Unless Tuesday evening’s matchup found the powers battling at 3d & Central knotted when curfew hit, somebody’s momentum was going to be thwarted, if only temporarily.
The Vanderbilt Commodores (39-9) took the field for the midweek Battle of the Barrel, ranked either #2 or #3 depending on which poll you look at, on an 11 game winning streak. RF JJ Bleday leads the nation with 23 taters. At .429, Austin Martin, is among the leading hitters in the land.
The #6 or #3 Louisville Cardinals (39-10) victory skein stood at nine, after recently sweeping then #2 NC State in Raleigh. Pitching ace Reid Detmers is a lock All-American.
The visiting nine in the black hats prevailed, 6-2, in the relatively close but laborious three hour forty six minute game.
Since 2007, when Dan McDonnell took the reins at U of L, the schools have developed what is arguably the most intriguing rivalry in college baseball.
In the seasons since then, the Cardinals have four CWS appearances and 593 Ws, the most of any team in the land. Vandy has the fifth most, now 576 after prevailing at the Jim, and busing home with the barrel. They won the CWS in ’14.
Since a barrel prize was designated for the winner in ’12, the series is now knotted at four wins apiece.
Given their resumés this season, unless there’s an egregious meltdown between now and the NCAA tournament by one or both squads, they shouldn’t meet again, unless it’s in Omaha should they advance to the CWS. Both appear on a collision course for a top eight seed.
The game was close early, with Vandy plating two in the top of the 3d, and the Cards halving that in their half of the inning, tying the affair with another run in the bottom of the 6th. It remained even until the visitors tallied two in the 8th, and another couple in the 9th.
McDonnell wasn’t able to stem the tide, despite emptying his bullpen, literally, using nine hurlers, including five in the 9th.
Probably because of the rivalry that has evolved, and the tension that comes with a battle between two legit national contenders, both teams made significant, atypical errors.
Vandy ran itself out of what could have been an even bigger inning in the 3d, when a Commodore tried to score on a ball hit to left, and was tagged at the plate by U of L’s catcher Zeke Pinkham after a righteous rifle shot from LF Jake Snider. It was not fatal.
In the top of the 8th, with one out and the score still even at two, Vandy had runners at first and third. Card SS Tyler Fitzgerald and third sacker Alex Binelas failed to communicate on a most catchable second out, a high pop up in foul territory behind 3d. The SECers took advantage, tallying two in the half inning.
* * * * *
In the ceremonial first pitch, new Cardinal pigskin mentor Scott Satterfield displayed some mound chops, throwing one high and tight.
— Seedy K