BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A showdown of two top-20 teams Wednesday night in Bowling Green, Ky., did not disappoint, as a season-high 1,871 fans at Nick Denes Field were treated to a one-run nail biter that was up-for-grabs until the final out. The 12th-ranked Louisville Cardinals plated three late-inning runs, and a pair of WKU rallies in the eighth and ninth innings fell just short as the Hilltoppers dropped their fourth-straight to Louisville, 7-6. WKU falls to 27-9 with the loss, and Louisville improves to 26-6.
Five WKU hitters had two-hit games, and Jake Wells was 1-for-4 with three RBI. He now has seven RBI in his last two games. Matt Rice and Kory Petri each scored two runs, and Petri hit his second home run of the season. Louisville was helped by three home runs, and Stewart Ijames was 3-for-5. Rye Davis absorbed his first loss of the season for WKU, as Louisville scored two runs off the right-hander in the top of the eighth to break a 4-4 stalemate. Derek Self pitched 2.2 innings and picked up the win for Louisville, and Neil Holland saved his eighth game.
The WKU pitching staff struck out 13 Cardinals and walked just one.
Louisville jumped out to a 2-0 lead after its first at-bat, as Jeff Arnold was hit by a pitch leading off the game and Andrew Clark took WKU starting pitcher Brian Edelen deep to right field for a two-run home run one batter later. Edelen gave up one more hit but worked out of the inning with no further damage.
The Hilltoppers, who answered South Alabama scoring innings five times out of seven over the weekend, kept up the trend with a run in their first-inning at-bat. Jared Andreoli singled with two outs, starting a trend of three-straight singles highlighted by a Kes Carter base hit to right field that scored Andreoli from second. WKU had the bases loaded after a walk to Ryan Huck, but the sacks were left full when Petri grounded out to second.
Edelen worked a one-two-three inning in the top of the second, and WKU had two baserunners on with a single and a walk but could not score off Louisville starter Tyler Mathis in the bottom of the second.
After a leadoff single in the top of the third Edelen struck out the side, giving the momentum to WKU, who quickly scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead after three innings. The Hilltoppers had the bases loaded once again with just one out, and this time WKU capitalized when Wells tripled down the right-field line, clearing the bases.
In his final full inning of work in the top of the fourth, Edelen once again set down Louisville in order. The Cardinals touched the right-hander in the top of the fifth with a leadoff home run and a single, before he settled down and got a strikeout before being lifted for a new pitcher. Adam Duvall singled to left field and advanced to second on a throw to the plate, driving in a run and tying the game at 4.
Bart Carter entered the game with the tying run on second and one out in the inning and promptly worked out of the first of two jams by getting a flyout and a strikeout.
WKU could not muster anything in the bottom of the fifth, and Carter loaded the bases on two singles and a comebacker to him on the mound in which he could not record an out. Facing another jam, Carter once again buckled down and kept Louisville from scoring with back-to-back strikeouts and a flyout to keep the game tied after five-and-a-half innings.
Self entered in the bottom of the sixth and retired WKU in order in the both sixth and the seventh, keeping the score tied at 4 heading into the eighth inning.
Davis entered from the bullpen in a tie game in the top of the eighth, and Louisville strung together a pair of runs on four hits to jump on top, 6-4. The top of the order was responsible for a pair of RBI singles, and Davis was lifted after throwing 35 pitches in the top of the eighth.
The Hilltoppers once again answered the Louisville scoring inning, this time getting a run of their own to bring the score to 6-5 after eight hotly-contested innings. Petri led off the inning with a home run to right field, and WKU got a pair of two-out baserunners off Louisville closer Holland before he retired Andreoli on a flyout.
Shane Cameron was called upon to pitch the top of the ninth for WKU, and after getting two flyouts the Cardinals touched him for a home run, their third of the game, and pushed their late lead to 7-5.
Faced with a two-run deficit in their final at-bat, the Hilltoppers did not go down without a fight, as Rice singled to start the inning and advanced all the way to third when the new Louisville centerfielder misplayed the ball. Carter then grounded out to the right-side, scoring Rice, and making the score 7-6 with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
But Holland, who was holding opponents to a .119 batting average entering the game, got the final two outs to shut the door on any further WKU rally and give Louisville the win.
WKU left 10 runners on base in the game, and Louisville stranded nine.
The two teams will meet again in one week, as they will square off in Louisville at 5:00 PM (CT) on April 21
Up Next: The 19th-ranked Hilltoppers travel to Florida Atlantic for a key three-game Sun Belt Conference weekend series. Game times are 5:30 PM (CT) on Friday, 3:00 PM (CT) on Saturday and 11:00 AM (CT) on Sunday. All three games will be broadcast live on the Big Red Radio Network.