After a lackluster showing on offense Friday night where the Cardinals managed four hits, they responded on Saturday with just three, their lowest of the season, as Clemson took the series with a 4-3 victory. This was the 8th one-run conference loss for the Cards this season.
With 18 innings under their belt this weekend, Louisville (29-17, 9-14 ACC) has mustered 7 hits and 6 runs against a pitching staff that allows 8+ hits a game with a 4.47 team ERA. Ryan McCoy (1-3, HR, 2 RBI), JT Benson (1-3, 2B, RBI, BB), and Christian Knapczyk (1-4) were the only Cardinals with a hit on the afternoon.
Here is a look at McCoy’s blast in the top of the 7th inning to tie the game at one.
Trailing 4-1 in the top of the 8th inning, the Cards had their best opportunity of the day. After two walks and a single, the bases were loaded for Benson, who drew a walk, forcing a run to cross the plate. McCoy followed that up with a groundout, scoring another run, closing the gap to 4-3. With two runners in scoring position, Will Cook hit a popup in foul territory near third base to end the inning.
In the top of the 9th, needing just one run, Louisville was in business early as Brandon Anderson led-off the inning with an HBP. Tyeler Hawkins pinch-ran and was caught stealing. The next two batters went down in order to end the game.
Carson Liggett (4.0 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 K, 2 BB) moved to Saturday this week, but did not make it to the later innings as he was a little erratic, throwing 4 wild pitches, allowing Clemson to advance on the base paths on multiple occasions.
The Tigers baserunners advanced into scoring position in each of the first four innings that Liggett worked, but he was able to get some help from his defense. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Anderson fielded a ball at first base and gunned a runner down at the plate to keep Clemson off the board momentarily.
Riley Phillips (L, 4-2) tossed the next two innings as he was credited with two runs, while Tate Kuehner allowed one. The Tigers scored two runs via bases loaded walks, both by Kuehner in the 7th inning.
Many have questioned McCoy spending time behind the plate, but it’s fairly simple. Jack Payton, Will Vierling, and Matt Klein are all out with injuries. The only other catcher on the roster is freshman Brantley Bamberg, who is being redshirted.
This is the first time McCoy has caught in game action since high school, it is hard to put much of the blame on him, he is doing everything he can.
As far as the Cards resume, now is the time to start winning before it’s too late. At 9-14 in conference play, Louisville desperately needs to start a winning streak when they meet Clemson on Sunday at noon. I’ve mentioned this before, but to feel comfortable about making the NCAA Tournament, 15 ACC wins is the magic number.
Since Louisville joined the ACC, here is a breakdown of conference wins compared to NCAA Tournament berths (via @CollegeBSB365):
12 wins - 0/5
13 wins - 3/11
14 wins - 2/6
15 wins - 8/8
16 wins - 6/8
Sure, there is a path to make the tournament with 12-14 wins, but over the years, the committee puts a lot of stock into how a team finishes the season.
After the getaway game with Clemson on Sunday, Louisville will play three games @ Virginia (37-11, 13-11 ACC) and will close out the season hosting Florida State (17-28, 6-18 ACC). Sandwiched between those are mid-week tilts with Vanderbilt and Northern Kentucky University, which will both take place at Jim Patterson Stadium.