University of Louisville senior outfielder Matt Helms only had 40 at-bats all season and his last RBI came back on March 1.
But he sure came through for the Cardinals in the clutch on Saturday.
Helms delivered a two-run, two-out single in the top of the seventh inning, giving Louisville its first lead and the Cardinals went on to stun No. 2 seed Vanderbilt in its home park in the first game of the NCAA Super Regional.
With two strikes, Helms stuck his bat out and smacked a slow roller to left that scored Mike White and Sutton Whiting. The hit came after Zak Wasserman delivered his second RBI single of the game.
Dace Kime, who came in for starter Chad Green in the sixth, picked up the win. Nick Burdi got the final five outs and his 16th save of the season.
The two teams will play on Sunday at 4 p.m. and if the Cardinals win they advance into the World Series. There is a third game slated for Monday at 7 o’clock if Vandy were to win the second game.
U of L is now 45-0 when leading after eight innings this season. The win moves U of L’s record to 50-12, tying a school-record for most wins in a season.
Vandy got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning with two hits, the second a single by Conrad Gregor to left to plate Xavier Turner.
But the Cardinals struck right back to tie it.
U of L had a chance in the top of the third when Adam Engel singled off the pitcher to start the inning. Second baseman Nick Ratajczak, who was playing despite a shoulder injury, then worked Ziomek for 10 pitches.
Ratajczak tried to bunt twice and grimaced in pain both times. He ended up striking out for just the ninth time this season – in 239 at-bats – and Engel was thrown out on the same pitch for a double play.
Vandy then took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Turner singled and stole second and scored later in the inning.
The Cards didn’t get much at all going for a few innings.
But then came the seventh when the Cardinals touched the Commodores for four hits and also had a walk to take the first lead of the game.
Jeff Gardner started off the inning with a single to right field and was advanced to second on a ground out to first by Cole Sturgeon.
Shane Crain grounded out to third before Wasserman delivered a two-out single to left to score Gardner. Sutton Whiting then singled, moving Wasserman to second. U of L coach Dan McDonnell put the faster Mike White in to pinch run.
Adam Engel then walker and Vandy then brought in side-arm pitcher Brian Miller. Helms then poked a roller to left field, scoring White and Whiting.
Cody Ege, who came on in relief in the seventh, walked the first two batters of the eighth inning but then struck out Conrad Gregor. Nick Burdi then came on and got pinch hitter Pat Delano to fly out.
Vince Conde then hit a slow roller to third base that was booted by Ty Young, scoring the third run of the game for Vandy.
But Burdi got Spencer Navin to fly out for the final out.
Burdi gave up a hit single to Tony Kemp and then walked Mike Yastrzemski with two outs. Clean up hitter Connor Harrell walked but on the first pitch to Conrad Gregor he bounced to Zach Lucas, who flipped to Whiting for the final out.