Three runs in the first inning, nine in the second, and six in the third.
The UCLA softball team having a field day against the University of Louisville Saturday in the runners-up bracket of the NCAA tournament. The final score was UCLA 19-2. Could have been much worse, mercifully the game being shut down after five innings. Embarrassing for the host team, still another early out in NCAA action.
Indications of discomfort from the fan base, some individuals wondering out loud about Coach Sandy Pearsall’s ability to take the program to the next level. Coming on a day when the Cards had lost earlier to Alabama-Birmingham 7-4 and eliminated from the tournament.
Two long-time fans who were there say they were frustrated and humiliated, saying it’s time for a change. A bad day all around for people close to the team, having much higher expectations. There was similar debate on at least two fan message boards.
A good indication of the growing level of interest in the program but somewhat unfair, considering what Pearsall has accomplished.
She may a victim of her own success, having compiled a 553-274 won-lost record since building the program from ground up, starting in 1999. She has guided UofL into NCAA play 10 consecutive seasons. This year’s team had a 47-13 record, following on the heels of the best-ever 55-5 season last year.
No one is hurting more than Pearsall herself, who will find plenty of motivation in the program’s most recent shortcoming.
Expectations are fine but keep them in check.
The Cardinals could have celebrated a share of the championship Friday. No. Too early. They wanted sole ownership. The last regular season trophy available before the Big East becomes an all-Cathoiic, basketball-centric league.
“I’m really happy for these kids that they were able to dogpile and enjoy this conference championship,” said head coach Dan McDonnell. “Selfishly, I probably would’ve celebrated yesterday because you don’t get many opportunities to dogpile in college baseball. They showed me a lot of confidence and a lot of resolve and they wanted more – they wanted to be the sole champion of this league.”
Sixteen consecutive wins to close out the season, UofL capturing its fourth Big East season championship in baseball over the past five seasons. The Cards enter the Big East tournament as the No. 1 seed with a 46-10 won-lost record.
The win was not without drama, starting pitcher Dace Kime as groggy as the overcast day, allowing six hits and walking three batters through an anxiety-filled first four innings. The relief team would allow four more hits and give up four other walks, keeping Pitt within striking distance until the end.
Nick Burdi would load the bases in the top of the ninth before finding the strike zone with those 95-plus mph balls, striking out the last two batters in the heart of the Pitt batting order, sending 2,626 fans home ecstatic.
Jeff Gardner would again deliver a key hit for the Cardinals, winding up on third after slapping a ball into the right field corner, pushing Coco Johnson and Ty Young home in a five-run third inning for the Cardinals.
Winning an NCAA basketball championship leads to all kinds of celebrity and gigs. Look where it led for Stephan Van Treese, the backup center. He had a chance to work with Katie George, a setter for the volleyball team and promotions director for the University of Louisville baseball team, tossing bags of free peanuts to fans Thursday during the season-ending series against Pittsburgh.
As everyone in the state should know by now, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, as the leader of the minority party, is among the University of Louisville’s most influential and powerful fans.
His affinity for Cardinal athletics apparently take priority over many other national concerns, according to Senator Mark Pryor, who represents Arkansas, who told Press Pass:
“It’s not really a closely guarded secret, but they don’t talk about it too much, … Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, is a huge Louisville fan. Huge — off the charts, I mean he’s an unbelievably big Louisville fan,” Pryor said Friday in an interview on The Ticket radio show on 92.1 FM. “I think sometimes we schedule our votes around either Louisville, either football or basketball games.”
McConnell will be making his 28th appearance on Meet The Press this Sunday.
Jeff Gardner gives thanks for still another home run, a shot over the right field fence in the University of Louisville’s 12-4 win over Pittsburgh Friday. His three-run blast in the third inning propelled the Cardinals to a 6-1 lead. He followed up with a 370-foot drive to right center in the fifth inning, his third home run in two games and his ninth for the season.
