Cardinals Outlast Tar Heels, 7-4

Down early, Louisville battles back to win ACC Championship debut

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DURHAM, N.C. ( – Louisville found itself down four runs to eighth-seeded North Carolina in the early going Wednesday evening. The Cardinals, playing in their first ever ACC Baseball Championship game, responded by showing the Durham Bulls Athletic Park crowd why they are this tournament’s top seed and one of the nation’s elite teams.

ACC Freshman of the Year Brendan McKay went 4-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, and Sutton Whiting drove in three runs as the Cardinals regrouped for a 7-4 win in the Pool A contest.

Louisville (43-14, 1-0 Pool A) continues round-robin play on Thursday, when it faces fifth-seeded Clemson (31-26, 0-1) in a 3 p.m. game. UNC (33-23, 0-1) is back in action in Thursday’s 7 p.m. game, when it faces fourth-seeded Florida State (38-19, 1-0).

A four-run bottom of the sixth turned the tide in Louisville’s favor. Trailing 4-3, the Cardinals parlayed a leadoff double by McKay, a UNC error and three more hits into four runs and a 7-4 lead. Whiting delivered a two-out, two-run base hit for the go-ahead runs, and Nick Solak followed with an RBI single to cap the inning.

UNC stunned the Cardinals at the outset of the game, when leadoff hitter Tyler Ramirez launched a 2-2 pitch from freshman Sean Leland deep to right field for his 10th home run of the season and quick 1-0 Tar Heel lead. Ramirez had to wait to touch home plate, as the play was initially ruled a triple before replays showed the ball had indeed cleared the yellow-line barrier atop the wall.

As it turned out, Louisville escaped with minimal damage. UNC went on to load the bases with none out, but Leland retired the next three batters on a strikeout and two short pop flies.

The Tar Heels chased Leland in the top of the third with three runs to go up 4-0. Korey Dunbar brought home the first with a double that rolled to the wall when Cardinals rightfielder Corey Ray missed a lunging try. The second run scored on a wild pitch by reliever Lincoln Henzman, and Brian Miller’s RBI groundout capped UNC’s scoring in the frame.

But Henzman (5-1) checked the Tar Heels’ offense from there, and the Cardinals began to chip away.

Louisville cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth when McKay sent a 2-2 pitch from UNC starter Benton Moss over the right field wall for his third home run of the year. The blast came with Solak aboard and pulled the Cardinals within 4-2. A two-out RBI double by Whiting in the bottom of the fifth brought Louisville closer at 4-3, setting up the go-ahead sixth inning.

Henzman, a freshman, worked six innings in relief in earning the win, allowing three hits and no runs while striking out six and walking one. Zack Burdi tossed a perfect ninth inning for his ninth save of the year.