Had baseball’s philosopher laureate Lawrence Peter Berra been sitting with the other dignitaries in U of L AD Tom Jurich’s box, he would have simply nodded knowingly at the decimating conclusion to the Cardinals’ baseball season.
“It ain’t over til it’s over.”
The visiting UCSB Gaucho’s, with a game in hand in the 2 of 3 series, could get nothing going against Card starter Drew Harrington. Scattered hits here and there, but no real threats until the bottom of the 8th, at which juncture they’d been shut out with the Cards’ line showing 3 runs. But they showed life and had men on 1st and 2d with no outs, after a lead off single and HBP.
Exit gritty Harrington, after striking out 12 and surrendering only one BB, but his shutout in jeopardy. Walking in from the bullpen came Louisville’s ace fireballing closer, Zack Burdi with his triple digit heat, 11 saves, 2.20 ERA, and 7 to 1 strikeout ratio. Foes had hit but .155 against him this season.
Standing tall, Burdi quickly got the Cardinals out of the bottom of the 8th jam, inducing a double play and pop up on just a few pitches.
Then, after the Cards meekly failed to add insurance in the top of the last, he got the lead off hitter out in the bottom of the 9th.
Then, well, then it was — Cue Yogi — deja vu all over again. He gave up a single. Then a couple of walks. Then to freshman pinch hitter Sam Cohen, with but 26 at bats on the season, Burdi as he did last year in the Super Regional against another gang from Cali, served up a walk off homer, this one a grand slam.
Distraught Louisville 3, dogpiling California Santa Barbara 4.
The only Omaha U of L is going to visit this year is the Omaha Room they had to walk through to get to their lockers after the L.
Not to heap too much scorn on Burdi, a first round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox, but this scenario looked awfully familiar. Despite his pitch speed and immense talent, he doesn’t display the swagger of shut down closer.
At least come tournament time. Not only did he give a up a tater last season that cost the Cards a trip to the CWS, but just last week in the regional, he gave 2/3ds of a three run lead in the 9th, giving up two doubles before a searing liner was caught in left to end the rally.
But, fair is fair, he was far from the only one responsible for the Super Regional meltdown.
The Cards left 8 men on Sunday. There were several running gaffes in the two weekend losses.
Star Corey Ray was ofer the weekend against the Gauchos, after hitting 58 points lower than his average last weekend, when U of L swept Wright State, Ohio State and Western Michigan.
Truth: The Gauchos, headed to their first CWS, are hot. 5-0 for the tourney. The Cards are not.
For whatever reasons, despite giving lip service to avenging last year’s controversial loss to Fullerton, the Cards never seemed fully focused against Santa Barbara.
As one wise man who wasn’t there might have observed, “90 percent of it is half mental.”
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Louisville couldn’t muster a series tying W, despite the presence, I’m advised, of Lonnie Ali, widow of The Greatest and long time Cardinal baseball fan.
— Seedy K