Suddenly Kentucky followers are diehard baseball fans

The already caustic rivalry between the universities of Louisville and Kentucky will become more vitriolic after this week’s NCAA Super Regional baseball competition. One season ending, another pursuing glory.

Bitter, as in bitter, end for the loser. 

UK is a newcomer to Super Regional competition, having never won a Regional tournament in the program’s 100-year history. The Lexington school is a surprise, having compiled a 43-21 record overall and a 19-11 mark in the Southeastern Conference in Coach Nick Mingione’s first season.

Whether that winds up being the proverbial flash in the pan or long-term success remains to be seen. But suddenly the basketball-centric UK followers consider themselves diehard baseball fans.

UofL, meanwhile, will be participating in its fifth consecutive Super Regional and its seventh during Coach Dan McDonnell’s 11th season. The Cardinals also have won six of the last seven games against the Wildcats over the last four seasons. UofL is 50-10 this season.

Lots of complaints from UK fans after it was announced the Super Regional was a sellout less than 24 hours after UofL won the Regional against Xavier.  Some Kentucky fans arguing that it was unfair for Louisville to sell out the event before they had qualified. Others suggesting that the games should be moved to Louisville Slugger Field.

Sorry, Cat fans, neither argument is valid. UofL earned the right to host the Super Regional during the regular season. A national seed is supposed to mean something. That includes the home field advantage and everything that goes along with playing at Jim Patterson Stadium. 

Given the success of the UofL baseball program over the past decade, long-time observers of the rivalry are not surprised that Kentucky has been investing heavily in baseball. The Wildcats will begin play in a new $49 million 2,500-seat stadium, starting the 2018 season.

Welcome to the world of college baseball, Wildcat fans. We were wondering how long it would take for them to stop pretending they hadn’t noticed UofL’s success in baseball.

Expect some fireworks this week, on and off the field.

Record 6,210, Louisville baseball gets sixth straight over UK

A disappointed University of Kentucky baseball team heads back to the bus bound for  Lexington after another loss to Louisville at a jam-packed Jim Patterson Stadium. 

Jim Patterson Stadium was so packed Tuesday that the University of Louisville reportedly had to close the gates for the first time ever, with a record crowd of 6,210 people on hand for the game against Kentucky.

The outfield berm was a sea of red with a smattering of blue sprinkles, extending all the way past the children’s playground to the backup screen in center field. Evidence aplenty that another expansion is needed. The only question is when the official announcement will be forthcoming.

UofL and UK fans in close proximity for more than four hours, with few hints of the animus that exists between the fan bases. Could have been because Louisville was so convincing early, jumping out to a 5-0 lead after three innings and would hold UK scoreless through eight innings.

It wasn’t supposed to be that easy and it wasn’t. When the Wildcats rallied in the top of the ninth, many of their partisans had already departed. They would score three runs courtesy of three hits, a walk and three runs off of Louisville reliever Rabon Martin.

Fortunately, right hander Lincoln Henzman lived up his closer billing, shutting down the Wildcats for the 5-3 victory and his eighth save of the season. The win gave the Cardinals their sixth straight win over Kentucky over the last four seasons. 

Drew Ellis and Devin Hairston wielding the big bats again. Ellis, with two hits, broke the ice with a two-run double in the first inning. Hairston, who had three hits, would drive in two more runs in the second inning.

Right hander Shane Hummel would get credit for his third win without a loss. But give tons of credit to freshman lefty Adam Elliott from St. X who would shut down Kentucky with runners on second and third in the fourth inning. He would limit them to two hits over the next two innings.

The win improved UofL’s record to 25-3. Kentucky is 21-9.

 

Louisville baseball faces resurging UK

Good news for UofL baseball who hung on to their soggy tickets from the UK game.

The Louisville vs. Kentucky baseball game is back on, having been rescheduled again for Tuesday at Jim Patterson Stadium at 6 p.m. after the game on April 8th was rained out.

The UofL and UK coaches obviously wanted this game back on the schedule even though they will meet again in Lexington on May 6 in Lexington.

The game has added significance for UK, which won two out of three games against Florida over the weekend and seven of its past 11 games. The Wildcats, with a 25-17 record, are on the outside of the NCAA bubble right now, needing wins over ranked teams.

UofL, meanwhile, has a 34-10 record and is ranked as high as No. 3 in national polls. The Cardinals are 19-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The game will streamed over ESPN3.com.

Second round speculation ripe in Louisville Regional

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.