Louisville earns first spot in ACC Tournament Championship

Durham, N.C. — Good pitching can take a team a long way, and it has carried Louisville to the finals of the 2018 Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship.

Starter Nick Bennett and two relievers combined on a six-hitter as the fifth-seeded Cardinals claimed a 5-2 win over pesky 12th seed Pitt in Saturday’s first semifinal game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Louisville (43-16) advanced to Sunday’s noon title game and will face the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal between second-seeded Clemson (45-13) and sixth-seeded Florida State (41-17).

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The Cardinals, who posted their sixth straight win and their 14th in the last 16 games, will be playing in their first ACC Baseball Championship final since joining the league prior to the 2015 season.

Bennett worked six innings and allowed four hits, including a two-run home run to Ron Washington Jr. in the top of the sixth that brought the Panthers to within 3-2. He walked three batters and struck out seven.

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Lefthander Adam Elliott worked a perfect seventh inning, and righthander Austin Conway shook off infield singles in the eighth and ninth innings to record his second save of the year.

Louisville pitchers have allowed just four earned runs and 19 total hits in three tournament games this week while striking out 33 batters and limiting opponents to a collective .184 batting average.

Devin Mann went 3-for-3 and drove in three of Louisville’s five runs with a first-inning RBI triple and a home run to deep left-center in the bottom of the seventh that provided the Cardinals with two huge insurance runs. Josh Stowers added an RBI double for his 10th RBI in three tournament games.

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Dan Hammer (2-6), making his second start of the tournament, took the loss on the mound for Pitt. The Panthers (29-26) defeated No. 8 seed Georgia Tech and No. 1 seed North Carolina to win Pool A prior to Saturday’s loss and were the lone ACC Coastal Division team to reach the semifinal round.