CLEARWATER, Fla. – The top three hitters in the Louisville lineup accounted for five of the Cardinals’ seven hits, while freshman relief pitcher Jeff Thompson finished the game with 4.1 scoreless innings as the Cardinals defeated St. John’s Saturday morning in the semifinal round of the BIG EAST Baseball Championship at Bright House Field.
The win leaves each team with one loss in the double-elimination bracket and forces a rematch of the teams at 5 p.m. Saturday. The winner of that game will advance to the winner-take-all final Sunday at noon.
Second baseman Ryan Wright gave the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning, but the Red Storm came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of two Cardinal errors.
Louisville put four runs on the board in the top of the fourth, with all of the runs coming after the second out had been recorded. Jeff Gardner hit a two-run double to left-center, which brought in Zak Wasserman and Adam Engel and the Cardinals added two more on a wild pitch and a hit batsman to build a 6-2 lead.
Engel’s one-out base hit to left brought in Chittenden, who was hit by a pitch to begin the fifth inning, giving Louisville a 7-2 lead. But St. John’s closed to within two with a three-run bottom of the fifth. Matt Wessinger’s sacrifice fly brought Joe Witkowski home from third and Jeremy Baltz smacked a two-run triple to right-center to make it a 7-5 game after five.
Thompson took over from there as the righthander allowed three hits and struck out five in 4.1 innings to pick up the win and improve to 2-1 on the year.
Engel went 2-for-3, Gardner was 2-for 5 and Wright 1-for-3 with the first-inning home run and two intentional walks to lead the Cardinal lineup.
St. John’s was led at the plate by designated hitter Robert Case, who was 2-for-4. Brendan Lobban took the loss for the Red Storm, falling to 6-2.