LOUISVILLE, Ky. - WKU slugger Ryan Huck belted his team-leading 12th home run of the 2013 season to draw the Hilltoppers within two runs late in the game on Tuesday at Jim Patterson Stadium, but eighth-inning insurance runs would propel Louisville to a 6-2 win over WKU, preventing the Hilltoppers from finishing off a perfect season sweep of its in-state rivals Louisville and Kentucky.
Despite the loss, WKU finishes the season 3-1 against Kentucky and Louisville, marking the first time since the 2006 season that the Hilltoppers have won at least three games against the two in-state schools.
Down 4-0, Huck hit his 12th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the top of the eighth inning to make it 4-2. Huck’s home run gave the senior 29 home runs for his career, which is just three away from breaking into the top 10 in school history for home runs in a career. All 12 of Huck’s home runs in 2013 have come in the state of Kentucky, as 10 have come at home, one on the road at Kentucky and one Tuesday night at Louisville.
The Cardinals took advantage of a two-out walk in the third inning to open the scoring on Tuesday, as Adam Engle drew a two-out walk, stole second, then scored on an RBI-single from Nick Ratajczak to make it 1-0 Cardinals. After a walk, left-fielder Coco Johnson delivered an RBI-single, scoring Ratajczak from second base to give Louisville a 2-0 lead early.
The Cardinals would score single runs in both the fourth and the six innings, while scoring two runs in the eighth, both with two outs. In fact, of Louisville’s six runs on the night, five came with two outs in an inning.
WKU would have a pair of scoring chances in both the fourth and the sixth, putting runners on first and third with one out in the fourth, and runners at first and second with one out in the sixth, but had both innings end after inning-ending double plays. The Hilltoppers would put runners on first and second in the ninth, and would be one batter away from putting the tying run at the plate in the form of Ryan Huck, but Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser got a strikeout to end the game and preserve his first save of the season.
Hilltopper freshman and Louisville native Alex Mercer worked 2.2 innings in his second career start at WKU, allowing just two earned runs, striking out one. In Mercer’s two career starts, both coming against Kentucky and Louisville, the freshman has worked 5.2 innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits, striking out five.
The WKU trio of Austin Clay, Josh Bartley and Ian Tompkins would combine to work the final 5.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs to the 11th-ranked Cardinals.