Five of the top UofL baseball games ever

Nick-SolakAfter nearly a century in obscurity, University of Louisville baseball has established itself as a major player, finishing among the top 10 teams the past three seasons.

Die-hard baseball fans would argue that post-season baseball is every bit as exciting as watching football on autumn night or basketball on a winter afternoon. Something like hitting a massive underdog sports bet that no one but you saw happening. If you have been in the same situation but didn’t get around to placing that bet, it’s good to learn the odds before one makes a wager.

While many great games have undoubtedly been lost to the annals of history, by magnitude and importance to the program, here are five of my top UofL baseball games of all-time.

June 3, 2007: Louisville 8, Miami 7

UofL has been to the College World Series three times in the last decade. But trips to Omaha (or even Regionals) were far from imaginable most of the program’s history. That all started to change with the arrival of manager Dan McDonnell in 2007.

Third-seeded UofL had already recorded the program’s first ever NCAA regional win two days prior, a 13-7 comeback win against perennial power Miami. After losing to Missouri the next day, a re-match with the Hurricanes loomed. Louisville won an 8-7 thriller thanks to four runs batted in by Jorge Castillo. The Cards would go on to eliminate Missouri and Oklahoma State en route to the program’s first ever College World Series berth.

May 24, 2008: Louisville 6, Cincinnati 3

Despite earning a trip to Omaha the year before, the Cards had still never won a conference tournament champion in their history. But a second consecutive 40-plus win season put UofL in position to end the drought against rivals Cincinnati in the Big East Conference.

Deadlocked at 3-3 in the top of the 8th, a two-run double from Stewart Ijames broke the tie to give the Cards a late edge. First baseman Andrew Clark would add an additional run on a single later that inning, allowing Louisville to win their first conference tournament and make their third trip to an NCAA Regional in history.

June 9, 2013: Louisville 2, Vanderbilt 1

Despite multiple regular season conference titles and four seasons in excess of 40 wins, the Cardinal nine had been unable to find their way back to Omaha since 2007. But a new class of Cards now had the opportunity to punch their ticket by beating #2 Vanderbilt in the 2013 Nashville Super Regional.

The Cards won game one narrowly 5-3, and the second game was expected to be a pitcher’s duel as they faced the Commodores’ 14-0 Tyler Beede. He would allow two runs on five hits, that was all Louisville needed with Jeff Thompson giving up only three hits in a 2-1 win, sending the Cards back to Omaha.

June 6, 2014: UofL 5, Kennesaw State 3

A crowd of 4,235 turned out at Jim Patterson Stadium to watch Louisville try and clinch their second straight trip to Omaha against the visiting Kennesaw State Owls in the 2014 Super Regional.

They would not be disappointed, as the Cardinals rallied back from an early 4-2 deficit to regain the lead in the fifth inning. The big hit, a two-run home run by freshman Nick Solak. Right hander Drew Harrington would earn his 12th win of the season.

April 19, 2016: UofL 7, Kentucky 6

Whether it’s basketball, football, lawn bowling or anything else, there are few simpler joys in life than watching UofL beat UK. That’s become a frequent occurrence on the diamond lately, with Louisville winning the last five games.

UK led most of the way, but coughed up three runs in the seventh inning and then two more in the eighth, allowing UofL to tie the score at 6-6. For a second straight season, UK would suffer a walk off defeat, thanks to a run-scoring single up the middle by Devin Hairston.

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Neutral Zone combines UofL and UK storesAllowing leases at Blankenbaker Parkway shopping center to expire

Quite the surprise, pulling into the parking lot in front of the Neutral Zone’s University of Louisville store on Blankenbaker Parkway. The doors are locked, the merchandise is gone and the store fixtures for sale.

Whoa. Not good news for UofL fans, who had almost taken for granted the luxury of having a Cardinal-dedicated store for about 15 years. Some can remember the bad old days when it was a challenge to find a decent UofL shirt at the old Bacon’s.

Apparently the hefty prices and the lulls between championship seasons have finally caught up with the Neutral Zone. That and all the competition from newer retail sources, including Cardinal Authentic, J.D. Becker, Fanwear, as well as GoCards.com.

IMG_2341So many places for Louisville fans to shop these day.

The company allowed the lease to expire on its 20,000-square-foot store and has moved all of its UofL merchandise to a store formerly devoted to University of Kentucky goods in the same shopping center.

