Despite having to play one game over the course of two days, Louisville baseball didn’t lose its focus and thus managed to stay in the College World Series by beating Auburn in an elimination game on Wednesday.
The Cardinals and Tigers found themselves in a must-win situation after they both lost their opening games in the CWS. Relying heavily on relievers after the game was delayed due to rain, the Cardinals managed to oust the Tigers from the tournament with a 5-3 win.
“Our bullpen did a great job,” UofL head coach Dan McDonnell said on ESPN after the game. “We had to pitch five innings, and we didn’t want to use another starter because we’re in the loser’s bracket.”
The game started on Tuesday, as the Cardinals and Tigers got through four full innings before rain forced a postponement.
The Cardinals were off on the right foot on Tuesday, as junior infielder Tyler Fitzgerald blasted a home run to left-center field with two outs in the first inning to give UofL a 1-0 lead.
Freshman outfielder Kason Howell answered for Auburn, as he grounded out to second but drove in a run in the second inning to even the score at 1-1.
A bases-loaded walk put the Cardinals back on top, as sophomore pitcher Bailey Horn couldn’t find the strike zone with the Cardinals’ Justin Lavey at the plate, and freshman Alex Binelas came in to score. The Cardinals knocked in two more runs in the fourth inning thanks to an error.
Play concluded on Tuesday after the fourth inning. The matchup resumed on Wednesday, which started with a battle of relief pitching. Neither team scored until Auburn got on the board in the bottom of the seventh. A double from junior infielder Conor Davis drove in a run and cut UofL’s lead to just two runs.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, UofL got that run right back in the top of the eighth. Junior outfielder Drew Campbell singled to left field to put the Cardinals back up by three.
Auburn tried to put together a comeback effort in the ninth, as Davis put a home run just over the center field wall for his third hit and second RBI of the game. That cut UofL’s lead back to two, but it was the closest Auburn would come. Michael Kirian recorded the last two outs after the homer, sending the Tigers home and keeping UofL’s national title hopes alive.
The Cardinals will now await the loser of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. They’ll take on the loser of that game at 7 p.m. EST Thursday. Check out the full CWS bracket to see Louisville’s potential matchups beyond that.
McDonnell is hoping for strong starting pitching to make up for the deep run the bullpen had to make Wednesday.
“After using our bullpen like we did today, Nick Bennett’s got to give us a quality start,” he said.