SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Corey Ray’s home run to start the 18th inning helped lift No. 16 Louisville to a 6-4 series-clinching win against Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium.
The 18-inning game matched the longest in school history for the Cardinals (17-6, 7-1 ACC), who extended their win streak to six and have won 12 of their past 14 overall.
Ray led off the 18th inning by sending a 3-1 offering from Notre Dame (15-6, 3-5 ACC) reliever Scott Tully over the right field wall for his third home run of the season and a 5-4 lead for the Cardinals. The home run capped a 4-for-8 day at the plate for Ray, who also added a walk during his nine plate appearances. Will Smith chipped in with a two-out RBI single to score freshman Brendan McKay later in the inning for the two-run cushion.
“Coach McDonnell challenged me before the final at-bat to not try to do too much and to instead to just put a good swing on it,” said Ray. “As the game got deeper and deeper, our focus was on having good at-bats, stuffing on defense and for the pitchers to throw strikes. We knew we’d have a chance to break through for the win if we stayed mentally tough. Our pitchers did a great job today and we feel like our pitching staff can stand up against any in the country.”
Sean Leland made the lead stand with a perfect 18th inning to cap two innings of shutout relief to earn his first collegiate win. Leland added a pair of strikeouts while combining with six other Louisville pitchers for 21 total strikeouts on Saturday. The Cardinals’ bullpen allowed just one run on four hits with nine strikeouts in 11 dominant innings of work in the victory.
Making his second collegiate start, McKay finished with a career-best 12 strikeouts while allowing three runs on three hits in seven innings for a no-decision. The runs were the first allowed in the short career for McKay, who had his scoreless streak halted at 22.2 consecutive innings with Notre Dame’s two runs in the fourth.
At the plate, Nick Solak was 3-for-6 with a triple, two RBIs and a run scored, while Sutton Whiting was 3-for-7 with a triple, two walks, an RBI and a run scored. Smith came off the bench to finish 2-for-4 with the late RBI, while freshman catcher Colby Fitch was 2-for-4 with a double and scored once in the starting role.