Bat Cats beat Cards 17-13

Published 11:15 am Friday, April 19, 2024

This hasn’t been a typical season for Louisville’s baseball team, and it got worse Tuesday night, leaving coach Dan McDonnell searching for answers while running out of time to come up with some.

The Cardinals have been one of the most successful teams in the nation since McDonnell took over in 2007, guiding them to five College World Series trips, nine Super Regionals and 10 ACC regular season championships. But they are in danger of missing the postseason for the second straight year and in dire need of a reset.

Kentucky (31-5), ranked No. 3 and one of the hottest teams in the country, dealt U of L the latest blow by winning a 17-13 Battle of the Bluegrass slugfest in front of 4,848 fans Jim Patterson Stadium for its fourth victory in a row and 19th in its last 21 games. The Wildcats also broke a three-game losing streak to U of L, which has now dropped four of its last five outings.

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The rivals Cards had 18 of the 33 hits in the game, but eight pitchers were hammered for eight extra base hits, and the losers committed four or more errors for the third time this season during the four-hour, 16-minute marathon.

U of L, which fell to 21-15 and is 7-8 in ACC play, needs to go on a run before it’s too late to avoid sitting at home during the NCAA Tournament and possibly the ACC tourney again.

“You keep reminding them we need everybody,” McDonnell. “In the last week or so, it’s like every pitcher has pitched. You go through a part of the season where guys don’t feel like they’re getting enough opportunities and they’re not getting enough innings and they want to pitch more. They want to play more.

“It’s natural as a player to want to be in the mix. And you want to get more, but when you get more, you’ve got to seize the moment and we obviously have some guys right now that they’re not seizing the moment. And we need them. I mean we need them. We need them on the mound and we need the depth in our position players as well. So, need everybody and just make sure everybody’s all in because it’s a long year. It gets frustrating and you’ve got to be able to turn the page and make sure you’re committed to getting better.

“I have a lot of meetings. I’m constantly calling guys in my office. I’m constantly trying to lift them up, but I think that’s also a locker room thing, holding each other accountable. I think they know better than anybody else and we talked a lot about the energy bus, we talk a lot about no-energy vampires. I told them (after the loss), I love this group and it’s a good group of kids. It’s a talented group, but we got to do more. We obviously got to do more, and we’ve all got to do our part. You know, it’s coaches and its players and it’s holding others accountable. I mean, really, we’ve got no excuses.”

U of L is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, but one of the worst when it comes to pitching and defense, which has always been a strong suit of McDonnell’s clubs. The Cards’.318 average ranks among the top 20 nationally, but their 5.75 ERA is No. 130 and their .966 fielding percentage is No. 197. Over the last four games, U of L pitching has given up 64 runs while the defense has committed nine errors.

Kentucky’s stars in its win included Ryan Waldschmidt, who drove in six runs, Ryan Nicholson, who had three RBI, and Nick Lopez, who contributed three hits and scored three runs. Waldschmidt led off the game with a home run and also blasted a 3-run, 463-foot homer in addition to a 2-run double. Nicholson, a product of St. X High in Louisville, hit his seventh homer in the last six games, 11th on the season, and also had two walks and a steal.

The Cats (14-1 SEC) will host a showdown with No. 2 Tennessee (31-6, 10-5) in a three-game series this weekend, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Kentucky Proud Park.