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LOUISVILLE — Bowling Green slipped into the losers’ bracket of the four-team Louisville Regional of the NCAA tournament. Louisville, the No. 1 seed, beat the Falcons 8-3 on Friday night at Patterson Stadium.
The Falcons (24-30) scored on a first-inning home run by Jeremy Shay, but Louisville responded with the next seven runs — three on a pair of home runs by Cardinals’ left-fielder Coco Johnson. Bowling Green could not overcome a pair of errors and five Louisville extra-base hits.
“We played hard,” Bowling Green coach Danny Schmitz said. “We knew coming into the game that we had to play error-free baseball. We made a couple of boo-boos there.
“When you’re playing a good team, an outstanding team, like Louisville, more times than not they’re going to make you pay for it. That’s what I thought the difference in the game was.”
Mike Frank, the Falcons’ No. 2 pitcher, faced the Cardinals because Bowling Green’s top starter, Cody Apthorpe, was extended an extra day in the Mid-American Conference tournament. Shay gave Frank a run to work with after a two-out home run to left-center in the top of the first inning off Louisville ace Chad Green.
“He left a slider up, and I put the best swing on it that I could,” Shay said.
Frank retired the first three hitters. But Frank did not have an answer for Johnson, Louisville’s cleanup hitter.
Johnson lined a 1-0 pitch over the left-center wall to tie the game in the second. He then put Louisville ahead for good by hammering a 2-0 fastball to left for a two-run homer in the third. A two-out error by Bowling Green shortstop Brian Bien preceded the home run and made one run unearned.
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“I just made a couple of mistakes, and he capitalized on them,” said Frank, who gave up eight hits in five innings and battled through a 25-minute rain delay. “He’s a good hitter. I left the ball up. The rest is history.”
The Cardinals broke the game open with four more runs in the fifth, taking advantage of a leadoff double, a hit batsman, a wild pitch, a throwing error on catcher T.J. Losby, two singles, and another double.
Bowling Green responded with a mild rally in the sixth. Bien walked, center fielder Patrick Lancaster doubled Bien home, and a single by Shay put runners on first and third. But the Falcons scored only one more on a sacrifice fly by catcher T.J. Losby.
Louisville, the Big East regular season champions, plays Miami (Fla.) in the winners’ bracket.
The BG-OSU game is scheduled for noon, but rain is forecast. The Cowboys lost to Miami 7-0, even though OSU started Jason Hursh, a possible first-round pick in the MLB draft next week. Apthorpe (5-4) will start for the Falcons today.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and WDRB-TV of Louisville. Rick Bozich is a columnist for WDRB.