Commodores might face an angry opponent at baseball regional

Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 4:44pm

Forget? Probably not.

Forgive? That remains to be seen.

Vanderbilt’s Jason Esposito did everything he could to diffuse any bad feelings on the part of Louisville’s players in the wake of the Commodores’ 11-10 victory in a non-conference contest on May 11.

The sophomore third baseman ended the game with a massive home run to left field and touched off emotions when he flipped his bat a little too close pitcher Andy Flett for the Cardinals’ comfort. Sensing the potential for trouble, UL coach Dan McDonnell sent his players to the bus without shaking hands.

Immediately afterward, Esposito said he wished he had been given an opportunity to apologize. A day later, he created one when he sent an e-mail to McDonnell.

“Kids remember instances like that, but Esposito handled himself very well after that,” VU coach Tim Corbin said. “He did not mean to do it – number one – and it was an emotional thing that happened. You’re out there 17 innings and well over four hours and it’s an emotional moment. … What he did, though, what I thought was big of him was e-mailing. That was his idea.”

Chances are that Vanderbilt and Louisville will face one another this weekend at the Louisville Regional of the NCAA baseball tournament. They are the top two seeds of the four teams, which means their return meeting could come as soon as Saturday afternoon, depending on the results of Friday’s first-round games.

Then, the effect of Esposito’s efforts will be apparent.

“I hope they don’t take it too personally,” Commodores’ designated hitter Curt Casali said. “It was not meant to be an attack on their pitcher whatsoever. I don’t think they would do it, nor would we do that on purpose.

“Hopefully it doesn’t have too much of an impact on the game.”

This is the second straight year the teams have been placed in the same regional (Illinois State and St. Louis round out this year’s field). In 2009, they met in the championship round, which extended to the final game – a 5-3 Louisville victory.

This season’s encounter, the final non-conference contest for both teams. At the time, both were ranked among the top 20 and vying for rankings and prestige with the hope that they could host a regional.

With much at stake, emotions have been high in recent meetings between the schools. That was going to be case again this weekend even had Esposito not gotten a little careless with his bat.

“It was a big misunderstanding, and obviously they were pretty heated about it, which I probably would have been too if I was pitching,” junior pitcher Taylor Hill said. “Hopefully they’re over it now. We’ll see.”

Hill did say, though, that he and his teammates have not forgotten the sight of Louisville’s players celebrating their regional victory.

“We talk all the time about what goes around comes around,” Corbin said. “So they’re very cognizant of actions like that and how they can come back and hurt you. (Esposito) didn’t do anything to harm them.

“I thought (the e-mail) was big. Small incidents like that (bat toss) will blow over.”


At Jim Patterson Stadium - Louisville, Ky.

(all times CDT)

Game 1: No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. No. 3 Illinois State, 1 p.m.
Game 2: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 4 Saint Louis, 5 p.m.

Game 3: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, 11 a.m.
Game 4: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 3 p.m.

Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, 11 a.m.
Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5, 3 p.m.

Game 7 (if necessary): Winner of Game 6 vs. Loser of Game 6, 5 p.m.