By: Daniel Matthews
LOUISVILLE, KY – Kade McClure’s dominance on the mound and early-inning runs propelled the number 1 ranked Louisville Cardinals to a 6-4 victory over Boston College on Saturday afternoon to move the #1 Cardinals to 18-0 (5-0 ACC). Louisville’s 18-0 start is its best ever in program history. Saturday’s loss dropped the Eagles to 6-10 (1-4 ACC).
Louisville’s patience at the plate paid off as it drew five walks in the first three innings and gave BC starter Matt Gill an early exit. The most damage was done in the 3rd inning when the Cardinals had three runners cross home plate. The frame began when Devin Hairston and Brendan McKay drew back to back to walks. After one out, Colin Lyman drove in Hairston. An out later, Devin Mann scored McKay and Josh Stowers with a single up the middle.
McClure was in control his entire outing. A Boston College player did not reach second base until the 6th inning. He retired the first 17 batters in order before two consecutive singles by Anthony Maselli and Jake Paomaki in the 6th. He struck out nine batters and walked only one with a pitch count of 107 (70 for strikes) in eight innings.
“I just knew I needed to attack the zone,” McClure said. “I had great defense behind me all day and guys making diving plays and the routine plays as well. It made my job easier.”
Gill struggled in the first three innings, as he began each inning with a walk, including two straight walks to start off the 3rd inning. The Cardinals chased him with two outs in the third inning. He finished the game with 60 pitches (25 strikes), and he ended the game with five walks. Reliever Brian Rapp retired the first batter he faced to end the 3rd inning, and he did damage control in the 4th inning after Logan Taylor (HBP) and Colby Fitch (BB) reached base to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt and an IBB to McKay loaded the bases with one out, but he escaped when he got Drew Ellis and Lyman to fly out.
The key for Louisville’s offense was the leadoff batter in each inning. The leadoff hitter reached base in each of the first four innings via either a walk or a hit-by-pitch. In two of those four innings, the first two batters reached base.
The Cardinals got on the board in the 1st inning when leadoff hitter Taylor drew a walk and then advanced to second on a passed ball. After two outs McKay was intentionally walked. Ellis’s line-drive single to left field scored Taylor.
Louisville threatened again in the 2nd inning but came away empty. Stowers led off with a walk. After one out, he advanced to second when Tyler Fitzgerald was hit by a pitch. But then Fitch fouled out to end the inning. The Cardinals left four runners on base in the first two innings.
The Cardinals added two runs in the 7th inning. Fitzgerald’s fielder’s choice scored Lyman from 3rd and then Taylor’s sacrifice fly scored Stowers.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Louisville starters had not given up a run in ACC play. That ended in the 8th inning when Maselli’s ground out scored Johnny Adams.
Louisville DH McKay saw few pitches on Saturday to add to his slash line of .510/.597/.816 entering the game. He walked three times, including two intentionally, struck out once, and grounded out in the shift to the second baseman to drop his average to .490.
Even though Louisville came into Saturday’s ranked #2 in the nation in team batting average, it was the Cardinals’ patience at the plate – eight walks – that led them to scoring opportunities, often with less than two outs.
Boston College inched closer in the top of the 9th inning when it scored three runs. Louisville had to use three relievers to close the game. Its bullpen had posted a 1.51 ERA coming into Saturday’s game, but Riley Thompson and Adam Wolf failed to record an out before Lincoln Henzman recorded the final three outs, with the last two on a strikeout/throw out double play at third base.
The finale of the weekend series in Louisville will be Sunday at 1p.m. at Jim Patterson Stadium. Freshman LHP Nick Bennett is the probable starter for Louisville. Dan Metzdorf is scheduled to start for Boston College. Louisville will seek its 34th consecutive regular season win at Jim Patterson Stadium. Its last regular season loss was to Virginia on March 25, 2016.