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Louisville wins 2009 Big East Title over UConn

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Freshman righty Tony Zych pitched six strong innings on the mound and the offense put up another double-digit performance as the 17th-ranked Louisville baseball team won its second straight BIG EAST Tournament title with an 11-3 triumph over Connecticut on a warm Sunday afternoon at Bright House Field.

With the victory, the Cardinals (44-15) earn the BIG EAST Conference’s automatic bid to next week’s NCAA Regional for their school record setting third straight NCAA appearance. Louisville will host an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history and the Cardinals will learn which three teams will join them at Jim Patterson Stadium on Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET as the full field of 64 teams in the 2009 NCAA Championship is announced on ESPN.

In Dan McDonnell’s three seasons as the head coach Louisville, he has led the Cardinals to three straight NCAA appearances, back-to-back BIG EAST Tournament titles, the 2009 BIG EAST regular-season title, their first ever 40-win regular season and their first ever College World Series appearance in 2007. McDonnell is now 131-60 in three seasons in Louisville for a winning percentage of almost 69 percent.

Junior first baseman Andrew Clark earned the Jack Kaiser Award as the Most Outstanding Player of the BIG EAST Championship after hitting .500 with eight RBI and six runs scored in the Cards’ five tournament games. Along with Clark, junior catcher Jeff Arnold, sophomore designated hitter Phil Wunderlich, freshman outfielder Ryan Wright and Zych were all named to the All-Tournament Team.

Making just the second start of his career, Zych was outstanding on Sunday as the Chicago native allowed only one run on six hits in a career long 6.0 innings of work to earn the win and improve to 5-2 on the season. In his only previous start, Zych allowed just one run on two hits in 4.0 innings to earn the win in the Cards’ victory over Ohio State on May 6 in Louisville.

At the plate, the Cardinals got a balanced attack on Sunday led by multi-hit games by Wright, Clark and sophomore outfielder Josh Richmond. Wright, from Fort Wayne, Ind., finished 3-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored earn All-Tournament honors in his first BIG EAST Championship. Clark went 2-for-5 with one RBI and one run scored, while Richmond was 2-for-6 with two RBI and a run scored.

Wunderlich added his 17th home run of the season and his third of the tournament in the ninth inning to put the game out of reach, while junior second baseman Adam Duvall hammered his 11th home run of the season and scored twice in the win.

For the third time in five games in the 2009 BIG EAST Championship, Louisville scored in the first inning putting up three runs on two hits. Richmond led off with a single to left center off UConn starter Matt Barnes, moved to second on a slow ground ball by Duvall and advanced to third on a throwing error on the play by Huskies’ shortstop Nick Ahmed. Clark followed with an RBI groundout to score Richmond for a 1-0 Louisville lead. After a two-out walk to Wunderlich, Wright hammered a 3-2 pitch into left center field for a two-run double to score Duvall and Wunderlich for a 3-0 Cards’ advantage after the top of the first.

The Huskies (36-24) came back for a run in the bottom of the first as first baseman Mike Nemeth clubbed his sixth home run of the season on a 1-2, two-out pitch from Tony Zych to cut the Louisville lead to 3-1 after the first inning. It was the only time the Huskies would break through against Zych and as close as they would get the rest of the way.

Following a scoreless second inning from both teams, Louisville added to its lead in the third inning as Duvall led off with his home run, a bomb to left field that landed on the roof of the restaurant beyond the left field seats, to make it 4-1 Louisville.

The Cardinals added to their lead in the fourth inning with two more runs on two hits and a 6-1 advantage. Wright led off the inning with an infield single and moved to second a sacrifice bunt by Arnold. After senior shortstop John Dao was hit by a pitch, sophomore outfielder Drew Haynes was walked by Barnes, who was then replaced on the mound by lefty Elliot Glynn. Richmond welcomed him with a two-run single to left field to score Wright and Dao for the five-run advantage.

After a pair of scoreless innings from the two teams, UConn pulled to within three in the seventh with two runs on four hits off Louisville senior reliever Gavin Logsdon. Leftfielder Peter Fatse led off with a single to right field and moved to third one hitter later on a double to left field by Matt Burnett. Catcher Joe Pavone followed with an RBI single to right field to score Fatse to cut the lead to 6-2. After Logsdon struck out pinch hitter John Andreoli, second baseman Pierre LePage picked up an RBI single to centerfield to score Burnett for a 6-3 Louisville advantage. Logsdon then got out of the jam by striking out Nick Ahmed for the final out of the inning.

Louisville came back in the eighth inning to score a run without a hit. Wright led off by being hit by a 1-2 pitch from UConn reliever Dusty Odenbach and moved to second with his 12th stolen base of the season on 16 attempts. After moving to third on another successful sacrifice bunt by Arnold, Wright scored on an RBI groundout by Dao for the 7-3 lead in the middle of the eighth.

For good measure, Louisville added four more runs in the ninth to put the game completely out of reach. Clark started the inning with a one-out single to right field and was followed by a walk to junior third baseman Chris Dominguez. After battling to a 3-2 count, Wunderlich hammered a fastball from Huskies’ reliever David Erickson over the wall in left field to make it 10-3 Cardinals. Arnold kept the inning going with a single to center and scored moments later on an RBI double to left field by Dao for the final 11-3 margin.

After Logsdon went 1.2 innings in relief, sophomore righty Neil Holland recorded the final four outs for the Louisville pitching staff. Barnes took the loss for UConn after allowing six runs on four hits in 4.1 innings to finish 5-3 on the season.

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