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Baseball swept by Louisville

Virginia blows several late leads to extend home losing streak to seven games

BSixth-ranked Louisville came to Davenport Field and handed 15th-ranked Virginia a definitive three-game series sweep Monday night. The Cardinals (25-7, 14-1 ACC) put forward a well-rounded effort, and simply played better than the Cavaliers (19-12, 6-9 ACC).

Saturday’s opener was billed as a pitchers’ duel. Louisville junior Kyle Funkhouser met expectations while junior Nathan Kirby did not, and the Cardinals rolled to an 8-1 victory.

The aces surrendered one run apiece through six innings, but they took different routes to do so. Funkhouser — Baseball America’s top-ranked college junior — overpowered the Cavalier bats and kept them off the bases for long stretches.

Following a leadoff, eight-pitch double by freshman Adam Haseley, Funkhouser would set down the next 11 Virginia hitters.

“Funkhouser [was] as advertised,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “He pounds the strike zone and doesn’t give in…We didn’t compete enough like he competed.”

The Cavaliers finally got to the Cardinal righty in the sixth inning. Haseley started the action with a leadoff walk. Following a failed bunt attempt by sophomore Daniel Pinero, sophomore Matt Thaiss battled to draw a walk, which put runners on first and second. With two outs, freshman Pavin Smith loaded the bases on an infield single, and junior Kevin Doherty walked to force home Haseley.

The lone run would be all that came from the bases’ loaded opportunity. Virginia had the Louisville ace on the ropes, but could not deliver a knockout blow.

Meanwhile, Kirby labored through the first six frames. The Cardinals reached base in bunches and put runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings. Their pressure finally told when they scored the game’s first run in the fourth.

“[Kirby] buckled down as he’s done all season and made some really big pitches in the first six innings,” O’Connor said.

The wheels fell off for Kirby in the seventh. Five of the first six Louisville batters reached base, and freshman Devin Hairston broke the 1-1 deadlock with a left field single. But the real damage came when sophomore Corey Ray blasted a grand slam.

“It wasn’t just one pitch,” Kirby said. “They had three guys on first. I left the ball up. I left a few sliders up earlier in the game…if you don’t make adjustments it will come back to haunt you.”

Kirby’s offering to Ray would be his final pitch. He allowed six runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings. The lefthander did strike out seven.

Louisville tacked on two more in the eighth inning and Funkhouser and freshman Sean Leland combined to keep Virginia off the board.

Funkhouser worked 7.2 innings, allowed one run on five hits and four walks. He also fanned five Cavaliers.

Sunday’s contest would be frustratingly similar to the one a day prior, as the Cardinals poured it on in the final three frames to take the 11-4 victory.

“It was a frustrating loss. We aren’t playing really good baseball right now,” O’Connor said.

Louisville dropped four runs on sophomore Connor Jones, but his defense did him no favors as two runs were unearned.

The Cardinals jumped ahead early with one run in the first. They then added two unearned runs in the third inning and one more in the fourth.

In each of the three games, Louisville set the tone by scoring first and forcing Virginia to play catch-up.

Cavalier bats woke up to tie the game in the sixth. With the bases loaded, senior Kenny Towns lofted a ball to deep left field that neither outfielder could find in the sun for a bases-clearing triple. Towns would come home to score on a single by Smith.

Virginia’s bullpen could not keep the contest tied for long. Junior Kevin Doherty surrendered a solo homer to senior Zach Lucas.

“When I came out of the game and we put up those runs I was so excited,” Jones said. “I had a good feeling inside that we were going to close that game out.”

Louisville scored five more in the eighth and once in the ninth to turn a close game into a rout, and hand Virginia their sixth straight loss at home.

Bullpen woes have been one of the greatest contributing factor to Virginia’s prolonged home losing streak. In those seven games Cavalier relievers have allowed 24 earned runs in 31.1 innings.

There would be no drama in the series finale as Louisville cruised to 4-0 victory to claim the series sweep and hand the Cavaliers a seven-game home losing streak.

“We found out this weekend that Louisville has one heck of a team,” O’Connor said. “They’re very well balanced offensively and they’ve got a lot of really good athletes that can run.”

The Cardinals patiently expanded their advantage throughout the game — relying on one-run innings.

Junior Brandon Waddell started and struggled to keep the base paths clean. The lefty allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk in four-plus innings of work. Waddell had only one perfect inning, the fourth.

Louisville added their fourth run off sophomore Alec Bettinger in the sixth.

Virginia batters could not figure out starter sophomore Josh Rogers. The righty allowed only three hits and two walks in seven-plus shutout innings. No Cavalier reached second against Rogers.

The series postmortem reveals that Louisville outplayed Virginia in all facets of the game.

The Cardinals outhit the Cavaliers 35 to 13, and committed four fewer errors. Those numbers do not tell the whole story, all series-long Louisville batters made pitchers work, and the Cardinal defenders made a slew of highlight reel plays.

But it was Louisville’s starters that shined the brightest. The trio of Funkhouser, McKay and Rogers combined to 21.2 innings. In that span, they yielded only five runs. In comparison, Kirby, Jones and Waddell surrendered 13 runs over 16.1 innings.

Virginia will host James Madison Wednesday afternoon.


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