The future of the former Kentucky-only store, which is now split between UofL and UK goods, is of short duration. An individual at the cash register explained that the lease on the UofL store expired first and that the Neutral Zone will leave the shopping center when the former UK store lease is up. He said they plan to locate elsewhere in Middletown.

All merchandise at the store has been discounted to 50% off and has been since May.

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UofL twists in the wind, waiting on decisions

As we near the halfway point in the Summer of 2016, there are some major uncertainties leaving the University of Louisville twisting in the wind. Very unsettling for UofL supporters who deserve better.

Responsible leaders at the University and in Frankfort have made all the right moves but the ultimate outcomes lie in the hands of others. Alumni and fans are forced to wait patiently.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 12.42.05 PMThe most pressing issue, of course, is who will lead the university. Governor Matt Bevin has dismissed the old Board of Trustees, which had become a deterrent due to his predecessor’s appointments. Bevin replaced 10 of them with civic and business leaders with no agenda other than to get the University back on course.

But Attorney General Andy Beshear, son of Steve Beshear, has chosen to proceed along his father’s pernicious path, challenging Bevin’s appointments in court. This unnecessarily drags out the process, making administrative decisions more difficult, and potentially exposing UofL to even more damage from political appointments in the judicial system.

Jim Ramsey, meanwhile, continues as President, doing what he does best, expanding the school in every direction one looks. While he intends to offer his resignation to the new Board of Trustees, he also has indicated he would be willing to stick around for at least another academic year.

The other big issue for the University is what punishment will be administered to the basketball program, the most profitable college basketball program in the country. UofL has admitted guilt, self-imposing a ban at the end of the 2016 season, reducing a couple of scholarships while giving up recruiting opportunities.

The investigation appeared to end about three months ago but there has been no word from the NCAA. No notice of allegations and no hint of when they will be announced. This keeps the program in a state of uncertainty, making it difficult for Coach Rick Pitino to put the issue behind him.

Another round of discomfiture lies ahead for UofL fans, with the repetitious and embarrassing allegations, the finger-pointing from the Calipari bootlickers, the inevitable herd mentality of the media, and the moralizing of sanctimonious sportswriters.

A far cry from a couple of years ago when the University was riding a crest of unprecedented physical and academic development, achieving a billion dollar endowment, celebrating its entrance into the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference, and savoring a third national championship in basketball.

Every year can’t be the Year of the Cardinal obviously. There are going to be some down years, some with more pitfalls than others. But this is one of the worst thus far, with the harassment of President Jim Ramsey,  the deterioration of the board, and a premature end to the basketball season. A baseball team destined for greatness blows a three-run lead in the bottom on the ninth inning. Not a good year.

The University community will ultimately be stronger for the experience, surviving and building on a series of events testing the resolve of everyone associated with the school. The board will have rid itself of some individuals who had little loyalty and some questionable motives. Jim Ramsey, hopefully, will have at least another year, helping with the transition to new leadership. And unless something new has surfaced in the NCAA investigations, Pitino can focus again on winning another national title.

The dark cloud that has hovered over Belknap Campus will find another institution to shadow. As unseemly as some of the events of the past year may appear to be, UofL loyalists have seen worst, including years of stagnant growth, directionless leadership and lack of support from state government.

The University of Louisville, despite the recent blowback, will be more strongly positioned than ever to build on the unprecedented success of the past decade. The hardest part is waiting for all the drama to be done.

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New UofL board includes long-time heavy hitters

David Grissom tops list of heavy hitters.
David Grissom tops list of heavy hitters.

David Grissom tops the list in an all-star lineup of individuals appointed to the new University of Louisville Board of Trustees by Governor Matt Bevin this week.

Grissom, who obtained his law degree from UofL, has long been among the power brokers in Louisville, having served as chairman and CEO of Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust, vice president of PNC Corporation, and executive vice president of Humana.

Name any leading company or institution in the region and there’s a good chance Grissom has served on the board, including Churchill Downs, LG&E, Yum! Brands, and Centre College (where he earned his undergraduate degree). He currently manages the Glenview Trust Company, the largest independent trust company in Kentucky.

John Schnatter a long-time donor.
John Schnatter a long-time donor.

