By Arnie Leshin
Taking a page from the come-from-behind script pieced together all season by Mississippi State, Louisville put on its own late clinic and slipped past the 6th ranked Bulldogs, 4-3, Thursday to send the SEC team packing and advancing it in today’s Final Four at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Simply put, the Elite Eight has been sliced in half. From the original field of 64, all that’s left is the quartet of Louisville, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech and Michigan. The Commodores and Wolverines are 2-0 in the double-elimination NCAA Division I Baseball World Series. The Cardinals and Red Raiders are eliminated with one more loss.
Today, they line up with the two games that will decide the best-of-3 Championship finals scheduled to take the field Monday.
In the opener (2 p.m. Eastern Time, noon Mountain Time), it’s Texas Tech versus Michigan, and in the closer at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, 5 Mountain Time, it’s Louisville against Vanderbilt.
Meanwhile, in the time for survival, after three innings, all was calm, scoreless. Then the Bulldogs scored twice. Will Foscue walked and came home on Rusty Jordan’s double to right. Next, Paul Mangum was hit by a pitch, took second on a passed ball, and dented the plate on Greg Haller’s single to centerfield.
It then became 3-0 in the seventh. Mangum poked a single to right, and two-straight more safeties brought home Mangum.
Louisville was getting base runners aboard and leaving them there. It was either going down on a strikeout or getting robbed by a defensive gem.
Both teams didn’t waste time calling the bullpen. It was now or never, and even though no one knew how this would all turn out, decisions still had to be made. Thus, it was a low-scoring game but each team used four hurlers each.
In the seventh, the Cards began cashing in, and Drew Campbell powered the way. He stroked a single into left-center to score Mike Fitzgerald, who had walked and swiped second. Then Allen Brnoes reached on a bobble by the second baseman, and came around on Josh Snider’s double down the right field line.
The Mississippi State offense had cooled off, but it still held a 3-2 lead with three outs to go. But it never happened.
Ping, pong, ping, Louisville was not wasting time. On a 1-1 count, Daniel Oriente doubled to left-center after Snider led with an infield single. On a sacrifice fly to center by Fitzgerald, Snider home to tie it at 3-3.
Up came Campbell again. Lavey had singled over third, and took second on a wild throw to first. Campbell then singled to left on a full count, and Lavey came speeding home with a big welcome as the stunned Bulldogs left the field with a 4-3 loss.
Three of the Louisville pitchers who totaled 7 2/3 innings combined to strike out a dozen batters and allowing five of Mississippi State’s eight hits. The Cards collected nine. They are 51-17 and the Bulldogs depart at 52-13.