Louisville’s deepest run in the College World Series to date came to an end Friday night with a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss at the hands of arch-nemesis Vanderbilt.
Cardinal starter Luke Smith was brilliant through eight innings, allowing a single run and striking out 10 Commodore hitters, a U of L record for a College World Series game. After retiring the first batter of the ninth inning, Smith then allowed a walk and a double that tied the score at 2. Cardinal closer Michael McAvene was then the recipient of some bad luck, allowing a bloop single to right field and a ground ball that bounced over the head of third baseman Alex Binelas, a hit that scored what proved to be the game’s winning run.
The decision to leave Smith in for the ninth inning will be second-guessed for a long time to come (as will Smith’s decision to fire off some choice words at the Vandy dugout at the end of the 8th), and that’s a shame. This was such a fun run, and one that seemed to happen a year ahead of schedule.
Louisville will return three of its top four starting pitchers next season, including ACC Pitcher of the Year and All-American Reid Detmers. The bulk of the team’s offensive production will be back as well. None of that removes any of the sting from the Vandy loss at the moment, but the closer we get to 2020, the more those facts will resonate.
Thanks for the ride, Cardinal Nine.