This weekend the Kentucky baseball team needs two wins over the University of Louisville to advance to the program’s first College World Series.
The stakes have never been higher. The first Super Regional appearance by Kentucky also falls on their rivals’ home field. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.
The baseball team was in familiar territory just two years ago. The Bat Cats advanced to the Regional Final from the losers’ bracket, only to fall 4-1 on the Cards’ home field. It’s the only time the Commonwealth’s two teams have ever played each other in postseason baseball.
Postseason basketball is a completely different story. Even though it’s apples and oranges, it provides another opportunity to laugh at Little Brother for losing when it matters most. Since the Cats’ 80-68 overtime loss in “The Dream Game” back in 1983, Louisville has not beaten Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
1984: Kentucky 72, Louisville 67
The Mideast Regional Final Loss to Louisville in 1983 opened the floodgates for the two teams to finally begin an annual duel. In the first regular season matchup, the Cats took the Cards to the woodshed for a 21-point victory. It was much closer affair in the Sweet 16, but Joe B. Hall’s Cats still got the win.
Jim Master and Dicky Beal led the team in scoring with 15 points apiece. Melvin Turpin had 14 points and 5 rebounds, Sam Bowie had 8 points and 12 boards while Winston Bennett contributed 10 points to help end the Cardinals’ season. Kentucky would defeat Illinois by three in the next game to take Coach Hall back to the Final Four before shooting an abysmal 24 percent against Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown in the National Semifinal.
2012: Kentucky 69, Louisville 61
This weekend Kentucky has nothing to lose, just like Louisville in the 2012 Final Four. Their appearance came as a surprise, while Kentucky dominated the field with the National Player of the Year and the future top two picks in the NBA Draft. Still without a National Championship, John Calipari’s first would have to go through Rick Pitino.
The Louisville baseball team has been extremely successful under Dan McDonnell. They have won five consecutive Regional Championships, but the program has struggled to get over the hump. In three College World Series appearances they are 1-6 with their best finish (5th) coming in 2007. They’ve hosted two straight Super Regionals and lost with elite talent. This year Brendan McKay will be a top two draft pick and he’s already won one National Player of the Year award.
All of the pressure was on Calipari’s Cats. This year all of the pressure is on McDonnell’s Cards.
Calipari’s bonafide superstar put the Cats over the top in 2012. Anthony Davis dominated the Cards with 18 points (7-8 FG), 14 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. Louisville had a 15-3 run in the middle of the second half to tie the game, just enough to make the BBN nervous, but from there the Cats took control and never looked back.
2014: Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
Arguably the Sweetest victory in the Cats’ run to the National Title game, Kentucky came back to eliminate the defending National Champions in Indianapolis. If you thought Aaron Harrison’s heroics were impressive in the Sweet 16, it was only the beginning.
This weekend we’ll see if the underdog Bat Cats have any Aaron Harrison-heroics in College Baseball’s Sweet 16 when they take the Jim Patterson Stadium field with a College World Series berth on the line.