Louisville baseball has had its back up against the wall since the first game of the College World Series, but the Cardinals have held their ground time and again, and that continued Thursday night with a walk-off win against Mississippi State.
The Cardinals have been in a must-win situation ever since their loss to Vanderbilt in their opening game of the CWS. They’ve turned around and won back-to-back elimination games to keep their season alive, beating Auburn 5-3 and the Bulldogs 4-3.
“I feel like our team plays better with that, with being up against the wall,” Drew Campbell said on ESPN after recording UofL’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth. “That mentality that we’re not going to lose today.”
Campbell finished the night with three hits in four at-bats and two RBIs.
Thursday night’s win was even more theatrical than Wednesday’s, as the Cardinals had to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the last three innings. UofL trailed 3-2 in the ninth, and the Bulldogs were undefeated in games that they led in the ninth inning this season.
UofL struggled to get its offense going for most of the night, as the Cardinals were held scoreless for six innings. Mississippi State didn’t have much offensive success early on either, as the Bulldogs only managed a couple runs over the first six innings.
The Bulldogs’ offense did put together a quality fourth inning, as sophomore utility player Rowdey Jordan drove in a run with a double and then scored on the next at-bat thanks to an RBI single from junior infielder Gunner Halter to make it 2-0.
The Bulldogs scored again in the seventh with an RBI single from sophomore utility player Tanner Allen.
Facing a 3-0 deficit and being down to its last nine outs, UofL managed to answer by loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. With the bases loaded, Campbell singled to the left side to drive in teammate Tyler Fitzgerald. Junior infielder Justin Lavey then grounded into a fielder’s choice that drove in another run and made it 3-2.
That put UofL within striking distance, and they managed to complete the comeback in the ninth with a single from junior outfielder Danny Oriente that drove in Jake Snider to tie it at 3-3.
That set the stage for Campbell to be the hero, and he answered the call with a single to right-center field that scored Oriente and bought the Cardinals another day in Omaha.
“We’ve prepared for this all year, and it was just more baseball for us,” Campbell said. “So coach just let us go out there and hit the ball, get it going. Things will happen if you hit the ball on the ground.”
The win keeps UofL’s season alive, but it sets them up in another must-win game. The Cardinals will take on Vanderbilt for the second time in this College World Series. UofL must beat the Commodores in back-to-back games in order to make the CWS Final.
First pitch between Vanderbilt and UofL is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday. If UofL wins and forces another game, that one will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday.