BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Isaiah Howes belted a two-run, walk off home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth to propel the University of Louisville to a 3-1 win over Villanova in the opening game of the 2007 BIG EAST Baseball Championship at Keyspan Park Tuesday morning. Three Cardinal pitchers had carried a no-hitter and a shutout into the ninth before an RBI single with one away knotted the game at one.
The Cardinals will face the winner of the first round game between #2 seed Rutgers and seventh-seeded Notre Dame at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday.
"It was one of those games that nobody deserved to be on the losing end of," noted Head Coach and New York native Dan McDonnell, whose 39th victory in his first season with Louisville establishes a new first-year coaches record and tied the overall single season win mark.
John Boles, who later went on to manage the Florida Marlins, won 38 games in his rookie season as head coach in 1980. The 2002 Cardinal Nine also won 39 games and is the only team in school history to advance to a regional.
Villanova starter Mike Loree retired the first 19 batters of the ballgame before hitting Logan Johnson with one out in the seventh. Loree (7-4) limited the Cards to four hits in a complete-game shutout on March 24 in the first BIG EAST game of the season - a game the Wildcats won 1-0.
BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year Zack Pitts started for the Cardinals and tossed 6.2 hitless innings, walking two and striking out five before giving way to Gavin Logsdon, who entered with two on and two out in the seventh.
A fielder's choice ended the inning, and Logsdon set the side down in order in the eighth.
With a no-hitter still intact, Loree took the hill and got ahead of Cardinal DH Jorge Castillo 0-2. The junior from Miami worked the count to 1-2 before directing a single down the left field line. Chris Pelaez came on as a pinch runner and moved to second when Chris Dominguez laid down a sac bunt.
Pete Rodriguez dug into the batter's box and drilled a 1-1 pitch to left for an RBI double and a 1-0 Cardinal lead.
U of L closer Trystan Magnuson entered for the 29th time on the season, tying him for third in Cardinal history. Leadoff batter Matt McFolling was hit by a pitch and was nudged into scoring position on a sac bunt by Derek Shunk.
Dan Terpak then singled into right-center to not only erase a chance at the first Cardinal no-hitter in 24 years, but tie the game at one. Three pitches later, Magnuson had notched the final two outs and sent the Cards to the plate in the bottom of the ninth in a 1-1 tie.
Johnson hit a one-out single up the middle, but was caught stealing for the second out of the inning. Daniel Burton then lined a shot into right for just the fifth hit of the game.
Howes took a strike and then belted a towering shot down the left-field line that left the yard for his 12th home run of the season and a Cardinal victory. It was the first walk-off long ball since Ryan McKinnon ended a game against WKU with a two-run shot in the 12th at Jim Patterson Stadium on April 26, 2005.
Magnuson (3-1) picked up the win allowing the run on a hit in an inning out of the pen.
Loree was saddled with the loss, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out eight in 8.2 innings of work.
"Both starting pitchers were phenomenal," McDonnell added.
"We did the three things we need to do to win - throw strikes, make the routine plays and late in the game we had some timely hits."
The Cardinal pitching staff, under the tutelage of pitching coach Roger Williams, established a school record with their 421st strikeout of the season.