One more time: Louisville baseball back to Super Regionals

Louisville reliever Lincoln Henzman quickly cooled down the Xavier bats after entering the game in the seventh inning.  (Photo by GARRY JONES)

The final out:

The Cards thanking their fans:

This game seemed to be won and lost more times than most University of Louisville baseball fans could count, so many potential heroes, so many potential goats, so many ups and downs.

Never give up, never give in, always competing. Don’t play the score, play the game is what UofL Coach Dan McDonnell always says. No lead was safe, the lead changing hands so often.

That was until reliever Lincoln Henzman got the call prematurely to put out the Xavier fire in the seventh inning. Stopping the bleeding, ending the drama, after three runs had been scored, pitching two-and-two-thirds innings of flawless baseball.

Josh Stowers (25) is greeted at the plate by happy teammates after three-run home run against Xavier (Photo by GARRY JONES).

Sending UofL to the Super Regional for the seventh Super Regional in 11 years with a dramatic come-from-behind-three-times 8-7 win over a determined Xavier team. The win witnessed by 4,012 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The firepower and the winning runs coming largely coming from the bottom half of the Cardinals lineup. 

Josh Stowers putting Louisville back in the lead in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out RBI double hit towards the same spot as earlier three-run home run. Collin Lyman slid home to tie the score, and Stowers would score on a single by Logan Taylor.

Three wins in a row, three hard-fought ones. No one said it was going to be easy, nothing really good ever is. The Louisville Cardinals will be back at Jim Patterson Stadium next weekend, hopefully en route to Omaha.

Louisville baseball extends amazing year

On-To-Omaha
University of Louisville catcher Kyle Gibson rushes to congratulate reliever Cody Ege after the junior reliever strikes out Mike Yastrzemski to defeat Vanderbilt 2-1, sending the Cardinals to the College World Series for the second time in six seasons.

Any more wishes on that list?

National championship in basketball, BCS Sugar Bowl win in football, Atlantic Coast Conference in the conference realignment shuffle and, now, a trip to the College World Series for Dan McDonnell’s baseball team. Yes, Louisville is headed for Omaha again, and these guys aren’t going to be satisfied just getting there this time around.

"That was insane. I can't tell you how it feels to want something your entire life and then to get it. I can't describe it."

-- Jeff Gardner

Louisville defeated Vanderbilt 2-1 Sunday, improving its won-lost mark to a record 51 wins against only 12 losses this season. that’s No. 2 Vanderbilt, a team UofL had never defeated in Nashville until this weekend. The two-game sweep setting UofL for more payback, the foe being Indiana in the opening round, beginning next Saturday. IU owns a 2-1 edges on the Cards this season.

  • Jeff Thompson, three years removed from Floyd Central High School, hurling the game of his life, the big 6-foot-6 righthander going seven innings against a Vanderbilt lineup with eight hitters batting over 300. He would struggle at times, watching the bases get crowded, but regain his composure and dig his way out of trouble. He would allow only three hits while striking out nine and walking two of them, chalking up his 12th win against only one loss this season.
  • Zak Wasserman struggling at the plate all season long, managing a meager .230 batting average. The senior first baseman finding ways to get on base in the Super Regional, finding ways to get his teammates home. He would, in fact, deliver the winning blow, a single in the second inning, sending teammate Jeff Gardner across the plate.
  • Coco Johnson, beaned first in the head, then again in the neck, standing tall in the batter’s box, reaching base every trip to the plate, including two base hits. Had to be seeing stars after the first hit, but he wasn’t going to sit this one out. Just keeps crowding the plate, getting better at just the right time.
  • Jeff Gardner waiting for his pitch but never getting it, reaching base twice on walks, scoring the winning run. Also the winning quote: “That was insane,” he said after the game. “I can’t tell you how it feels to want something your entire life and then to get it. I can’t describe it.”
  • Joe Filomeno, putting away the only two batters he faces in the eighth before injuring his throwing hand, wiping away tears as he leaves the mound, pounding the rail in the dugout, pumping fists after the final pitch, throwing caution to the wind in the dog pile..
  • Cody Ege, relieving Nick Burdi in the ninth, allowing one hit, his back against the wall with two runners on base, striking out a Yastrzemski, embracing the immense pressure on his shoulders, grasping the biggest save of his college career.
  • Nick Ratajczak, nursing that injured right shoulder on the bench, his very presence a motivational force, ready to prove he is ready and able to play. It will be difficult for any UofL fan to believe otherwise.

Shades of a recent national championship team in another sport from around here. Nobody could quite figure out how they did it, but they wanted it badly, played their hearts out and achieved their goal. Their coach set high goals, and so has this one, and the result can only be achieved in Omaha.

Louisville-Vanderbilt baseball on ESPN

The pause in University of Louisville athletics ends Saturday, the Cards taking on Vanderbilt in the NCAA Baseball Super Regional in Nashville. Games on Saturday and Sunday will be on ESPN. A third game, if necessary, on Monday on ESPN2.

Saturday, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN) CardsTV: Listen Gametracker
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN) CardsTV: Listen Gametracker
Monday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2) – if necessary CardsTV: Listen Gametracker

Pitching matchups a llittle scary.

Saturday
UofL: Jr. RHP Chad Green (10-3, 2.22 ERA)
Vandy: Jr. LHP Kevin Ziomek (11-2, 1.92 ERA)

Sunday
UofL: Jr. RHP Jeff Thompson (10-1, 2.06 ERA)
Vandy: Soph. RHP Tyler Beede (14-0, 2.20 ERA)

UofL baseball wants great year to continue

Regional-ChampsOne of the largest crowds in Jim Patterson Stadium history, some 4,374 fans, were on hand as the University of Louisville baseball team pounded Oklahoma State 12-3 in the NCAA Regional Championship game Sunday.

The radiant glow that has hovered over the University of Louisville athletic program during the 2012-13 academic year is still burning brightly, the UofL baseball team the latest benefactor of a magical year.

The Cardinals are headed to a NCAA Super Regional for the third time in six seasons, winning all three games in three days, clinching the Louisville Regional with a convincing 12-3 win over Oklahoma State on Sunday.

Coco Johnson, MVP
Coco Johnson, MVP

The near record crowd of 4,374 fans waited in vain after the game, anticipating another display of UofL enthusiasm, you know, the dog pile. They waited quietly, expectantly, but there would not be one this time around. This group of players is ambitious, still awre of shortcomings during the Big East Tournament, wanting something much more significant.

Or, as centerfielder Adam Engel put it, “We’re not finished yet.”

Coco Johnson, who was named the Regional’s Most Valuable Player, would agree that the celebrating can wait. Johnson went two for four driving in three runs against Oklahoma State. He had two home runs in Louisville’s 8-3 win over Bowling Green Friday.

Most encouraging going into a Super Regional is that UofL hitters are hitting again, and against good pitching. Engel, Nick Ratajczak and Ty Young each drove in two runs apiece. Jeff Gardner had two doubles Sunday.

The Super Regional could be held in Nashville or Louisville. Vanderbilt lost 5-0 to Georgia Teach Sunday. If Vandy loses again Monday, the Cardinals will be at home next weekend, enhancing the possibilities of adding another chapter to an epic year.