Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

Cards on the 9s: Strange ’09 Campaign ends in Elite Eight

This is last of a series of remembrances of U of L basketball seasons for years ending in 9.

Reality first struck as I sat in the ginormous media room of Lucas Oil Stadium before the Cardinals ’09 matchup with Sparty for a trip to the Final Four in Motown.

Expectations soaring after #1 seed U of L drew and quartered Arizona by 39 in the Sweet Sixteen, and with my belly full of Shapiro’s pastrami, potato latkes and carrot cake, I poured over Michigan State data for the first time.

My confidence quickly abated. I recall reading the numbers, looking up, staring into the middle distance, and thinking, “Louisville could lose this. Izzo’s team is good.”

And damned if I wasn’t prescient. The truth struck with terrible swift sword.

Michigan State 64, Louisville 52.

Louisville’s season and 13 game winning skein and strangest of seasons had fizzed out. Continue reading Cards on the 9s: Strange ’09 Campaign ends in Elite Eight

Cards on the 9s: W over Cats highlights ’99 Campaign

This is another in a series of remembrances of Louisville Cardinal basketball teams in years ending in 9.

It’s difficult, and not wise really, to talk about this specific ’98-’99 campaign, without providing context.

Finishing with a record of 12-20, the season before was not only the first losing one of beloved Hall of Famer Denny Crum’s career, it was the first for U of L since the Cards went 7-10 in ’41-’42.

How much did we love the graphic the networks would put on the screen during every national telecast, “Louisville has had 56 consecutive winning seasons.” A matter of pride had been shattered.

After two more seasons, including another 12-19 clunker in ’00-’01, the two-time national champion mentor, who at the top of his game was as good as any who ever coached, would be gone, becoming an ambassador for the university, and giving his time and lending his stature to many charities in the community.

But before that, something not so good was happening to U of L hoops, and nobody really knew exactly what it was.

There are lots of theories. Continue reading Cards on the 9s: W over Cats highlights ’99 Campaign

Reflections on U of L’s Last Hurrah in CWS

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

Reflections on a U of L Walk Off

Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats you.

Prior to Thursday night’s season-saving, Final Four-elevating 4-3 walk off by the Louisville Cardinals, 28 of the 52 victories in 2019 by the heading back to Dudy Noble Field Mississippi State Bulldogs have been of the come from behind variety.

In a little tit for tat, the Cards ended the season of their former assistant coach’s nine By. Coming. From. Behind.

As the number of the trailing, lifeless at the plate Cardinals’ outs was diminishing, the way too glib announcing team of Kyle Peterson, Eduardo Perez and Karl Ravech started hypothesizing about Bulldog/ Commodore pitching matchups for Friday night.

They weren’t the only ones who thought the game had a fait accompli feel to it.

In the top of the 7th, even before Tanner Allen’s “insurance” RBI single gave State a 3-0 lead, I — yeah me, ever the pessimist — texted my pal and declared, “This season is over.”

Silly me. Continue reading Reflections on a U of L Walk Off

Cards Survive Rain & Auburn, 5-3, Advance

A win is a win is a . . . you know . . . win.

Louisville, 41-1 when leading after six, 42-0 when leading after seven, hung on despite itself to eliminate Auburn’s Tigers from the CWS, and live for the proverbial another day.

The Cards will meet the vanquished of Mississippi State/ Vanderbilt Thursday evening.

U of L, with a 4-1 lead, endured a 20:07 rain delay before action resumed in the top of the 5th at 11:00 AM Omaha time Wednesday. In front of a “crowd” at first pitch you could count on fingers and toes, both the Cardinals and Tigers sleep walked through 2 1/2 innings before any energy sparked.

Given how well Adam Elliott was pitching, Dan McDonnell yet again made one of his patented curious post season pitching decisions, bringing in ace reliever Michael McAvene to hurl the top of the 7th. The Cards closer certainly needed to knock off some rust. Following his suspension during the regional, two laughers over East Carolina when he wasn’t needed and a DNP in the CWS opening L to Vandy, he hadn’t taken the mound since June 2.

But Elliott was on, and surely could have gone another inning at least. Continue reading Cards Survive Rain & Auburn, 5-3, Advance

Louisville Rampages Way to Omaha, 12-0

Louisville 12, East Carolina 0.

It is at somewhat incomprehensible moments like this, that the writer’s craft and focus run off and hide.

How to explain in an ebullient but professional way how your favorite school’s baseball team has just drawn and quartered the tenth best squad in the land by scores of 14-1 and 12 zed to be the first to punch a ticket to the College World Series.

What hook to use? Where to start? Does it really matter if you get the essentials and the peripherals onto the page.

So . . .

. . . this morning, while cruising the interweb, before heading out to The Jim, I came across a mention of Peyton Manning. Who, as you might recall, used a barked “Omaha” as a trigger to his teammates that he was changing the call at the line of scrimmage.

