Louisville had an early five-run lead against Texas A&M, and national player of the year Brendan McKay was on the mound. It should have been game over, right?
“We knew Texas A&M wasn’t going to fold,” coach Dan McDonnell said.
The Aggies didn’t. They pulled within a run in the sixth inning before Sam Bordner shut them down with three innings of no-hit relief, and the Cardinals went on to an 8-4 victory Sunday in the College World Series.
“It wasn’t the best game of the year, but we understand now — as we’ve seen two on TV and played in one — that these games aren’t always the cleanest,” McDonnell said. “There’s too much competition. Everybody is playing too hard. It’s not supposed to be smooth and easy.”
The Cardinals (53-10) used six singles and a walk to build a 5-0 lead in the second inning against Corbin Martin (7-4). Texas A&M chipped away against McKay (11-3) to make it 5-4 before Bordner entered and continued to flash his postseason dominance. The sophomore has given up no runs and one hit in his last 11 innings over four appearances.
“I think Sam’s been the X factor, a little under the radar,” McDonnell said. “When you’re in that first-out-of-the-bullpen or middle relief role, it’s just not as sexy, and you don’t get as much attention. But clearly Sam’s been hot all year.”
With Bordner doing his thing, the Cardinals added two runs in the bottom of the sixth and another when Colby Fitch doubled in the eighth for his fourth RBI.
Louisville had gone 0-5 over its last three appearances in Omaha. The Aggies (41-22) have lost seven straight CWS games and face going two-and-out for the third straight time.
“It’s about going out there and playing the game like it’s your last one because now it could be,” A&M’s Nick Choruby said.
The Cardinals knocked Martin out of the game in the second inning, and the Aggies called on seasonlong ace Brigham Hill to settle things down.
Hill gave up no runs until the sixth, but the Aggies’ offense couldn’t overcome the big lead Louisville had built. No team has overcome a five-run deficit to win at the CWS since the event moved to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011.
“Very proud of our guys (after) finding themselves down 5-0 after two,” Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said. “From that point on, you have to be perfect to have a chance to beat McKay and to beat a team like Louisville, and we certainly had a shot.”
McKay lasted five innings, matching the shortest outing of the season by the first college player taken in the draft. The No. 4 overall pick by Tampa Bay allowed four runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out six.
“I worked out of a lot of jams,” McKay said. “It’s hard to pitch effectively when you’re in jams like that.”
McDonnell reminisced about his father attending the only other game the Cardinals have won at a CWS. It happened 10 years ago, a 12-4 victory over Mississippi State on Father’s Day.
“Even though he wasn’t in the best shape, he was here, and I got great memories of that,” McDonnell said. “So today in my back pocket I kept the funeral card from my dad. It’s an Irish blessing. My dad was a good Irishman, and he loved life. I put that in my back pocket thinking my dad would love this today. So Father’s Day has been good to the Cardinals.”
BIG INNINGS ROUTINE
Louisville got five runs in the second inning — the 26th time this season it has scored four or more in an inning.
HOME TEAM SUCCESS
Home teams have won the first three games of the CWS for the first time since 2007.
Louisville will play Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday night’s TCU-Florida game. The Aggies will play the loser of TCU-Florida in an elimination game Tuesday afternoon.
COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
Through June 28, Omaha, Neb.
Oregon State 6, Cal State Fullerton 5
LSU 5, Florida State 4
Louisville 8, Texas A&M 4
TCU vs. Florida, late
Florida State vs. Cal State Fullerton, 1 p.m., ESPN
Oregon State vs. LSU, 6 p.m., ESPN