John Schnatter— The founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza and a major benefactor for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. His name is also on the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the U of L College of Business.

Schnatter is a graduate of Ball State, but his wife Annette and grandfather Louis Ackerson are UofL alumni. His brother Chuck, daughter Kristine and two uncles are all graduates of the Brandeis School of Law.
 

Sandra Frazier from a family of strong UofL supporters
Sandra Frazier hails from a family of strong UofL supporters

Sandra Frazier — Comes from an old Louisville family that has been very generous to UofL for decades. Her father was the late Harry Frazier and her grandmother was Mary Frazier, a legendary benefactor. Her uncle was none other than the late Owsley B. Frazier, who gave $25 million to UofL shortly before he passed in 2012. She owns Tandem Communications and serves with Grissom on the Glenview Trust board. She earned an undergraduate degree from Hollins University and a master’s degree in mass communications from Boston University.

Junior Bridgeman — Among the best to ever play basketball at the UofL, he funneled his NBA money into fast food investments, raising his net worth to between $250 million and $400 million, according to Fortune Magazine. He was chosen by Gov. Bevin to head the transition team for the board after the old one was removed.

Dale Boden –President of BF Properties, one of the largest property owners in Jefferson County with approximately a million square feet of office and multifamily properties. He’s a UK graduate and has served on the Board of Advisors to UofL’s College of Business and the UofL Board of Overseers.

Nitin Sahney — Former President and Chief Executive Officer of Omnicare, Inc., and has served as President, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of RxCrossroads. Vast experience in the healthcare field which should be helpful with University Hospital challenges. He’s a graduate of Punjab University in Chandigarh, India.

Douglass Cobb — Former President of Greater Louisville, Inc., he was Managing Director of Chrysalis, a venture capital firm.  He also was the Founder and CEO of The Cobb Group, publisher of newsletters for personal computer users, which was sold to publisher Ziff-Davis. He’s a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts.

Bonita Black — Manages Steptoe & Johnson’s Louisville office, focusing on corporate law, including mergers and acquisitions and divestitures, and corporate, structured, and municipal finance law.  Previously worked with Frost Brown & Todd and LG&E. She obtained her law degree from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Ron Wright — An obstetrician-gynecologist in Jeffersonville. He is affiliated with Clark Memorial Hospital. He received his medical degree from University of Louisville School of Medicine. Worked with Bridgeman and Black on the UofL transition team.

Diane Medley — A native of Meade County, earning her degree in commerce from UofL. She co-founded Chilton & Medley Accounting in 1988 and Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP in 2010. Today the firm is the 82nd largest financial services firm in the US She is currently the only female managing partner in the top 100 accounting firms in the US.

UofL President Jim Ramsey, who has to be ecstatic about the composition of the new board, issued the following statement:

“We appreciate Governor Bevin’s appointment of the new board. I have met with the three interim board members as well as the faculty, student and staff representatives and I plan to meet with the additional board members soon. I look forward to working with this new board as we move the university forward.”

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UofL’s Kelsi Worrell punches ticket to Olympics

Just so bubbly, outgoing, and approachable.  An exceptionally talented athlete.

Humble and hungry as well — a prototype for University of Louisville athletes, as far as Tom Jurich is concerned.

Kelsi Worrell 333That’s Kelsi Worrell, who will be representing UofL on the United States swimming and diving team in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Kelsi stamped her ticket with a first place finish in the women’s 100-meter butterfly event on Monday in the U.S. team trials at Omaha. Right behind her in second place was Dana Vollmer who won the gold medal in the event during the 2012 Olympics.

Worrell was clocked at 56.48 seconds – the second-fastest time in the world this year.

A four-time NCAA individual champion, Worrell will be just the second U.S. Olympian ever from U of L, following Angel McCoughtry, a women’s basketball player.

Creative, too.

Remember this video of members of the UofL women’s swim team simulating rowers on a moving sidewalk at the Durham, N.C., airport?

Then they simulated rowers in a shell, sitting on the sidewalk and each pulling on an invisible oar as they moved along the sidewalk. And finally, they lay on the moving sidewalk and pretended to swim.

Worrell was the videographer, uploading the video to her Facebook account. As of today, the video had been viewed 10,181,055 times. A website in Wales shared it and has had over 22 million additional views.

She’s got a golden touch, Kelsi does.

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