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Cardinals hit four home runs in 9-5 victory
DURHAM, N.C. (theACC.com) – Louisville has provided more than ample run support for pitcher Kade McClure throughout the season, and Wednesday night proved no exception.
Will Smith homered twice, and Blake Tiberi and Nick Solak also went deep to back McClure’s solid starting effort, and the second-seeded Cardinals turned back 10th-seeded Wake Forest, 9-5, to wrap up the first day of pool play in the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship.
Louisville (47-10) averaged 9.6 runs per game during McClure’s 12 regular-season starts and did not score fewer than seven runs in any of his mound outings.
While the Cardinals’ offense followed suit on Wednesday night, McClure (12-0) further helped his cause with six strong innings. The sophomore right-hander allowed two runs on four hits while walking one batter and striking out a career-high 11 batters. McClure retired the final 11 batters he faced before freshman reliever Sam Bordner took over in the top of the seventh.
Trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the fourth, the Cardinals proceeded to get their bats going. Tiberi’s two-out, two-run homer put Louisville in front 3-2, and the power display continued into the fifth inning. Smith sent the first pitch he saw from Wake Forest reliever Chris Farish over the fence in left-center for a three-run homer. Solak followed with a towering solo shot that soared high and deep over the left field wall to give the Cardinals a 7-2 lead.
Trailing 8-2 entering the eighth inning, the Demon Deacons made it interesting by roughing up the Louisville bullpen for three runs. Ben Breazeale delivered a two-out, two-run single, and Johnny Aiello followed with a base hit to score another run. Wake Forest made a bid to cut the deficit further, but Louisville leftfielder Ryan Summers threw Breazeale out at the plate as he attempted to score on a base hit by Joey Rodriguez.
Smith countered in the bottom of the eighth with his second home run of the night (and seventh of the season) for the final 9-5 margin. Solak had designs on his second homer of the game when he followed with a drive to deep center, but the Deacons’ Stuart Fairchild made a leaping catch.
Starter John McCarren (7-3) – the first of seven Wake Forest pitchers – took the loss on the mound after giving up four runs on six hits in 4.1 innings. McClure and three Louisville relievers finished the game with a season-high 17 strikeouts.
Both teams have Thursday off before continuing round-robin Pool B play on Friday. Louisville will face sixth-seeded Clemson (38-18) in Friday’s 11 a.m. game, while Wake Forest (33-24) will meet third-seeded Virginia (36-18) in the 3 p.m. contest.