A fantastic year for University of Louisville athletics continues this weekend as the UofL baseball team (49-12, 20-4) looks to advance to the program’s second College World Series this weekend in Nashville. Doing so will be a tall order as they travel to face the tournament’s #2 overall seed Vanderbilt (54-10, 26-3) for a decisive three game series beginning Saturday afternoon at 3.
Louisville enters the Super-Regional, the third in program history, coming off a dominant performance as host of the Louisville KY regional at Jim Patterson stadium last weekend. Louisville junior outfielder Coco Johnson was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player after going 5-11 (.455) with 2 home runs, 6 RBI and a stolen base. He was joined by junior DH Jeff Gardner, senior 2B Nick Ratajczak, and junior Starting Pitcher Jeff Thompson on the all-region team. The Cardinals won three straight to take the regional, capped by a 12-3 win over Oklahoma St Sunday afternoon in front of 4000+ Cardinal faithful. Vanderbilt also hosted a regional and advanced Monday by beating Georgia Tech 7-1, after losing their 1st chance to clinch Sunday afternoon.
The Cards have had a terrific season; and despite the performance put on by Johnson and Gardner in the regional, it’s been UofL’s pitching that’s seen as their strong suit. UofL has 3 pitchers (Jeff Thompson, Dace Kime, and lefty starter Chad Green) in the top 267 of Baseball America’s draft-eligible rankings, plus sophomore closer Nick Burdi, who many think is the hardest thrower in the country. As a team the Cards are 5th in the NCAA in earned run average, and lead the country in strikeouts per nine innings.
The rivalry with Vanderbilt has seen its share of dramatic moments, with UofL beating Vandy to advance to the Super Regionals in 2010. Vandy returned the favor the following year, eliminating the Cards on a safety squeeze in extra innings. They also played a 17 inning epic in the 2010 regular season that Vandy ended up winning with a walk-off homer. The two teams play annually, with Vandy winning this season’s matchup at Jim Patterson stadium 10-2 in April. Now, with their respective seasons on the line, the series is poised to once again offer some dramatic moments.
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