--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals entered Friday’s regional opener 7-0 in tourney game ones at home. They left the park 8-0.
In typical fashion, Dan McDonnell and Co. started off slowly, but finished strong; this time defeating Illinois Chicago 5-3. Fans packed the stands, and most stuck around for all nine innings. Logan Wyatt also moved up to No. five in career walks.
Illinois-Chicago led off the first two innings with solo-shot home runs. First, Derrick Patrick homered to dead center field on the fourth pitch of the game. In the second, catcher Joshua Figueroa blasted a third-pitch home run to center.
The Flames scored one more run, which was unearned, on a fielder’s choice.
After that, starting pitcher Nick Bennett settled down nicely. He retired the next 11 batters in order, before giving up a walk and single to end his streak. Bennett finished with 5.2 innings pitched, and gave up just two home runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out six. His earned run average lowered from 4.64 to 4.52.
Louisville tied the game in the bottom of the second. With one out, Danny Oriente blasted a massive home run to the batter’s eye, and drove home Logan Wyatt. Then, Zach Britton scored on an error.
The Cardinals took the lead in the third. Alex Binelas hit a perfect bunt single down the third-base line, which was mis-handled by backup catcher Ryan Hampe. Hampe missed the first baseman, allowing Tyler Fitzgerald to reach home plate.
Oriente added an insurance run in the fifth, after hitting a sacrifice fly to center.
Illinois-Chicago made it interesting in the ninth. With Michael Kirian one the mound, the Flames put runners in scoring position with no outs. Dan McDonnell substituted for Michael McAvene. McAvene struck out the side.
Bennett received the win, Jacob Key the loss, and Michael McAvene the save.
The Cardinals will play the Illinois State Redbirds Saturday at 4 (Illinois State defeated Indiana in the first game of the regional). If Louisville wins, they will play in the regional final for an opportunity to host a super-regional.