Cards Survive Collision on Road to Omaha; Cats Don’t

ukuoflLouisville third sacker Alex Chittenden was involved in two important moments in last night’s rivalry NCAA Baseball Tournament matchup, won by Louisville to advance to the Super Regional.

In the bottom of the 7th, he dropped a pop foul off the bat of Matt Reida, which would have been/ should have been the second out of the inning. It allowed UK to get off the schneid, tallying on a Reida’s fielder’s choice ground out.

Then, of course, there’s the incident all who care about Kentucky vs. Louisville in any sport are talking about. The collision he instigated at the plate on a run down in the top of the inning.

Neither, however, was the key play of the 4-1 Cardinal W.

Which was the third out in the bottom of the 7th, as dramatic an inning as the stressful night provided. You know the one, where Thomas Bernal, baby-faced Thomas Bernal, Thomas Bernal, hero of UK’s elimination of Kent State, Thomas Bernal of the lazer quick wit attempted to Pete Rose his way to home plate for a run.

That play ended with UK’s first baseman being tagged out up the line before reaching home for the inning’s final out, after tagging up on pinch hitter Kyle Barrett’s line out to center.

Which brings us finally — ofttimes I’m a little wordy to increase the suspense, you understand, but here comes the real stuff — to the Key Play of the Game.

Which was — cue the trumpet obligato — Cardinal centerfielder Cole Sturgeon’s bull’s eye accurate, rifle shot peg to catcher Kyle Gibson for the put out of Bernal. Had Bernal scored, U of L’s once 4 nil lead would have been halved. UK would have been energized. Uncle Mo might have shown up again in the Big Blue dugout.1 Etc, etc.

Sturgeon’s throw was THE play of the game, it’s importance lost in all the verbiage about the two collisions at the plate.2

* * * * *

baseballThe Wildcats’ superduperüber star A.J. Reed had a woeful weekend at the plate.3 Other than that run-scoring double late Saturday against the Golden Flash(es), he was ineffective with the bat in his hand.

Which is not to say he wasn’t getting good metal on the ball last night. It’s just that the Reed Shift, employed by U of L, worked perfectly. Second baseman Zach Lucas, playing short right field, threw him out at first on what would have, under normal situations, been a single. During his next at bat, Lucas, situated in exactly the correct spot, caught a Dave Parker-hard liner for an out. Then there was the double play Reed hit into to end the 8th, from SS Sutton Whiting, playing 2d, to 3B Alex Chittenden, playing SS and covering 2d, to 1B Grant Kay, playing 1st.

Such shifts are all the rage in the Bigs now. Which makes total sense. After all, the point is to position the defense for the best chance to get the hitter out.

Unlike the standard back in the day, when I remember story after story about how blasphemous and heretical it was for teams to employ such strategy against the game’s best hitter ever, Ted Williams.

Louisville’s big bat, Jeff Gardner, was just as ineffectual as Reed over the weekend, perhaps more so. One difference. Other Cardinals stepped up for three straight Ws. The Wildcats couldn’t muster enough other offense.

* * * * *

Both schools got great starting work on the mound from guys down in the rotation.

New Albany freshman, starter Josh Rogers was out to prove he wasn’t going to lose to Kentucky thrice in one season.

Six seriously solid innings. Gave up four hits, a run. No walks. Five Ks.

Logan Salow was just as stalwart on the hill for Kentucky.

Six seriously solid innings. Gave up five hits, and a run.

Their first relievers did, uh, not so well.4

UK reliever Sam Mahar was in over his head.

In a third of an inning, twenty pitches, he gave up three hits and three runs, and overthrew a sure out at first, before being replaced. But, only after the Cards had gained some significant cushion on their lead.

When U of L’s Jake Sparger couldn’t find the plate, walking the first guy he faced on four pitches, McDonnell pulled out the hook after one more toss. Kyle McGrath and Nick Burdi closed the deal.

* * * * *

So bright is Cardinal freshman RF Corey Ray’s future, I have donned shades to type this section. (Metaphorically, if not literally.)

His RBI last night was key, on yet another base knock he stretched from a single to a double.

I’m inclined to dub him, “The Future.” Except for this, he’s now.

* * * * *

Bottom line.

Kentucky’s two regular season Ws over the Cards look as meaningless now as U of L’s three hoops smackdowns during the season over national champ UConn.

Louisville, which never trailed over the weekend, awaits the survivor of Alabama vs. Kennesaw State to combat in the Super Regional at The Jim.

Don’t bother knockin’, Third & Central will be rockin’.

— Seedy K

1 thought on “Cards Survive Collision on Road to Omaha; Cats Don’t

  1. Sturgeon’s play should make many scouts drool. Your typo calling him Surgeon is not inappropriate given his accuracy.

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