Perhaps it takes a full calendar year for the ill-effects of Cardinal Bird stomping to completely wear off.
That's one possible explanation for how the Louisville baseball team managed to become the first squad to eliminate Miami in an NCAA Tournament Regional in 14 years. The Cardinals also defeated the Hurricanes in football and basketball earlier in the '06-'07 sports season, and captured the 2007 Orange Bowl with a 24-13 victory over Wake Forest.
Louisville got to the 'Cane's freshman ace Eric Erickson (10-4) early, as Jorge Castillo's bases clearing double made the score 3-0 in the first. Castillo also blasted a crucial three-run home run in U of L's 13-7 win over Miami on Friday.
But for the second straight night the Cards quickly blew their early cushion as starter James Belanger gave up a pair of home runs in the third that knotted the score at 3. Belanger would work into the fifth before being replaced by Cardinal ace Zack Pitts (9-3), who managed to retire just four batters when he got the call on the mound against the 'Canes two days ago.
Pitts' outing again got off to a rocky start as the Big East Pitcher of the Year made a throwing error after fielding a sacrifice bunt which allowed the tying run to score. He then surrendered an RBI single to Roger Tomas one batter later, and Miami regained the lead at 5-4.
Just as they had on Friday, the Cards bounced right back as Daniel Burton doubled to start a rally in the home half of the fifth. Red hot Isaiah Howes then knocked in the Cardinal first baseman with single through the right side. Erickson was chased one batter later when Chris Dominguez blasted a two-run shot over the fence in left field to make the score 7-5 in Louisville's favor.
Cardinal closer Trystan Magnuson came on in the eighth with an 8-6 lead and worked the final two innings, allowing one hit - a solo home run - to pick up his ninth save of the season.
U of L will now get a rematch with host Missouri tonight at 7:30 p.m. If the Cards can pull out the victory, the two will play tomorrow at 2 p.m. with a trip to the Super Regionals on the line.
Considering the fact that Louisville outhit the Tigers 15-8 last night, and that they would have likely had two more runs had it not been for a pair of stupid baserunning mistakes, I'm cautiously optimistic about our chances tonight.
Expect Colby Wark - who walked two, hit another and retired no one in his brief appearance last night - to get the start, with Skylar Meade, Chris Dominguez, Gavin Logsdon and anyone else wearing white with a semi-functioning arm to be called on for some relief. Whatever happens tonight, the Cardinal Nine have certainly made this an enjoyable weekend.