Louisville’s Luke Smith was pitching his ass off against Vanderbilt on Friday. Through eight innings, the junior had struck out 10 while only giving up three hits and one earned run. No one would have blamed Smith for showing a little emotion after striking out Vanderbilt’s Julian Infante, and putting his team that much closer to a College World Series Finals berth, but he might have gone a little overboard in his celebration.
After Infante went down swinging, Smith decided to stare the batter down and go full-on Kenny Powers, yelling “fuck you” twice to his opponent as he walked towards the dugout.
So how did that taunt end up working out for Smith? Short answer: not great.
It certainly helped that the Commodores only had a 2-1 deficit to overcome, but when they returned to bat in the top of the ninth, they still seemed more ready than ever to snatch this win away from Louisville. The first blow to the Cardinals’ lead happened three batters in with an RBI double from Ethan Paul against Smith himself.
Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell decided that that was the best time to pull his fiery pitcher and replace him with closer Michael McAvene. But even though the pitcher Vanderbilt was facing changed, the players still held on to the disdain they felt towards Smith in the eighth and did not let up. A couple batters later, the Commodores took the lead.
Vanderbilt was only able to build a one-run lead in return, but it was enough to freeze Louisville from doing anything substantial in the bottom of the ninth, even when the Cardinals had a runner in scoring position.
Afterwards, both Louisville’s Smith and Vanderbilt’s Infante were asked about the incident between them and they each gave a response that would match the tone you’d expect from a losing and winning player, respectively
Smith was conciliatory:
“Vanderbilt is a great team,” Smith said, “and I respect — I love that part of baseball. When they got their big hit in the ninth, they celebrate. That’s how it goes. When I strike somebody out, I celebrate, and that’s just the way it is.”
While Infante was a bit more cheeky:
“I’d rather not speak in those kind of terms,” Infante said. “Things work out the way they work out. Sometimes you talk and things happen, and sometimes you don’t need to talk and things happen.”
h/t Patrick C