THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
-Keller's blast leads Cards softball to 6-4 win
-A Derby to remember...the Watson files
The University of Louisville softball team improved to 44-2 with a 6-4 win over the Indiana Hoosier in Bloomington, IN. Wednesday afternoon. Stepping up for the Cards was Katie Keller...whose two run blast in the top of the fifth inning broke up a 4-4 tie and the base clearer proved to be all the Cards would need to secure the win.
Tori Collins started the game for Louisville at pitcher and survived a scare in the first inning when IU had a runner on second with just one out. Collins pitched out of the jam, though and retired the Hoosiers in order in the second inning.
Louisville wasn't putting a dent in Meaghan Murphy's pitching performance, though...going down 1-2-3 in the first two innings...and neither team had a hit going into the third inning.
The Cards changed that. With one out, Maggie Ruckenbrod doubled down the left field line and advanced to third on a Whitney Arion single to right.
Ruckenbrod scored when Arion stole second and the IU catcher committed a throwing error. Jennifer Esteban reached next on a fielders choice and both scored on Kristin Austin's eighth triple of the year to left field. Austin crossed the plate next on a Katie Keller fly out to right and the top half of the inning ended with Louisville up 4-0.
IU rallied back. After a Murphy double off Collins, Jenna Abraham crushed a Collins pitch to center and it cleared the fence, cutting the Cardinal lead in half. Collins finally got her first out of the inning on a ground out, but Shannon Cawley reached on a Whitney Arion throwing error to first and Amanda Wagner hit her ninth homer of the year to right center to tie the game.
Coach Pearsall had seen enough and Caralisa Connell came in to relieve Collins on the stripe. Connell got the Cards out of the inning with no further damage.
Louisville took the lead for good when Esteban singled with one out in the top of the fifth and one out later Keller sent Mr. Spalding over the left field fence to make it 6-4 Cards.
Connell encountered a late IU attempt to score in the bottom of the sixth. After walking Wagner, Connell got Samantha Berenter to go down swinging, Sandy Gogrieve to ground out and struck out IU catcher Cassie Gogrieve with Wagner on third to end the inning.
Louisville had a chance to add to the total in the top of the seventh when Esteban singled with one out and was on third with two outs...but Keller lined out to center to end the inning. Connell retired the Hoosiers 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to record her 15th win of the season against just one loss. She allowed no hits in 4 2/3 innings and struck out four.
44-2. A most incredible season so far and the Cards return home for their final home series of the regular season against Georgetown this weekend.
(David Watson is a special columnist for CARDINAL COUPLE. These days, he's also a dad who is going through the rigors of having a teenage daughter getting ready to go to college this fall. HE takes a break from the drama to relate to us a special Derby memory today)
First of all, my column today is a really long one. Have a snack and hit the facilities before starting on it.
It was 1995. I was a proud papa for the first time and struggling with academia, 3 a.m. feedings and panicking every time Andrea would cry, remain silent or even look at us funny. If you've been there, you'll understand. If you're there currently, hang in there. It gets easier after three kids. A whole new set of issues rise to the surface.
We were shuttling back and forth between two cities on the weekends and entertaining at home as relatives, parents and friends all wanted to see this "Watson miracle" -- a baby produced by the guy who had sworn he'd never marry -- much less have a kid -- and the girl who knew all the Pat Benetar hits by heart. By the end of April, we were stressed, dealing with postpartum depression and needing a break.
It was Sandy's parents who suggested the three day getaway. Take 72 hours for yourself. Get away, go find yourselves again for a few days and leave the baby with us. They were vets at this -- having five kids and 12 grand kids on their resume. We decided to do it and my cousin Billy invited us to Louisville for the first weekend in May. KENTUCKY DERBY time in the River City. We'd never been. Seen it on TV several times. Neither of us big horse racing fans. But, "cuz" was persistent, so we dropped off Andrea Thursday night with Chuck and Molly, hit I-65 South and rolled into Billy's around 9 p.m.
He was charmingly tipsy when we showed up and he's a funny guy when he gets that way. Was going on and on about a parade he'd been to, a boat race he'd attended the day before and how his wife Brenda wasn't speaking to him. He told me of how much money he and I were going to make at the track Friday and Saturday. Friday is Oaks Day in Louisville and the four of us were attending Churchill Downs for racing. Going to the "infield" (as he called it). Saturday is Derby Day and he had four seats in the grandstands for us. The evening flew by, his wife Brenda came home and kept us rolling in laughter with stories of her bunco club meeting that evening, while shooting him icy stares and ignoring him. We later learned that these were their "happy" moments. Oy vey.