The win, witnessed by 3,574 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium, assured UofL of a share for first place in the Big East Conference and the No. 1 seed in the next week’s conference tournament.
No celebrating Friday, however. This team wants sole ownership for the Big East Championship. The teams meet again Saturday at Noon.
Stay tuned for a dog pile.
* * *
Meanwhile over at Dan Ulmer Stadium, the UofL softball team was advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a hard-fought 2-1 win over a strong Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne team. The women will meet Alabama-Birmingham at 2 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the double-elimination tournament.
Jeff Gardner prepares for a bear hug from teammate Cole Sturgeon after putting his University of Louisville baseball team on the board with a solo home run against Pittsburgh in the fourth inning of Thursday’s game at Jim Patterson Stadium. UofL trailed 1-0 at the time but would score three more runs in the inning en route to a 5-2 decision.
The win moved the Cardinals into a tie with Pitt for first place in the Big East Conference. The teams will go at it again Friday at 6 p.m. Unless one of the games is rained out, UofL needs a three-game sweep to clinch the regular season conference championship. If there is a cancellation, the team to win the next game claims that distinction. If both of the remaining games are rained out, they are co-champions but UofL earns the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament next week.
Life in the University of Louisville athletic department is good these days, challenging and rewarding. Not so at some schools.
Gary Friedman, a former senior associate athletic director at UofL, resigned suddenly Monday from his position as Athletic Director at Illinois State University. He was in the second year of a five-year contract.
Friedman earned the post in May 2011, promising to be “very aggressive and cutting edge.” His administration had begun a $25 million expansion of the school’s 50-year-old football stadium.
Oddly, his resignation coincided with the retirement of Al Bowman as Illinois State President. One of Bowman’s final acts was to appoint Larry Lyons as acting athletic director. A 26-year employee of ISU, Lyons was interim AD when Friedman was hired.
Friedman provided little explanation for his decision in a news release, saying only that “it simply was not the right fit.” He will be paid a year’s salary, plus expenses.
Tom Jurich says when you’re on top, there’s always someone wanting to knock you down. With the NCAA basketball champs backing him up on stage, Jurich urges UofL athletes to stay humble and hungry.
Grabbed this video of Jurich speaking to University of Louisville athletes during the recent All-Sports Banquet off of one Nick Stover’s sites. Stover is the social media director for athletics at UofL.
Julie Hermann, his assistant for the past 15 years, was selected Wednesday as the new Athletic Director at Rutgers University, the person to lead the university through a transition period in the American Athletic Conference next year and into the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
Hermann, 49, has served as the Cardinals’ senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator. She has worked in the Louisville athletic department since 1998. A former volleyball coach at Tennessee and player at Nebraska, she oversaw 20 of UofL’s 23 sports, excluding basketball, football and baseball. Hermann recently served as president of the National Association of Collegiate Women’s Athletics Administrators.
She was reportedly selected during an emergency voting session of the Rutgers board of governors after members of the search committee deadlocked on a 3-3 vote between her and Sean Frazier, the deputy AD at Wisconsin.
While she has been a highly visible presence around UofL sports, Hermann has largely been a silent force, at least in public, content to let her co-workers take credit for accomplishments in the women’s program, rarely interacting with the media.
However, Howie Lindsey, whose office at the Louisville Sports Report is near the campus, has seen her in action behind the scenes:
“She is a hot-headed, aggressive, tenacious competitor,” said Lindsey, in a recent Rivals post. “She wants every sport competing for a conference title all the time. Fair warning: Coaches that aren’t on their game will be hounded by her. She is so incredibly competitive it can be tough to work around when things aren’t going the way she wants them to, i.e. winning.
“She understands marketing, licensing, working a fan base and building an athletic department. She understands what makes a great coach and she understands the right fit.”
“This is not a PC hire. Julie is not just a diversity hire. This is a great hire. She is tough, focused and very well connected.