LOUISVILLE — It doesn't get much better than this for Zack Pitts.
On a day he was selected by the Washington Nationals in the major league baseball draft, the junior right-hander also pitched the University of Louisville to within one game of its first College World Series appearance.
Pitts, one of five Cardinals drafted in the last 24 hours, allowed hard-hitting Oklahoma State just four hits over seven innings while striking out six and walking just two as No. 21 UofL (45-21) rolled to a 9-0 victory in front of a record crowd of 4,023 in the opening game of the NCAA Super Regional in Jim Patterson Stadium Friday afternoon.
Redshirt sophomore lefty Gavin Logsdon finished what Pitts started as the pair combined to hand OSU — which is seventh in NCAA Division 1 in batting average and ninth in runs scored — only its second shutout of the season.
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"I just tried to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters and put them in a hole," said Pitts (10-3). "When you put them in a hole right away, their average goes down. Usually, my first pitch was a split fast ball, but I did throw a couple of sliders and a couple of curves on the first pitch. I wanted to throw strikes and give our defense a chance to make plays."
As for being drafted by the Washington Nationals, Pitts said: "I guess I've got a decision to make. A lot of good things happened today, and I'm just grateful."
The two teams will collide again at noon Saturday. If OSU wins, the decisive game will be played at 4 p.m. Sunday, with the winner advancing to college baseball's version of the Final Four in the eight-team World Series next week in Omaha, Neb.
"We feel good about it, but Oklahoma State doesn't think they're out of it," UofL coach Dan McDonnell said. "Tomorrow is a new day, but this was definitely fun."
"We have a chance to do something really special and we're not going to let it slip through our fingers," said UofL left fielder Isaiah Howes, who hit one of three Louisville home runs. "We're going to take full advantage of this opportunity."
Said OSU shortstop Jordy Mercer: "We're fine. We know how good we can be. Today is over. Tomorrow is it — lose and we go home."
McDonnell called Pitts' performance "phenomenal" and the OSU hitters said he kept them off balance by moving the ball around the strike zone.
"He had great location," Mercer said. "He had trouble with his slider sometimes, but he located his fast ball inside and outside real well."
Four of the first five hitters in Oklahoma State's lineup were drafted in the first seven rounds, but Pitts certainly didn't let that intimidate him, with the quartet producing only two hits in 15 at-bats.
"It's definitely frightening if you think about it in hindsight," Pitts said. "They're a great offensive club, I can tell you that. But I wasn't nervous. I was asleep last night as soon as my head hit the pillow."
And he was able to rest easy Friday, too, after the Cards staked him to a 3-0 lead in the first inning on the strength of Logan Johnson's RBI double and a two-run home run by Howes off OSU starter Oliver Odle. In all, UofL pummeled seven Cowboy pitchers for 13 hits, giving them 86 in their last six games.
Howes, Daniel Burton and Jorge Castillo had two hits apiece. Castillo boosted his team-best hitting streak to 10 games and every position player in the lineup hit safely. Besides Howes, redshirt freshman Chris Dominguez and Dan Rodriguez also homered for the Cards.
"Man, it's unbelievable," Howes said of the Cards' hitting attack lately. "Our batters from one through nine are as dangerous as any I've seen in college baseball."
UofL will send Big East Rookie of the Year Justin Marks (8-2, 2.61 ERA), a freshman left-hander, to the mound Saturday. OSU coach Frank Anderson declined to reveal his pitching plans.