When there's a Regional championship and a spot in college baseball's Sweet 16 on the line, added incentive is nearly impossible to provide; Chris Dominguez figured he'd go ahead and try anyhow.
The 6-4, 240-pound man-child of a third baseman blasted a home run over the left field fence in the top of the eighth inning to break a tie and give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead they would not surrender.
He then proceeded to sever any feelings of good will that may have existed between the two teams on the field.
Dominguez stared at his feat a bit too long in the eyes of Tiger catcher Trevor Coleman, and then compunded things by prancing around the bases and dropping comments to Mizzou infielders that had the Tigers in the dugout climbing to the top step.
"When I hit it, I didn't know if it was fair or foul, that's basically why I stood there for a long time," Dominguez said after the game. "I was standing there thinking if it was going to go out."
The redshirt freshman then paused in front of home plate and glared at pitcher Greg Folgia for a moment before officially knotching what would turn out to be the game's winning run. Coleman naturally took exception to this and the two began jawing again.
"He (Coleman) thought I was hot dogging it, yes. Yes, he did. I mean, I can see how he would, of course. I stood there for a long time, but it wasn't a dead center home run, it was kind of toward the line and I was just seeing if it was fair or foul."
Umpires quickly quelled the developing situation, but the fun didn't stop there.
Who's gonna be the dude who throws at this guy?
As might be expected, Dominguez was roundly booed by the vast majority of the 3,457 fans in attendance as he ran out to take his position in the home half of the eighth. His, perhaps, less than mature response was to smile and skip as he fielded ground balls. Mizzou players again became agitated and began to walk outside the dugout as Dominguez was pulled away by a teammate and talked to by the boys in blue once again.
"They have good fans here and they were getting pretty rowdy," Dominguez said. "(The umpire) just said just relax, you have to play tomorrow, try to keep everything in order. They are just doing their job and they did a good job."
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson went ballistic, apparently feeling that Dominguez should be kicked out of the game, but he was talked down by the home plate umpire who then had a similar talk with Cardinal skipper Dan McDonnell.
When actual play resumed, Kyle Hollander - who just may be Louisville's MVP to this point in the Regional - retired the side without problem.
After the Cards went down without a fight in the top half of the last frame, Missouri's Jacob Priday hit his third home run in two games against U of L to make the score 4-3. Trevor Coleman was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat, and pinch runner Kurt Calvert stole second to put the tying run in scoring position.
Hollander then bore down and struck out Jon McKee, before Aaron Senne - who had homered, doubled and nearly homered again earlier in the game - was intentionally walked. The Cardinal reliever who has appeared in three games in as many days then struck out Kyle Mach and got Gary Ardnt to fly out to center to end the game.
The teams didn't meet to shake hands after the game, but the coaches did, and the conversation between McDonnell Jamieson appeared to get a little testy.
"I just told him I apologize, I didn't want that to overshadow the game," McDonnell said of his comments to Jamieson. "He was obviously upset and emotional. That was it, we just left it there. I just said I'm sorry for the way that that went down there."
Jamieson acknowledged that his team might come out a little extra fired up this afternoon, but said that maintaining focus on the bigger goal was also important.
"There's much more incentive, but I think what you're playing for is much more important than anything that happened in this game tonight," Jamieson said. "You have an opportunity to potentially host a super regional and still got a chance to play in Omaha. That's what tomorrow's all about, bringing our best game. If we let things like that affect our focus then we won't be at our best."
Dominguez was also responsible for the run that tied the score at two in the sixth. After the third baseman had been hit by a pitch, Pete Rodriguez grounded out to the shortstop Arndt who threw to first instead of trying to get Dominguez at second. Without hesitating, Dominguez rounded second, forcing the first baseman McKee to make a hurried throw to third, and then trotted home after ball bounced into the crowd.
Louisville's only other run was driven in by Logan Johnson with an RBI single in the third. Designated hitter Jorge Castillo was the lone Cardinal with multiple hits, going 2 for 3 with a pair of singles.
Perhaps the only unfavorable aspect of Sunday night's game was the fact that Dan McDonnell had to use six pitchers, and now there is much doubt over how many hurlers are going to be able to go on Monday. Big East Freshman of the Year Justin Marks, who worked five plus innings against Mizzou on Saturday, is one possibility, as is lefty reliever Skylar Meade who went three in the same game. Trystan Magnuson and Andrew Salqueiro should also have at least a couple of innings in them.
The winner of this afternoon's Columbia Regional title game will move on to take on Oklahoma State for a best of three series in the Super Regionals. The Cowboys upset host and No. 7 overall seed Arkansas on Sunday.
If you enjoy U of L athletics, the passion of college sports, or just spikes up slides into second base, tuning into this afternoon's game is a must. Plus, work is for the birds.
This has already been the most successful baseball season in Uof L history, and as far as I'm concerened anything from here on out is icing on the bagel (good stuff, trust me). That said, another weekend with games to watch would be awfully nice.