So, should the Cards prevail, I thought I might start with that angle, and work from there, maybe talk about how the Cards pulled a Peyton Manning. Which the observant among you will notice I have done.

Then there’s the more obvious storyline, which if I weren’t such a contrarian, I would have put at the beginning of the lede.

Bobby Miller. The righty is U of L’s third starter, but got the nod on Saturday noon. And all he of the 6-1, 4.37 ERA (4-0, 3.12 at home) did was totally throttle the hard hitting Pirates. Continue reading Louisville Rampages Way to Omaha, 12-0

After 11-2 Romp, Cards a W away from Supers

OK, I’m racking my brain decades later to see if I can remember any of the laws of energy, Mr. Brashear tried to impart to us in 1st period Physics in H.S.?

Law of Conservation of Energy maybe? Potential energy is a concept I recall. Zeroth Law, is that a thing? Ya know, it’s not like I’ve thought a lot about theories of thermodynamics through the years.

But, seeing as how the energy of the Louisville Cardinal nine accelerated through yesterday’s twin killing of Indiana and Illinois State to force a decider Monday for a spot in the Supers, I have conceived a new hypothetical.

Who needs Stephen Hawking anyway?

For your consideration, I offer Seedy K’s Law of the Propagation of Energy. Continue reading After 11-2 Romp, Cards a W away from Supers

Cards Outlast Hoosiers & Umpire, 9-7

Survive and advance.

One down, two to go, starting with a 6:00 PM Ernie Banks” Let’s Play Two first pitch against Illinois State.

It was a day when the Cards’ post season bats finally woke up in the bottom of the 2d. A Danny Oriente double in the gap tallied two. After a walk and a sacrifice bunt, a Justin Lavey single plated two more.

The Hoosier loaded the sacks in the top of the 3d. But, coming up huge, starter Bobby Miller struck out the next two IU batters, then induced an inning ending fly out to center to end the threat.

The Cardinals added two more in their half on an Alex Binelas homer.

Miller quelled another potential rally in the top of the 5th, striking out two to end the inning.

Really aggressive  base running by Tyler Fitzgerald — He scored from 2d on a routine infield out — gave U of L a 7-0 lead after five.

IU came back with 4 in the 6th, but Adam Elliott calmed things down somewhat. Continue reading Cards Outlast Hoosiers & Umpire, 9-7

Cards face Elimination after L to Illinois State

The Louisville Cardinal nine has gone somnambulant in the post season.

After yet another uninspired loss, this an old fashioned, no homer, move the runners over via sacrifice, two and a half hour quickie to Illinois State from the MVC by 2-4 margin in front of a relatively sparse gathering, the Cards face . . . elimination.

It will take three wins in a row, including a couple on Sunday, commencing at noon against the IU Hoosiers, who stayed alive by beating Illinois Chicago.

The Cards find themselves in this predicament because, well, after coming from behind and taking a 2-1 lead in the top of the 6th, and needing a shut down inning, U of L gave up 3.

The key play there came when Reid Detmers induced the Redbirds best hitter, Joe Aeilts, to bounce a routine DP ball to 2B Justin Lavely. But after catching Lavely’s routine toss to get the runner at 2d, SS Tyler Fitzgerald inexplicably pirouetted, turning a 360, which resulted in a late throw to 1st.

With men on 1st and 2d, and the inning which should have been over still alive, PH Jeremy Gaines stroked a double down the line in left, plating the go ahead, winning runs.

The Cardinals didn’t threaten the rest of the way. Continue reading Cards face Elimination after L to Illinois State

Card Win NCAA Opener

Let’s be clear from the start.

Dan McDonnell has won more games as a head college baseball coach than I have.

My victory total in that position stands at 0.

McDonnell has 598. which is not only 598 more than me, but more than any other coach or school in the entire sport since he took charge at U of L in 2007.

Which is to say, he knows what he’s doing. Duh. Obviously. While all I’ve got is a keyboard to type out second guesses.

When, as he is wont to do, he didn’t start ace Reid Detmers in the regional opener at The Jim against the Illinois Chicago Flames, I was curious. Sure, the Cards figured to take care of the Horizon League visitors from the Windy City. But nothing’s a given. And winning the opener in the tourney is a big plus.

So, I and other Cardinal fans were not amused when Nick Bennett gave up a lead off tater to start his stint, then another to the first batter in the 2d,  both over the exact spot in rightish center over Mark Jurich’s photo. And the Flames tallied another run and Bennett and the Cards were shakily behind 0-3 before the Louisville’s second chance at the plate.

I was of course questioning McDonnell’s strategy. Lack of expertise be damned, it’s what I do. Continue reading Card Win NCAA Opener