OMAHA, Neb. - The Cardinals gave up a season-high 19 hits and 15 runs to their opponents with ace closer Trystan Magnuson uncharacteristically getting tagged with a loss in a 15-10 loss to Rice in the first game of the College World Series in Omaha.
The pressure of being in the College World Series facing the No. 2 ranked Rice may have slowly dawned on the Louisville Cardinals as they did not have an answer for the Owls' 11 straight runs after leading 10-4.
"Make no mistake about it, Rice deserves credit," said U of L head coach Dan McDonnell. They never gave up and played clean baseball, stuffed us when they had to and they did more than we did when they had to win. I would be lying if I said sitting just here that we don't feel like we just let one get away. It hurts."
The Owls got the majority of its offense deep in their lineup with nine Rice runs coming from fifth to ninth in the batting order. Second baseman Aaron Luna went two for four, with a homer, three runs and three RBI from the seven spot in the lineup to lead the Owls. Catcher Danny Lehmann went three for four with three runs and two RBI. Rice reliever Bobby Bramhall, who pitched the eighth and ninth innings, gave up just one hit and struck out two to notch the win.
"I felt like we were executing. The talent was there, but we just needed to come through. Coming back from six runs down, a lot of people, including some people on our team, didn't think we could do it," said Rice first baseman Joe Savery.
U of L's Logan Johnson had a two-homer, three RBI performance. Jorge Castillo extended his hitting streak to 13 games with three hits on four at bats as a part of 15 Cardinal hits. They were not enough as four U of L errors did not help the cause.
In the first, leadoff batter Boomer Whiting was hit by the opening pitch by Rice's normally composed freshman starter Ryan Berry. With one out, Whiting advanced to second when teammate Daniel Burton was also hit by a pitch. Isaiah Howes struck out but a two-out RBI single brought Whiting home before Chris Dominguez struck out to end the inning.
In the top of the second, Pete Rodriguez lead off with a single, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Derrick Alfonzo. A wild pitch by Berry moved Rodriguez to third and Chris Cates notched the RBI with a ball deep to short to put the Cardinals up 2-0.
In the third inning, Howes reached on a fielder's choice, advanced to second on a single by Castillo before Chris Dominguez jumped on Berry's first pitch fastball to smack a sizzling line drive out of the yard for his thirteenth homer of the season and give U of L a 5-0 lead. A double by Derrick Alfonso chased Berry, who was National Freshman Pitcher of the Year, after just 45 pitches. Rice had to bring in right-hander middle reliever Matt Langwell to get out of the inning by inducing Cates to fly out to center.
Rice battled back with four consecutive RBI singles to come within a run at 5-4 in the third as the Owls touched starter Zach Pitts with six singles. Friday led off and flew out foul on a spectacular sliding catch by right fielder Pete Rodriguez. Jared Gayhart and Tyler Henley both singled and then centerfielder Boomer Whiting legged out a towering blast by Joe Savery for another highlight-worthy leaping catch on the run for the second out. But the Owls kept nicking Pitts with Danny Lehmann and Diego Seastrunk each smacking RBI singles themselves and scored before the Cardinals caught Aaron Luna in a rundown trying to score from third on a failed double steal for the final out of the inning.
The Cardinals gained a run back when Logan Johnson parked a solo homer, his fourteenth of the season in the only Cardinal score in the fourth.
U of L tacked on two runs in the fifth when Alfonso singled with one out and went to third on a double by Cates. Whiting took the count to full and then roped a two-RBI single to center which chased reliever Langwell. Rice brought in Scott Lonergan and Logan Johnson crushed the first pitch out of the yard for his second dinger of the game and took U of L to a 10-4 lead.
Rice did not relent as the Owls finally routed starter Zack Pitts with three runs, two unearned, in the fifth. Lehman reached on a single to left and Seastrunk also singled before Cates let a possible double play ball by Luna bounce over his head for an error that cost a run. A double by Jordan Dodson scored Luna. McDonnell brought in left-hander, Gavin Logsdon, to shut down the Rice rally.
"I am not going to lie. I felt good about the game early on," said Whiting. "But we were in Omaha and we are playing some of the top teams in the country. It is never enough against Rice. I didn't feel comfortable late in the game."
After Louisville posted its first scoreless inning in the top of the sixth, Rice added a run on a two-out solo homer by Joe Savery for his sixth round tripper of the season to cut the lead to 10-8. The Cardinals did not answer, although Johnson almost belted his third straight homer, coming just two feet short as Owl Chad Lembeck snagged it.
Logsdon gave up a homer deep to left to Aaron Luna with one out in the seventh. After an inning and two-thirds, Kyle Hollander came in to relieve the lefty.
"Momentum, that is what they had. We couldn't get it back," said McDonnell. "We concentrate on when our opponent scores, to bounce back and when we score, to hold them to a zero in the inning. We couldn't slow them down momentum-wise. They had it and we couldn't get it back."
The Cardinals threatened in the eighth, loading the bases with one out, only to have Rodriguez strike out after milking the count from 0-2 to full and Alfonso hitting sharply to left only to be caught by Dodson.
The Owls had to face Cardinal stopper Trystan Magnuson to start the eighth who was making his 35th appearance. Lembeck reached out and punched one to right to start the inning with Henley and Savery following suit. Savery drove in Lembeck, before Lehmann doubled. Luna was intentionally walked and then scored on a double by Dodson. Friday reached on Cates' second error of the game which scored Dodson but U of L then caught Friday trying to advance to finally end the inning down five runs.
"He (Magnuson) is a good pitcher," said Lehman. "I thought he was a two-pitch guy. We did a good job laying off the pitches down and getting a pitch we could hit."
U of L had a tall order trying to make up the five runs in the top of the ninth. Cates led off with a strikeout before Whiting reached on a walk. Johnson hit the ball sharply but directly to first for the second out. Burton flew out deep to left to end the game.