walking 3 and striking out 5. Of the 10 runs Miami scored Saturday, only 7 of them were earned as the Cardinals made 5 errors.

In the top of the 6th inning, with bases loaded and one out, Isaac Humphrey caught a lazy fly ball to right field, gunning down the runner tagging from third base. It appeared that Ryan McCoy missed the tag, the base runner missed home plate, but McCoy was able to tag the runner as they danced around each other. The play was reviewed and was upheld to end the frame.

Kuehner was a little wild himself, but as we have seen from him during his career, he battles. When his team needed him the most, Kuehner made three consecutive pitches against the Hurricanes two-hole hitter with the bases loaded in the 7th inning. The strikeout stranded three runners and kept Louisville within a run, trailing just 7-6 at the time.

Patrick Forbes (.1 IP, H, ER), Riley Phillips (0.0 IP, 2 H, ER), Caleb Korbett (.1 IP, H), and Evan Webster (1.1 IP, H, 2 K) rounded out the final two innings against a pesky Miami offense that just would not go away. The Hurricanes pounded 13 hits and drew 6 walks, as they won 10-7 on get-away day.

The Cards offense started the scoring early, putting up two runs in each of the first two innings. Brandon Anderson (2-5, 3 RBI) is swinging one of the hottest bats around, which continued through Saturday. Anderson hit a ball down the left field line in the bottom of the first inning, scoring two runs.

Ryan McCoy (2-5, 2 RBI) and Gavin Kilen (2-4, RBI, 3 R) both turned in productive days at the plate but were on the wrong end of a few defensive blunders.

I’ve lost track at this point, but Louisville has now used 33 or 34 different defensive alignments to start a game this season, a mind-blowing stat. McCoy, who has been the starting first baseman or DH this year, started behind the plate for the first time in a Cardinals uniform. In fact, it is his first game behind the plate in his college career, as he never caught during his time at Wabash Valley prior to transferring.

Catching is not quite like riding a bike. It is not something you can just pick up and be able to compete at the highest level, but unfortunately, this is where we are. Due to injuries, I think McCoy will likely spend more time behind the plate this season. It’s hard to fault a guy that just doesn’t have much experience at the catcher position.

The Week Ahead

Louisville hosts Bellarmine on Tuesday night before traveling to Clemson for a three-game series next weekend. The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the country, up to No. 11 in RPI after winning four consecutive ACC series. At 9-12 in conference, the Cards are in desperate needs of wins, or this season could quickly turn into a repeat of 2021.

It seems like they are always one pitch, one out, or one inning away. They have lost seven one-run conference games this season. Let’s say three or four of them would have gone our way, this team is 12-9 or 13-8 in ACC play, and setting pretty heading into a big series with Clemson. Instead, we are approaching must-win status and are 2-5 in ACC series.

I keep saying this, but 15 wins is the magic number to feel comfortable to make the tournament.

On the flip side, Christian Knapczyk pinch hit on Saturday and belted a double down the left field line, so hopefully he returns to the starting lineup soon.

Go Cards!