Bottom Line in Red & Black (So Far):
U of L played stellar D, ran the bases, keeping the pressure on the upstart Jayhawks, grabbed an early lead, continued to pressure Kansas, got some timely outs late and survived to win its second straight tourney game, 6-3.
Leaving U of L, awaiting UK or Rock Chalk Jayhawk, with two chances to win one and host a Super Regional next week.
Bottom Line in Big Blue (So far):
Kentucky was meek at the plate through eight, but superduperüberstar A.J. Reed settled in on the mound after giving up a couple runs in the first to keep the Cats close, then fashioned a game-winning rally in the 9th, the kind that makes college baseball so fascinating.
Leaving the Wildcats in survive & advance mode against Kansas at noon, in hopes of setting up a late afternoon battle with You Know Who.
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I thought it interesting that, during the Thursday pre-regional practice session, the Cardinals — School colors : red and black — wore electric yellow t-shirts, with “DEFENSE” boldly writ across the jersey.
During his meet and greet with the press, coach Dan McDonnell again admitted having to reconfigure his modus operandi, since the bats were deadened a season or two ago. He used to think like Earl Weaver — Wait for the Big Bombs — but was compelled to switch to small ball.1
This Cardinal team runs. And runs. And runs some more.
U of L entered the tourney with 121 stolen sacks, 2d in the land; averaging 2.02/ game. The Cards will go for the extra base more often than one might expect. With 101 on the season, U of L continues its pesky propensity to be hit by pitches.2
Sutton Whiting stole a couple last night, including 3d. The team swiped four in the opener against Kent State.
The Cards were way solid in the field again last evening, and have committed but a single miscue thus far in the tournament.
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After A.J. Reed knocked in Kentucky’s first run with a RBI double in the top of the 9th, coach Gary Henderson inserted Marcus Carson to pinch run for the star.
Interesting move, to say the least, thought I, not alone in the press box where scribes were rolling their eyes in wonderment at the change.
Then, after being pulled, Reed took the mound for the bottom of the inning?????
Shows we “experts” don’t know much. Henderson replaced Reed as DH, but not as pitcher. Which meant, he could return to the mound, but not bat again, should the game have gone to extra innings.
I loudly inquired of all the press assembled, if any knew the rule? Nary a single answer in the affirmative.
Truth be told, Reed admitted after the game he didn’t know what was going on. He started to take off his cleats and prepare to watch the rest of the festivities from the dugout. Until Henderson advised he’d be back on the hill.
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Freshman CF Corey Ray (.336) was smokin’ again for the Cards. Three for four, with a couple doubles, one of which was a stretched single.
Cole Sturgeon, as usual, was everywhere. Literally. Well, almost. CF, then to the mound, then to RF. 2/4 with a run scored, and a RBI.
SS Sutton Whiting scored twice, and knocked in two.
Anthony Kidston, who still has yet to lose as a Cardinal,3 wasn’t as dominating as Kyle Funkhouser was in the opener, but gave up only two runs and five hits in 7 innings. After a potentially horrendous 6th, in which he escaped relatively unscathed after the sacks were loaded with no outs, he went three up, three down in his last inning pitched.
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One guy’s opinion. Two best performances of the day.
Kent State right-hander Nick Jensen-Craig was brilliant for 8 innings, holding UK’s big bats totally in check. Of his 105 pitches, 71 were strikes. He’d only thrown 15 balls through the first five innings.
It wasn’t like he was throwing major heat either. He notched only four Ks.
UK RF Storm Wilson’s 9th inning at bat was big league all the way. Men on 1st and 2d, Kentucky, down a run, an out away from elimination. Foul. 0-1. Ball. 1-1. Foul. 1-2. (UK, a strike away from elimination.) Ball. 2-2. Foul. Ball. 3-2. Ball. Walk. Bases loaded.
After which, baby-faced Thomas Bernal blooped a game-winning, two-run double.4
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Cards vs. Cats to advance in the NCAA tournament. Gee, that sounds familiar.
UK needs to win three in a row to advance, U of L, one of two against either Jayhawks or Cats.
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An encounter with a group of folks from Cincy — parents and their Little Leaguers, who had played earlier in the day in a tourney in E-town — gave me an opportunity to trot out one of my own favorite personal baseball moments.
The visitors toured the Louisville Slugger Museum. So I regaled them with my encounter with Harmon Killebrew and Ernie Banks on the night of the museum’s gala opening, following the two former sluggers around the bat-making facility. Which I shall now do again for you readers.
HK (swinging a Louisville slugger): “Ernie, did you like an open- or closed-grained bat?
EB: “I liked open-grained.”
HK: “Oh, Ernie, you don’t know. A closed-grain gives you more power.”
EB: “Well, I must know something. I hit 512 home runs.”
— Seedy K