Nick Bennett is just fine, thank you, alleviating the concerns of numerous University of Louisville baseball fans going into the opening game of the Louisville Region. He’s had more than his share of shaky starts lately but hanging around this night for a 5-3 win over Illinois-Chicago.
Not a good start, not with the first batter of the game driving the ball out of the park, as did the first batter in the next inning. The visitors with a quick 3-0 lead going into the bottom the second inning. Bennett and Coach Dan McDonnell hoping the UofL bats would awaken sometime soon.
Thankfully they would in their turn at the plate. Danny Oriente with a towering 405 foot home run over the centerfield wall to push Logan Wyatt across the plate. Zach Britton would draw a walk and score on a UIC error, tying the game at 3-3.
Bennett suddenly impossible to hit, the 6-foot-4 junior striking out the side in the third inning. Tyler Fitzgerald would lead off with a double for Louisville in the third, scoring on an error to give UofL its first lead. He would lead off with another hit in the fifth and later score on a sacrifice for the final margin.
Bennett leaving the game to a standing ovation after two outs in the sixth inning, having given up three runs on four hits, six strikeouts and two bases on balls for the night. All in a night’s work, getting Louisville off to the best possible start in NCAA action.
With a little help, of course, from reliever Michael McAvene, striking out the side in the ninth with UIC runners on second and third. That last pitch 100 miles per hour.