June 7, 2014


Cardinals Heading Back to Omaha

By Howie Lindsey

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com



LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville clinched its third trip to the College World Series with a 7-4 win over Kennesaw State in front of a school-record 6,007 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium Saturday.


The Cardinals (50-15) will return to Omaha for the second straight season.


“I get uncomfortable sometimes when people say I take these kids to Omaha – they take me,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. “They take me.”


McDonnell now has won 24 NCAA Tournament games at a school that never had won a Regional game before his arrival in 2007. Louisville never trailed in going 3-0 in the Regional round and only trailed for five innings during the two wins over Kennesaw State in the Super Regional.


Kennesaw State (40-24) hit the scoreboard first, plating a run in the bottom of the first as Kal Simmons led off the game with a double to left-center. A sacrifice bunt pushed him to third and a RBI single to left field by Max Pentecost scored Simmons from third. 


Louisville took the lead with a pair of runs in the third. After Zach Lucas led off the inning with a single to left field, Kyle Gibson bunted for a single. A sacrifice bunt by Cole Sturgeon advanced the runners, and a pop-fly by Nick Solak, the hero of Louisville’s Game 1 win over Kennesaw State, scored Lucas from third on the tag. A RBI single to right field by Jeff Gardner scored Gibson from second to give Louisville a 2-1 lead. 


Kennesaw State struck back immediately.


After Cornell Nixon reached on a five-pitch walk, Simmons singled to right field. A bunt single by Jacob Bruce loaded the bases for Pentecost, KSU’s first-round Major League Baseball Draft pick. The Toronto Blue Jays’ top pick didn’t disappoint, smacking a double to left-center to score Nixon and Simmons and give Kennesaw State a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third. 


Louisville regained the lead with three runs in the fifth. Lucas doubled to left center to start the inning and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Gibson. A single by Sturgeon scored Lucas from third. Solak popped a two-run home run to left field to push Louisville back into the lead 5-4. 


After allowing four runs in the first three innings, Louisville starter Anthony Kidston settled in and held Kennesaw State off the scoreboard in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Kennesaw State stranded two runners in the fourth and two more in the fifth. 


“He threw more changeups than he did anything else,” Pentecost said. “We went there with the mindset that we were going to get something besides that, but we never did. He just kept throwing it and we didn’t see it too well...it was just a tough night.”


Louisville added a pair of runs in the sixth inning as Corey Ray singled to shortstop and Sutton Whiting singled to left field. With the bases loaded and two outs, Sturgeon slapped a base hit into right field to score both runners.


Travis Bergen (9-5) was chased after 79 pitches. The Owls’ ace pitched twice in last weekend’s Regional, throwing a total of 180 pitches. He took the loss, giving up 11 hits and seven runs in 5.2 innings. 


“No, I thought his velocity was up. His slider wasn’t as sharp as it has been, but he was battling for us,” Kennesaw State coach Mike Sansing said. “We have talked to him throughout the week and he felt good. He did throw Monday of last week, but I thought he threw pretty well for us tonight.” 


Kidston (9-0) exited the game in the seventh after allowing four runs on nine hits with seven strikeouts. Kidston gave way to freshman Zack Burdi who, while throwing 97 miles per hour, got Pentecost to pop up to right field. Burdi handed the ball off to freshman Drew Harrington, who got the second out of the inning and gave up a hit. Cole Sturgeon closed out the seventh and eighth innings for Louisville before Louisville handed the ball to closer Nick Burdi, who closed out the game effectively for save No. 18.


The Cardinals won their 98th straight game when leading after eight innings and won their 55th straight game when scoring five or more runs, including a 39-0 mark this season.


Sturgeon was 3 for 4 with three RBI and a run, and Solak was 1 for 2 with three RBI, a run and a walk for Louisville. Pentecost was 3 for 5 with three RBI for the Owls.