We slept that night in his basement with Ralph and Waldo, his two basset hounds. He had a full bar in his basement and around 3 a.m. I awoke, my back in screaming agony from sleeping on his roll out bed. While my wife snored, Ralph, Waldo and I had a few "nightcaps"
The next morning it was off to the races for the Oaks. He had a parking spot within a couple of blocks of the track that he had gone to for several years. Winding through a maze of back roads and alleys around the track to get there, because of road closures for buses and the like, we arrived and parked in this guy named Mikey's back yard. We weren't the first there. Mikey greeted us with Bloody Mary's and solicitously asked us for $20. I forked over the cash and minutes later we were walking down Central Avenue toward the infield.
Mint juleps are nasty drinks. Stop me if you've been there. They don't grow on you, either -- but they are wondrous for relieving back pain. Armed with a program, I sat on a blanket in the infield and studied the races ahead. A few minutes later, I got a nudge in the side from Billy. It was my first "topless" viewing of the day. And, unlike the mint juleps, those got better as the day went on.
We were on the "backside" of the infield, pressed up against the fence and got to see the horses dash by us each race. Next to us was a group of Michigan State students. They had managed to smuggle into the infield 15 fifths of bourbon! I can't tell you how they did that because they wouldn't tell me. They had two coolers full of ice and we became close friends by the third race, despite my Notre Dame connection. By the eighth race, I quit betting. I was 1 for 8 on winners for the day and getting tired of staggering through the masses of humanity to the betting windows and losing each time. Billy, on the other hand, was having a phenomenal day. Hitting exactas, trifectas, across the board wagers and the daily double. He disappeared for about an hour during the course of the afternoon and came back to our blanket with an old high school friend. Can't remember her name, but the looks she got from Brenda I'll never forget. Fortunately, she staggered over to the college kids party and a few minutes later, we saw her "raise her shirt" as well. All in a day work.
Finally, it was over. I was down $120 dollars for the day, when you consider the wagering, beverages and food I had purchased. Billy was flashing 100's at me and tossed me a couple when he came back from the window after the final race. I protested at first, but eventually stuffed them into the front pocket of my blue jeans.
The rest of that day and evening are still a bit of a blur. We made it back to Mikey's, had a few Bloody Mary's and eventually made it back to the house. We visited a steak house. I think I ordered fish. I remember nodding off in the living room, listening to the three of them carry on about the day's events. I woke up with Ralph and Waldo in the basement. We repeated the previous evening's "nightcap" scenario and Saturday morning rolled around way too early.
The difference between the carnal hedonism of Churchill Downs' infield and the sedate, stuffy seats of the grandstands is striking. We were sitting high in the stands, almost at the very end of the structure and I had an elderly dowager from the east end of Louisville sitting next to me, aloof and stoic.
"I'm from Prospect." I can still hear her announcing. Billy told her he was from Pleasure Ridge Park. She looked aghast.
Aisle seats, though, and near the exit to the food, drinks and restrooms underneath the seats. We had parked at Mikey's again ($25 dollars for Derby Day) had the customary Bloody Mary but that is where the similarities ended. No shirt-raising, bottles of bourbon or blankets in the Grandstands. The mint juleps still tasted as nasty, though.
By the fourth race of Derby Day, I was bored out of my mind and went to wander the property. Billy wasn't having the phenomenal success of the day before and second-guessing his handicapping -- nose buried in the racing form. Brenda had Sandy engaged in non-stop chatter and I bolted. I had lost all three races I had bet and still had the two hundred dollar bills Billy had given me tucked in my wallet. In the grandstands, there are lines for everything. Food, drink, betting and mother nature breaks.
I became the wandering vagabond. I decided to try and see if I could get to the legendary "Millionaire's Row" of Churchill Downs. With a bit of trickery and skulduggery, I made it to the clubhouse and to the third floor. My journey stopped there, though. Grim, unhumorous security attendants were keeping vigil. I headed back to the grandstand and was on a escalator when I heard a booming "David!". It was a colleague from Notre Dame behind me and we met at the bottom, talked for several minutes. He was there with another professor and was bored, like me. I told him of the previous day's exploits in the infield.
