There was, as any sad U of L Cardinal fan understands, a consensus. A healthy consensus, and almost universal belief.
That Luke Smith, who again hurled brilliantly in this 2019 post season — three hits, none after the 3d, ten strikeouts, but one walk, and a single score on 106 pitches — should have been pulled after those eight masterful innings.
Should have been pulled because his competitive bile at the end of that half inning — hurling antagonistic invective toward the Vandy dugout and Julian Infante whom he’d just struck out — could well awaken the beast that is Vanderbilt. Should have been pulled because the Cardinals have not one but two shutdown closers. Michael McAvene with his 5/1 K/BB ratio and 7 saves. Michael Kirian with his 1.68 ERA, 4/1 K/BB ratio and 5 saves.
Or, at the very least, pulled in the 9th after walking JJ Bleday, the nation’s best basher, on five pitches, after getting leadoff Austin Martin to ground out to start the Commodore half.
That consensus however does not include Dan McDonnell, the successful Louisville mentor, who has turned the Cardinals into a national baseball power.
McDonnell, with a look on his face that was kind of difficult to comprehend — it looked like indecision mostly — stayed with his starter. (One of the advantages of good TV coverage, are those close ups in those tense situations.)
I, like most, think it was, at the time, and in retrospect, an egregiously wrong choice. You gotta trust your closers.
But Smith stayed on the mound. Continue reading Reflections on U of L’s Last Hurrah in CWS