BOZICH | UK vs. U of L -- The Baseball Superiority Debate
Louisville has the upper hand in football. Kentucky has ruled the basketball rivalry. Now the schools will try to resolve the baseball debate in the NCAA regional.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Louisville vs. Kentucky debate has stalled in football. Cards rule.
The Cards have won three straight in the rivalry, made themselves comfortable in the national Top 25 and rolled a Florida program that Kentucky hasn't beaten since chinstraps were created.
In basketball, it's been advantage Kentucky. The Wildcats have won six of the last seven against the Cards and given Louisville its last two NCAA Tournament defeats.
"Louisville and Kentucky could show up and play tiddlywinks and people would show up to watch," said Louisville outfielder Jeff Gardner.
Baseball is where the two schools continue to pitch each other high and tight – and the love letters will fly with both programs booked for the NCAA regional at Jim Patterson Stadium this weekend.
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said Tuesday that about 50 percent of the players on his roster were also recruited by Kentucky. There are also guys who signed with Gary Henderson at Kentucky after they shook off McDonnell.
You say that is advantage Louisville. I agree. The Cards have played in two College World Series since 2007. All Kentucky knows about Omaha is what Peyton Manning tells them.
That's a great opening argument. But Kentucky has plenty of rebuttals.
Where do baseball players want their careers to lead?
The major leagues?
Which program has more guys on a major-league roster today?
That would be Kentucky. Collin Cowgill is a starting outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels. Scott Downs, who turned 38 in March, keeps going and going and going in the bullpen for the Chicago White Sox.
Four other players with UK ties have played in the big leagues this season. Pitcher Alex Meyer, a first-round draft pick, is one of the finest pitching prospects in baseball. Brandon Webb won the 2006 Cy Young Award in Arizona. Joe Blanton, another former Wildcat, won a World Series with the Phillies.
McDonnell has sent a consistent string of guys into pro baseball. Seven Cards signed pro contracts from the 2013 College World Series team.
But nobody has made it big in the big leagues. Pitchers Justin Marks and B. J. Rosenberg have pitched in the majors this season. But Marks has returned to Triple-A, and Rosenberg is trying to recover from being hit in the face by a line drive.
Keep an eye on Adam Duvall. He leads the Pacific Coast League in home runs and RBIs. He is one phone call from completing the journey from U of L and Butler High School to the San Francisco Giants.
What would Rick Pitino say about that?
He would say it's about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. And Kentucky is playing at Louisville, Louisville is not playing at Kentucky. The NCAA rewarded McDonnell's program with the top seed in the regional. Louisville is the one seed, Kentucky the two.
Gary on Line One has a response to that. UK and U of L have played twice this season – and the Wildcats are 2-0, outscoring the Cardinals, 12-5, even though U of L out-hit UK, 16-14."It certainly doesn't feel good any time you lose to Kentucky," Gardner said. "It hurts a little bit."
Then it hurts a little more because the Wildcats are likely to suggest that Louisville's 45-15 record is a product of the Cards playing in the American Athletic Conference. Kentucky scrambled to a 35-23 record because life is difficult in the Southeastern Conference, which placed a record 10 teams in the tournament.
Kentucky's strength of schedule? Fourth. U of L's strength of schedule? 73rd.
UK's record against Top 50 opponents? 15-12. U of L's record against Top 50 teams? Just 6-8.
Any closing arguments?
Sure. Four of the best high school players in Lexington, three seniors and a junior, have committed to playing for Louisville, not Kentucky – led by Tates Creek shortstop Devin Hairston, who backed away from his initial commitment to UK.
This is fun. This is Kentucky vs. Louisville. This is a debate that will rage all weekend.
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