The University of Cincinnati’s (UC) baseball team defeated the visiting sixth-ranked (Baseball America) University of Louisville Cardinals 13-12 in 10 innings on a walk-off single by first baseman Ryan Nicholson Tuesday night.
The Bearcats, who trailed 8-2 after the top of the fourth inning, claimed their first victory over a nationally-ranked team since their victory over Oregon State University in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
“It was a big team win for us,” said Head Coach Scott Googins. “[We] get some momentum going into the weekend playing a really good Louisville team.”
The Bearcat offensive charge was led by senior third baseman Eric Santiago, who recorded his first career two-homer game, along with driving in five runs, a career high.
UC took a first-inning lead on a two-run home run by second baseman Jace Mercer. The Cardinals responded in a big way, jumping on the Bearcats for eight unanswered runs, chasing out Cincinnati starter Jalen Wade after just three innings of work in the process.
After the Bearcats chipped away at the lead, cutting the deficit to 8-6 with four runs in the fourth, Santiago crushed his first home run of the night, a two-run blast that tied the score at eight in the fifth inning.
The Cardinals responded with a two-run shot of their own by right fielder Trey Leonard in the sixth, but it was Santiago who tied the score once again with a two-run home run one inning later.
“[Santiago] is one of the backbones of our team,” said Googins. “He’s struggled a little bit in the beginning of the spring but he’s starting to swing the bat well.”
UC took their first lead of the game one batter later, as catcher Joe Powell made it back-to-back solo shots for the Bearcats, making the score 11-10.
The lead was short lived, however, as Leonard lined a run-scoring double to left-center with two outs in the top of the eighth to tie the score at 11, sending the game to extra innings.
It was the Cardinals who struck first in extras on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Christian Knapczyk, but UC responded in the bottom of the frame.
After leadoff hitter Cole Harting flew out, Mercer, shortstop Joey Bellini laced back-to-back singles, designated hitter Wyatt Stapp brought Mercer home with a single of his own to knot the score at 12. Left fielder Griffin Merritt followed with a walk, setting the state for Nicholson, a Louisville native who laced a walk-off single to right field.
“Especially being a Louisville guy, that was probably the moment I was looking for,” said Nicholson. “I stepped in there, I was looking for a pitch, and I was able to get on the third [pitch] and really elevate it and we were able to win in there.”
With the win, the Bearcats improved their record to 11-10, recording their fourth win in their last five games.
UC will face another stiff test, traveling to Greenville, North Carolina, to face the eighth-ranked East Carolina University Pirates (18-5) in a four-game series.