Louisville vs. (2) Vanderbilt
Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN; Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN; Monday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN (if necessary)
There is one thing that Vanderbilt and Louisville fans agree on, at least when it comes to baseball: This is a rivalry. Louisville's version of events puts a little bit more of the blame on Vanderbilt, but who can blame them for letting emotions run high? There's a barrel of whiskey at stake.
In any case, if you know anything about SEC baseball this season, there's not much more that I can tell you about Vanderbilt baseball. This is a team that deserves its No. 2 national seed and No. 1 ranking in the polls. The Commodores are just that good. No one in the regular starting lineup has a batting average below .308 or an on-base percentage below .363. Kevin Ziomek and Tyler Beede comprise one of the best 1-2 punches in the country. Etc. Etc.
But Louisville is no slouch. Aside from a South Carolina-style flop in the Big East tournament, the last time the Cardinals lost was on April 23 -- against Vanderbilt. That was the cap of a three-game losing streak that was the only time in the regular season that the Cards lost consecutive games.
Statistically, Louisville is weaker than Vanderbilt, but not by too much. The Cards' team OPS is .790, while the Commodores' is .856. That's not a negligible difference, but it's not one you can hang your hat on for a weekend series. And UL has its own pair of solid pitchers at the front end of the rotation: Jeff Thompson, with a 2.06 ERA, and Chad Green, who checks in at 2.22.
Still, it's hard to go against this Vanderbilt team, which has played well the entire year and finished the season strong. The Cardinals will make each of these rivalry games tight, but the Commodores are headed to Omaha when it's done.
PREDICTION: Vanderbilt wins, two games to one