LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There's no rush to fast-forward to college football season. It's not necessary to keep obsessing about the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Ask Peyton Siva Sr.
Watch him jump up, pump his fist and howl after the University of Louisville baseball team, ranked 10th in the nation, scored three runs in the final three innings to defeat 14th-ranked Indiana, 4-3, Wednesday night at Patterson Stadium.
With his son, Peyton, in Las Vegas, training for the beginning of his pro basketball career, Siva lingered until nearly all 3,530 folks who attended the game had departed to wait by the Louisville dugout to congratulate coach Dan McDonnell.
"It was my first game here," Siva said. "It was great. I think I'll come back."
"Wonderful," McDonnell said. "Please do. Your son was my wife's favorite player."
So it goes in what has been a remarkable college baseball season in Kentuckiana. Louisville (39-10) has now won nine consecutive games since losing to top-ranked Vanderbilt two weeks ago.
Indiana lost for the only the 10th time in 46 games. The Hoosiers had defeated the Cardinals twice. IU has made the NCAA Tournament twice in school history. But they opened a sparkling new facility on the north edge of campus this season, and Baseball America magazine projects Indiana as a likely host for an NCAA regional.
Although Kentucky (28-19) has labored to a 10-14 record in Southeastern Conference play, the Wildcats are also likely to return to the NCAA Tournament. All three programs are ranked in the Top 30 nationally in the RPI (ratings percentage index) computer rankings – IU 13th, U of L 21st and UK 28th.
McDonnell and his players noticed – and appreciated – the crowd, the third largest this season in the Cards' expanded stadium.
"It means a lot to these kids, this coaching staff and this administration when the fans come out," McDonnell said. "I say this all the time: What makes LSU baseball LSU baseball is 10,000 fans.
"Their players are no different than ours. Their coaches are no different than ours. Their administration is no different than our administration. They get 10,000 fans so that adds a little mystique to their program.
"They've won national championships and they have a little better resume than we have. But when we fill this place up, we feel like it's one of the best college baseball atmospheres in the country."
The game was one that Louisville likely needed to win if the Cardinals hope to host another four-team NCAA regional in early June. They scored first and then watched Indiana score three runs in the fourth, two on a home run by third baseman Dustin DeMuth. Two IU errors led to two unearned U of L runs in the seventh.
McDonnell managed as if it was Game Seven of the World Series, using seven pitchers. He gathered his players in the fourth inning and told them the mental mistakes had to end.
"We looked like we did against Vanderbilt," McDonnell said. "We were starting to go in that direction. The frustration was mounting. I told them, ‘This is the last time we're going to meet tonight. We're going to play good baseball.'"
That's what U of L did. McDonnell summoned closer Nick Burdi and his 101 mph fastball to get the final out in the ninth with an IU runner on first.
Louisville's game-winning rally was Baseball 101. Cole Sturgeon lined a lead-off double to right-center. The Cards bunted him to third. Freshman Danny Rosenbaum drove a 0-1 pitch to right for the game-winning sacrifice fly.
The Cards were so energized by the victory that Rosenbaum was tackled between first and second before Sturgeon touched the plate.
"It had a little regional atmosphere," Sturgeon said. "Coach Mac said we might be in the same regional as them. Hopefully we're here. We could be there (in Bloomington). They're a quality ball club. We're a good team. This was fun."