As expected, the discussion surrounding the Louisville Regional is dominated by speculation that the University of Louisville and Kentucky will square off in the second round.
UK Coach Gary Henderson is apparently caught up in the conjecture, changing his pitching rotation so left-hander A. J. Reed will start if UofL is the opponent.
Reed was the SEC Player of the Year with an 11-2 won-lost record on the mound. He’s also the Wildcats’ best hitter with an impressive 351 batting average and 23 home runs.
UofL’s Dan McDonnell hasn’t indicated who will be on the mount in the opening game against Kent State. Presumably he will stick with right hander Kyle Funkhouser, who had a 12-2 record.
Kent State, which eliminated UK during the NCAA tournament last season is powered by Alex Miklos and Zarley Zalewski, batting 362 and 355, respectively.
As for UofL’s second game, McDonnell isn’t optimistic that right-hander Jared Ruxer will be available, saying the odds are only 50-50. Ruxer has a 7-1 won-lost record but is plagued with a forearm injury.
McDonnell will think twice about using Josh Rogers if UK is indeed the opponent. The freshman lost both games against Kentucky during the regular season.
The good news is that the University of Louisville baseball team will be hosting an NCAA Regional this weekend at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The not-so-good news is that Kentucky has been invited, too, bringing with it the sideshow atmosphere that always accompanies the UofL-UK rivalry, including the Kentucky followers.
Louisville’s goal is always to return to the College World Series. But when these two schools get together, often it’s not as much about being the better team as it is about the angst that exists between the programs. Just keeping the the other school from advancing becomes a major issue.
Kent State, the team UofL meets in the opening round at 6 p.m. Friday, and Kansas, which plays UK earlier at 2 p.m., won’t have the emotional involvement and can focus solely on baseball.
UofL lost two games to the Wildcats during the regular season with freshman Josh Rogers on the hill in both games. Hopefully, a couple of the Louisville front liners — like Kyle Funkhouser, Jared Ruxer or Anthony Kidston — will be available if they meet again next weekend.
Not looking ahead or past anyone but a matchup is inevitable.
From his view in the new hospitality room of the press box, Tom Jurich had to be elated. The University of Louisville baseball team had just scored six runs in the seventh inning and fans were dancing on the party deck.
Something special is in reach and everyone in the crowd of 2,581 people sensed it.
The UofL bats would finally come to life after being stifled through the first six innings by Miami’s No. 1 pitcher Bryan Radziewski, managing only two hits while being held scoreless. Radziewski would bean Coco Johnson, give up a single to Jeff Gardner, hit Cole Sturgeon to load the bases and the Cardinals would begin to revolve around the bases.
The big hit was delivered by Nick Ratajcyzk, a bases clearing, three-run double capping off a six-run inning, sending Radziewski to the shower and setting UofL up for a 6-4 victory and a shot at a possible Regional championship on Sunday against the winner of the Miami-Oklahoma State game at noon.
“I’ve been looking for that kind of hit all year honestly,” Ratajczak said. “I’ve been working a lot this week on having my short swing, opposite field approach and just get a solid barrel on the ball. I think that was the best time to have it come.”
Jeff Thompson, UofL’s 6-foot-6 righthanded pitcher, would allow Miami only one run through six innings but the win would go to Kyle Funkhouser. Nick Burdi would record his 15th save of the season.
If Louisville wins Sunday’s 4 p.m. game, the Cardinals advance to an NCAA Super Regional. If the unspeakable occurs, they will play Monday at 7 p.m.
These teams will probably meet again in upcoming NCAA regional baseball action, with Kentucky coming in as No. 1 seed and Louisville as a second seed, most likely in Lexington.
Doubtful either team will be using freshman or sophomore pitchers if they make it to what would be an unbelievable showdown.
But for now, U of L owns UK in baseball, using six pitchers Tuesday while limiting the hard-hitting Wildcats to five hits in a 10-2 romp. Sophomore Chad Green (3-0) getting credit for the win. His teammate, freshman Jared Ruxer (5-1), had blanked UK in a 12-0 a couple of weeks ago.
UK still has the chance to earn the top overall seed in baseball, and the SEC could still become the first conference to earn four national seeds in a season.
The regional is a double-elimination tournament so there’s a chance the teams could play at least two more times. The best possible scenario for U of L would be a four-game sweep for the season.
When the highlight of an evening at a baseball game is meeting the manÂ in the stadium that bears his name, one has to have been looking high and low for the positive in the University of Louisville’s 8-4 loss to Vanderbilt.
Jim Patterson was at Jim Patterson Field, agonizing with fellow U of L fans about lethargic hitting and inadequate fielding in a drawn-out affair that consumed three hours and 15 minutes. The observer thanked the man for the umpteenth time for his generous gift (the stadium opened in 2005), then returned to his seat for some harsh reality.
The Cards played like the observer felt after missing his Sunday afternoon nap, groggy, going through the motions, a step off here, a slow reaction there, a team of sleepwalkers with little sense of direction. An unnecessarily long second inning set the tone for the evening. Vanderbilt capitalizing on painful-to-watch errors by John Dao and Chris Dominguez mixing in four singles with a bevy of bunts and bobbles .
U of L partisans were forced to keep reminding themselves that this was a powerful Louisville team, capable of offensive fireworks, that fact keeping the majority of the 4,006 fans in the park through the bottom of the ninth.
A eerily quiet game,Â the silence interrupted only by a tiny but rowdy group of Vanderbilt fans (they don’t travel well) with their S-E-C chants and stomping on the metal bleachers. Nowhere near enough noise to wake up the slumping Louisville bats.