"Let's go!" he exclaimed, and 30 minutes later we were out in the mix again. Two guys looking for ribald and seemy adventure. I took him back to the spot from the day before near the fence. The Michigan State crew was in full form and greeted me with cheers and guffaws at my sport jacket and tie apparel.
By the eighth race, we were both buzzed and my friend was carrying on a conversation with a girl half his age. Mission accomplished, I bid my farewells, left him in the capable hands of the co-ed and headed back to the grandstands.
My arrival was greeted with questions and inquisitions on my whereabouts. Billy was having a horrible day with his handicapping and Brenda had slightly twisted an ankle by stepping on a beer can en route to the "facilities". The vote was 2-2 on whether to stay or go -- now that the prodigal son had returned. I looked to the dowager for a tie-breaker. She had loosened up a little, several beer cups surrounded her feet, and she admonished.
"You can't leave before the Kentucky Derby is run!"
That cinched it for me. I offered to go fetch food for all. It met with approval. Billy went with me and we made it back with 30 minutes before the Derby. I decided to bet the race. Sandy decided to go to the window with me. Down the steps I went again.
She liked the name Tejano Run and asked me to bet a "across the board" wager on the horse. She asked me who I liked. I told her that trainer D. Wayne Lukas had three horses in the Derby and I was going to bet each one to win. I had gleaned this information earlier from one of the MSU guys.
"Hey, he has three going. One should win, right?"
It made sense. I dug into the wallet. I had one of the hundred dollar bills left and a fifty from Billy's generosity. The teller looked at me. I gulped and told him I wanted $50 to win on each Lukas horse. He frowned and asked me for the horse numbers. I had left my program in my seat. Rookie error. He sighed and looked at his, next to his betting board. I asked him for Tejano Run across the board as well. $160 dollars handed over, four returned. My wife looked at me as if my hair was on fire. I shrugged. It was the Derby. The MSU boys thought it was a good strategy. It was Billy's money and I had "inside information."
We got back to the seats with four minutes to spare. Billy was a Tejano Run fan as well. Considerably heavier than Sandy's six dollar wager. He had changed tactics. Place and show, no win wager.
They started the race. All stood and screamed as the horses ran by us the first time. I yelled out the numbers of my horses. I couldn't tell who was where, but the dowager's husband had binoculars and was yelling out the numbers of the horses in the lead. I wasn't hearing my numbers. They hit the top of the stretch and I yelled my numbers louder. Then, as the crowd went crazy, a horse began to pull away from the pack. I looked at my program. The silks colors matched the #11 horse and Mr. Dowager confirmed. Thunder Gulch. I listened intently to the racecallers' report. It was Thunder Gulch! A D. Wayne Lukas horse! AT 25-1 odds.
Thunder Gulch won the 1995 Kentucky Derby and paid $51 on a $2 win ticket. I got back $1275. Sandy got back $17 on Tejano Run's second place finish and Billy cashed in for $340. I still have the program where I wrote all that information down. It's in a frame in our upstairs hallway, next to a baby picture of Andrea.
We went back to their house that night and I laid the $200 Billy had given me the day before on their kitchen table. He accepted it and told me, with that, he was almost "even" for the day. Brenda was in a wonderful mood that night and Sandy and I retreated downstairs shortly after we got back to their place. I had driven us back from the track and the two of them were acting like two raging hormone teenagers in the back seat most of the drive. I had a celebratory drink with Ralph and Waldo and was asleep minutes after.
We used part of the winnings to re-do the nursery room for Andrea. My cousin Billy still talks about that day, that weekend. We haven't been to a Derby since. We watch each year on television, though and I call him and have him put $2 to win on any horse that D. Wayne Lukas has running in the Derby. I figure I owe D. Wayne that much. He and Brenda still go each year. Same seats, he takes his sons now. He sits there for the Oaks these days, too. Churchill Downs makes him buy for both days. He told me a few years back that the dowager queen passed away. Her husband attended a couple of years after that and then a real estate agent from Owensboro, KY was sitting there the next year with his wife. He says they're a nice couple.
Brenda had the first of their two sons almost nine months after our visit in 1995. I'd like to think I'm in some small way responsible. And, not in the way some of you are thinking.
D. Wayne Lukas won the 1996 and 1999 Derbies too. He hasn't won since. I figure I'm still way ahead on him, though.
( D. Wayne Lukas is the trainer of Optimizer this year but needs a couple of defections in order for the horse to run, since he is 22nd. on the earnings list and only 20 can go. )