Louisville baseball frittered away a chance to win it’s first-ever game in the College World Series, taking a 10-4 lead over No. 1-seeded Rice in the fifth inning, seeing the lead slowly slip away, then giving up six runs in the eighth inning to lose 15-10 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
“It hurts,” said U of L coach Dan McConnell (pictured left). “We feel like we just let one get way, but give Rice the credit. They never gave up, played clean baseball, stuffed us when they had to and did more than we did when they had to win.”
The Cards stayed true to their aggressive hitting and running style in the first few innings, but they strayed from their tradition of making all the routine plays. For the day, U of L committed four errors, including two each by shortstop Chris Cates and third baseman Chris Dominguez. Rice played errorless baseball.
“Rice took the momentum and we couldn’t get it back,” said McDonnell. “We always try to concentrate when our opponent scores and bounce back. And when we score, we focus on shutting them out in the next inning. But today, Rice grabbed the momentum and kept it.”
Still, U of L erased any doubts as to whether it belonged at the World Series. McDonnell’s squad had Rice on the ropes and simply failed to deliver the knock-out punch in the eighth inning when the Cards held a 10-9 lead with the bases loaded but failed to score. Then came the Owls’ decisive six-run explosion that produced the win in front of about 20,000 fans, by far the biggest crowd ever to see U of L play baseball.
"Obviously, it was an offensive game,” McDonnell said. “I was proud of our guys and the way we swung the bats. We were aggressive, and the wind was blowing out. Both teams were swinging it well, but in the end, we couldn't slow them down.”
Dominguez gave the Cards a 5-0 lead when he delivered a three-run, line drive home run in the third inning. For the game, second baseman Logan Johnson posted two homers to right and barely missed a third, taking Rice’s right fielder Jared Gayhart to the base of the right field wall.
Junior Jorge Castillo (Miami, Fla.) continued his hot hitting by contributing three hits and a walk as the designated hitter.
U of L centerfielder Boomer Whiting (pictured bottom left) provided the defensive play of the game in the fourth inning when he raced to right center field, leaped at the 375-foot mark and grabbed a drive by Rice’s star Joe Savery. It was a play that further endeared Louisville to the Omaha crowd that seemed to be pulling for the No. 8-seeded Cards.
In its first eight games of the NCAA Baseball Tournament, Rice had given up a total of eight runs. The Cards scored 10 in the first five innings of their first-ever game in the CWS.
?"I felt like we were executing,” said Rice’s Savery. “The talent was there, but we just needed to come through. Coming back from six runs down - a lot of people, including some people on our team, didn't think we could do it."
College World Series Schedule
Sunday – Louisville (46-23) plays the loser of Mississippi State (38-20) and North Carolina (53-13), 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
NOTE: Daily columnist Ron Steiner also appears on the Red & Blue Review, a weekly statewide TV sports show (Insight Ch. 2), is published weekly in the Voice-Tribune and is a guest each Friday (5:45 p.m.) on the Cardinal Insider radio program (KRDS, 790AM). He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.