OMAHA, Neb. – Colby Fitch was as good as he could be in driving in runs for Louisville on Sunday.
The junior matched his career high with four RBI to help the seventh-seeded Cardinals (53-10) outlast Texas A&M 8-4 in front of 23,437 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
UL will play third-seeded Florida on Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. CT. The Aggies (41-22) will face sixth-seeded TCU in an elimination game at 1 p.m. CT on Tuesday afternoon.
“Very happy to be 1-0,” said Dan McDonnell, UL head coach. “It’s the first time in the history of our program, even though it’s something we talk about often.”
The Cards used four consecutive singles to manufacture two runs in the second before Fitch stepped to the plate with the sacks loaded and two away. Fitch fell behind 0-2 before sending a 3-2 pitch right to drive in two, pushing the lead to 4-0. UL added a run later in the frame for a 5-0 advantage.
“Thought about staying really short today,” Fitch said, “not trying to do too much with it. I got down early in some counts on some really good pitches. And then just shortened up and tried to do less.”
TAMU would not go down without a fight. Cole Bedford drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and went to third on a double by Blake Kopetsky. Bedford scored on a sac fly by Walker Pennington and Kopetsky came home on a single by George Janca to make it a 5-2 contest.
In the sixth, Bedford singled and scored on a double by Kopetsky, and Kopetsky came in on a single by Pennington to make it a one-run contest at 5-4.
The Cards answered with a pair in the bottom of the sixth. Colin Lyman had a one-out single and moved to second on a single by Josh Stowers. A walk to Tyler Fitzgerald loaded the bases before a fielder’s choice by Logan Taylor and a bases-loaded walk to Fitch pushed the UL lead back to three at 7-4.
Fitch added an RBI double in the eighth to make the final 8-4.
“Knew Texas A&M was not going to fold,” McDonnell said. “You put up a five-spot with Brendan McKay, you know some teams will cave. They were not going to do that and battled back. Fortunately, our bullpen stepped up, as it’s done all year.”
Brendan McKay pitched into the sixth, allowing eight hits and two runs in 5.0 innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
“I worked out of a lot of jams,” McKay said. “It’s hard to pitch effectively when you’re in jams like that. But I think throughout your career you learn how to pitch and how to minimize, which worked today.”
The UL bullpen was superb. Sam Bordner retired the nine batters he faced from the sixth to eighth with one strikeout. Lincoln Henzman worked a perfect ninth with one punchout to secure the win.
“Anytime you have a great closer, you gotta have a bridge to get to him,” McDonnell said. “It’s something we take a lot of pride in. I think Sam’s been the X factor, a little under the radar. But when you look at the numbers, they’re very impressive. Sometimes when you’re in that first out of the bullpen or middle relief role, it’s just not as sexy, you don’t get as much attention. But clearly Sam’s been hot all year,”
“Very proud of our guys,” said Rob Childress, TAMU head coach. “Found themselves down 5-0 after two. And from that point on, you have to be perfect to have a chance to beat McKay and to beat a team like Louisville, and we certainly had a shot. We got it within one and had scored two runs there in the sixth inning go back out and give up two runs, and from that point on it was an uphill climb.”
It was the second win for Louisville in the College World Series.
“For me, we’ve got two wins in Omaha,” McDonnell said. “And both have been on Sunday. They’ve both been on Father’s Day. My Dad was here in 2007 with my Uncle Rich. Even though he wasn’t in the best shape, he was here, and I got great memories of that. So today in my back pocket I kept the funeral card from my Dad, it’s an Irish blessing. My Dad was a good Irishman and he loved life. I remember putting that in my back pocket thinking my Dad would love this today. So Father’s Day has been very good to the Cardinals.”