It can be argued, as I shall now do, that this weekend, the one ending with the Louisville Cardinal nine headed for a second straight trip to the College World Series, that this is the most wondrous time ever for U of L baseball.
The visit in 2007 was so out of the blue, it could have been considered at the time as an apparition (the appearance of something remarkable or unexpected). Or, an aberration (a departure from what is normal, usual or expected).
Or, both. Uh, where is the College World Series? How many teams play there? Qu’est que c’est Rosenblatt? It was something so rare, even the most inveterate U of L fans were caught unaware.
Last year’s undefeated journey was, in many ways, more remarkable than the first. The road went through NashVegas where highly-ranked, highly-rated Vanderbilt stood in the way.
But this, this year, this is something mo’ betta.
Earning a spot in Omaha two years in a row, doing it again without dropping a game again, the Cards are now a playah on the national scene. And, oh yes, Louisville will be the only school there this season that was also there last.
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I ran into my old buddy Pete yesterday at the hardware store. A U of L grad, he’s a big baseball fan.1
We carried on about our alma mammy’s success on the diamond. I asked if he ever went to a game, during his Belknap Campus days of yesteryear?
“One time. Let me tell you the story.
“It was Derby Day, 1963. My sister and I left the track early, and walked back to campus by Parkway Field. She saw her friend Joe Reuther,2 who asked us to join him and watch the baseball game.
“Louisville was playing a double header.3 There was a chair along the sideline by one of the benches. On it was a little TV. When it was time for the Derby, they stopped play, both teams crowded around the little black and white set and watched the race.”
Asked if there were any other fans there, Pete said, “We were the only three I can remember.”
Which somewhat but not overly amusing remembrance underscores this. U of L baseball was an afterthought. Even after Tom Jurich got some of that considerable fast food fortune to erect The Jim at Third & Central, the sport was slow to resonate.
But, it didn’t take long for the program to make a name for itself . . . after Dan McDonnell arrived.
If tradition can have momentum, Uncle Mo has taken up residence in the Shad Mason Hack Shack. It doesn’t appear as if he’s especially anxious to move on.
A ballyard record 5,351 seriously intense Cardinal fans (and a nice contingent up from Georgia to cheer on the visitors from Kennesaw State) over-filled The Jim for Friday’s Super Regional opener. Last night, there wasn’t an empty nook and cranny in the joint as 6,007 showed up.
So, like I said, Louisville Cardinal baseball is now a playah.
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U of L took the lead, then fell behind for the first time in the NCAA tourney, giving up two in the top of the 4th, another in the top of the 5th. Not to worry. The Cards got one back when senior Alex Chttenden singled in precocious power hitting freshman Nick Solak,4 who was sitting on 2d after a two-bagger.
Louisville tied it in the bottom of the 8th with small ball. Grant Kay singled, stole 2d and gained 3d on a wild pitch. Then, after Zach Lucas walked, scored on a beauteous suicide squeeze bunt, executed by lead off hitter Kyle Gibson.5 Then Solak doubled in his mates, sitting on 2d and 3d.
Bullpen ace Nick Burdi shut the door on the Owls in the top of the 9th.
Cards: 5/ 11/ 1. Owls: 3/ 5/ 0.
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Against K State’s ace, Travis Bergen, who notched two Ws in last weekend’s regional and hadn’t given up an earned run since May 10, the Cards faced a sterner test last night.
They fell behind in the bottom of the first, when Owl catcher, Max Pentacost, 11th player taken in the draft, finally showed up, with an RBI liner.
U of L took the lead in the top of the 3d, on a Solak sac fly, and a Jeff Gardner single.
But gave it back in the bottom of the inning, giving up three to fall behind again, 4-2.
Hello, Shut Down Time. The Owls didn’t tally again, as still undefeated Anthony Kidston, Zack Burdi, Drew Harrington, and Cole “He’s Everywhere, He’s Everywhere” Sturgeon did the tighten up on the mound.
U of L scored 3 in the 5th. The big blow was Solak’s tater over the left field wall.6 The good guys tallied two more in the 6th, the usual way. Small ball. Sacrifices. A double steal that everybody in the joint knew was coming. And a two-run RBI shot from future BoSoxer Sturgeon.
Then, sound familiar?, bullpen ace Nick Burdi shut the door on the Owls in the bottom of the 9th.
Cards: 7/ 11/ 0. Owls: 4/ 11/0.
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Next week in the CWS, Louisville will face the winner of today’s knock out game in the Nashville Super Regional between recent nemesis Vanderbilt and Stanford.
— Seedy K