Heading into the final series of the season, the message was very clear for this Louisville (31-22, 10-18 ACC) team: win.
The Seminoles (21-31, 7-21 ACC) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after James Tibbs homered on the third pitch of the game, but Louisville would quickly respond in the home-half of the 1st inning. With the bases loaded, Ryan McCoy (0-3, RBI, 3 K) took one for the team, drawing an HBP to force Christian Knapczyk (2-3, 3 R, 2 HBP) home.
One batter later, Eddie King Jr. (1-4, 2 RBI) hit a ground ball in the six-hole and the Seminoles were able to get a force out at third, but Jack Payton (3-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R) scored to give Louisville their first lead of the game.
The Cards threatened again in the 2nd inning, with Haven Mangrum (1-2, R) scoring on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 3-1.
Tibbs, who was the star for the Seminoles offense, belted his second home run of the game in the 3rd inning, plus two additional manufactured runs in the 5th, gave Florida State a slim 4-3 lead. But Louisville was just getting started.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, with two runners in scoring position and two outs, King Jr. hit a slow roller down the third base line that scored Knapczyk to tie the game. The third baseman didn’t have a play at any base and all runners were safe.
Fast forward to the bottom of the 8th inning, the Cards threatened again with two runners on base, two outs.
Insert Captain Jack.
Payton laced a three-run home run down the right field line to give Louisville a 7-4 lead, which would hold as the final score after Tate Kuehner (S, 5) sat the Seminoles down in order in the 9th.
Ryan Hawks (4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 K, BB) started on the mound for the Cards, giving up all four runs before turning the ball over to the bullpen.
Kaleb Corbett (2.2 IP, H, 3 K, 3 BB) was able to limit the damage and keep Florida State off the mound through the middle innings, giving the offense time to get the bats going. Corbett tossed the ball to Kayden Campbell (W, 2-1) who continues to step up in big-time situations. Campbell (1.1 IP, H, 2 K), just a freshman, is going to be a major part of this pitching staff next season. He has a bright, bright future.
To make the ACC Tournament, the recipe is simple: sweep FSU and the Cards are in. If Louisville wins the series 2-1, they will need some help to punch their ticket. With a 2-1 series loss, Louisville is eliminated from the postseason.
Game two is scheduled for Friday night at 6:00 PM. Tate Kuehner was listed as the starter, but that could change due to his relief appearance on Thursday night. Florida State will start Jackson Baumeister (4-5, 5.16 ERA) on the mound.
Let’s go win two more.