Two weeks ago at Jim Patterson Stadium on the University of Louisville campus, the Cardinals dropped a back-and-forth, extra inning affair against Kentucky 5-4.
On Tuesday night, the two rivals met again. This time the venue was Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington and the result was a one-sided affair, with the visiting Cardinals winning 12-5 over the 14th-ranked Wildcats.
In front of a season-high crowd of 3,589 and with new Wildcat football head coach Mark Stoops throwing out the first pitch, the Cardinals used their bats to silence the home crowd early and sent the majority home by the 7th inning.
After trading runs through the first two innings, the Cardinals opened the game up with a 5-run third inning. Following a one out walk to Nick Ratajczak, singles by Ty Young and Coco Johnson started the rally. Ratajczak scored on Johnson's hit and then with two outs, designated hitter Jeff Gardner doubled to center field scoring Young and Cole Sturgeon, who had reached on a fielders choice. Shane Crain singled to plate Gardner and open a 5-run advantage.
Kentucky responded with 2 runs in the bottom of the third, but any thoughts of a comeback ended quickly in the 5th inning when Louisville scored 6 runs.
Louisville's 6 run burst began when Sturgeon doubled to left center. Three pitches later, Gardner homered to right field to give U of L a 9-3 lead. The Cardinals would add an additional three unearned runs in the top half of the 5th.
Gardner was a perfect 4-4 at the plate. The junior had a single, a pair of doubles and a home run. He drove in a game-high four runs and scoring twice. It was his sixth multiple RBI performance this season.
"To put him in the six hole and for him to lock in like he did," McDonnell said of Gardner's hitting. "The last couple of weeks he's been swinging really well."
"It feels really good," Gardner told Cardinal Authority following the game. "We call it being locked in. Some people say the ball looks like a beach ball and others will say something else, but for me, it's just one of those days were you feel comfortable at the plate. When your comfortable as a hitter, good things will happen."
The Cardinals pounded out 15 hits, receiving multi-hit performances from Ty Young, Coco Johnson, Gardner and Shane Crain.
"This is a great rivalry and we have a lot of respect for them," said McDonnell. "It's always a war when you are playing those guys. They have a good program, good players and our guys have a lot of respect for them, so it's a good win for us."
The Cardinals have won three of the last four against the Wildcats and five of the last nine. U of L has scored 10 runs or more in all five of those wins.