Keenan Wiley's first home run in a Kentucky uniform gave the Wildcats a dramatic 7-6 victory over arch rival Louisville in front of a school-record 4,009 fans at Cliff Hagan Stadium Tuesday night.
Leading off in the bottom of the 12th, Wiley drilled the second pitch he saw from Cardinal lefty Gavin Logsdon over the right-field fence and sent the home fans into a frenzy.
This was the first time I'd seen the '08 version of the Cardinal Nine, and it was about what I expected. Solid defensively, not nearly as much pop in the lineup as last year, not quite as much speed either, but enough to keep forcing the issue on the basepaths. The loss dropped the Cards to 16-13, and it appears as if they're going to play themselves into a position where winning the Big East tourney will be their only way back into the NCAA tournament. Remember, Louisville finished the 2007 regular season 40-20, and was still on the bubble.
More scattered thoughts from Tuesday night:
Louisville plays Marshall tonight and has a big conference set with former coach Lelo Prado and South Florida this weekend, so freshman Bob Revesz was forced into making his first career start on Tuesday. He handled a difficult situation remarkably well, allowing three runs over four and-a-third. He showed great command for a first-year pitcher, consistently throwing breaking balls for strikes when he was behind in the count.
With Revesz, reigning Big East Freshman of the Year Justin Marks, and fellow freshmen Dean Kiekhefer, Gabriel Shaw and Thomas Royse all returning, U of L should have quite a staff in 2009.
Chris Dominguez is big, but he isn't big enough to completely abandon trying to take the offspeed pitch the other way. At least not if wants to remain productive when he's forced to make the permanent switch to wooden bats.
His ninth home run of the season put Louisville up 6-4 in the top of the eighth, but the Cats got single runs in the home half of the eighth and the ninth to push the game into extra time.
Dan McDonnell still rules. He got tossed in the bottom of the 10th after a questionable ball call wiped out what would have been an enormous strike 'em out, throw 'em out for the Cards.
B.J. Rosenberg's full count breaking ball to Kentucky's Brian Spear appeared to be right down broadway (baseball clichés!), but home-plate umpire Matt Hughes awarded Spear the free pass. The call also saved Kentucky a second out, as catcher Kyle Cheesebrough - subbing for an injured Derrick Alfonso - had appeared to gun down a Wildcat attempting to swipe third. Instead, UK had the bases loaded with nobody out, and McDonnell went ballistic.
"Obviously, I was frustrated. I snapped there," the 2007 National Coach of the Year said. "Obviously, I don't have the best angle. I'm looking to see where the catcher catches the ball and sets up. I don't know whether it was a strike or not. I was just sticking up for my team."
McDonnell watched from the Big Blue Sports Network production truck as Rosenberg got Chris Bisson to ground into a force at home, and then got Chris McClendon to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Louisville got its first two runs of the game on a play previously seen only at the Little League level.
Jeff Arnold took a 3-2 pitch for ball four with Andrew Clark - who had singled earlier - running on the pitch, which was wild. Clark didn't slow down and headed to third, forcing UK catcher Tyler Howe to make an errant throw. Kentucky third baseman Chris McClendon then retrieved the ball and threw late to the plate and into the Wildcat dugout, allowing both Clark and Arnold to score.
I was really impressed with shortstop John Dao, who missed the first 16 games of the season because of an injury and is just now getting himself into midseason form.
McDonnell has had a hard time finding the right combination up the middle this season, but I think he's got his everyday shortstop here. Dao's hitting just .264, but he's got a great glove, a nice inside-out swing, and he hit the ball right on the button three times Tuesday night. If he can get it going, and second baseman Justin McClanahan can rediscover his early season magic, then the Cards should be tough to beat in the second half of the Big East season.
The game was covered by the Big Blue Sports Network and carried on Fox Sports South, but unlike the women's basketball travesty, the UK announcers (Dick Gabriel and Doug Flynn) were informative, objective and enjoyable. Kudos to all involved with the broadcast.
Last year against Marshall, the Cards belted eight home runs in five innings and won 17-1. Might be a game worth heading out for if the weather holds off.
The Cards will get a shot at revenge when Kentucky comes to Jim Patterson Stadium on April 22. The two split the season series a year ago.