Folks searching for a sexy storyline to follow heading into this weekend's NCAA regional in Louisville need look no further than the budding rivalry between the host Cardinals and second-seeded Vanderbilt.
The pair were the top two seeds in this same regional a year ago and played a couple of emotion-filled games - the first going into extra innings - on the final day of the tournament. Louisville ultimately advanced to the super regional by way of a 5-3 title game victory.
But it wasn't until three weeks ago that the rivalry officially became a rivalry.
The Cardinals and Commodores, both ranked in the top 20 nationally at the time, played for five hours and 33 minutes on May 11 in front of the largest home crowd ever in Nashville. The game ended in the bottom of the 17th when Jason Esposito drilled a solo home run over the left field fence. The third baseman promptly stared down the U of L bench and flipped his bat into the air, which landed near the mound and pitcher Andy Flatt.
"I was mortified," Esposito said after the game. "I was worried about whether (the bat) was going to hit anybody. It was definitely not my intention. My emotions got the better of me. I knew it was going to be perceived the wrong way."
The Louisville players opted not to shake hands after the game.
Which brings us to this weekend. Both teams open play Friday night and could then meet on Saturday for the first of as many as three meetings.
In a somewhat surprising move, Vandy skipper Tim Corbin stated yesterday that he will keep his ordinary rotation and start ace Sonny Gray in the Commodores' opening game against Illinois State. Louisville is expected to save Big East Pitcher of the Year Thomas Royse until Saturday.