When Nick Mingione and the Kentucky baseball team turned back a Louisville rally to claim an 11-7 win over the Cardinals Tuesday night, it was a fitting ending to the scheduled games between UK and U of L in 2016-17.
Kentucky’s win snapped a six-game Louisville winning streak in the baseball series between the intrastate archrivals. It was a perfect finale to a year in which the freakishly streaky UK-U of L all-sports rivalry saw some notable reversals of fortune.
With the stipulation there could still be NCAA Tournament competition between Kentucky and Louisville in spring sports, the Cats finished regular-season competition holding a narrow 6-5 edge over the Cards.
In men’s sports — which Louisville had dominated over the past two school years other than basketball — the Wildcats fought the Cardinals to a 3-3 draw in ’16-17. The schools split two games in baseball, with Kentucky winning in football and soccer and U of L victorious in basketball and swimming.
On the women’s side — where Kentucky has had the clear upper hand recently — things were close this year. UK claimed a 3-2 advantage, winning in soccer, softball and volleyball, while U of L won in basketball and swimming.
Still, for connoisseurs of the Cats vs. Cards all-sports rivalry, 2016-17 should be remembered for tables that turned:
Reversing the tide
Baseball: Starting when Dan McDonnell’s Cardinals eliminated Kentucky from the 2014 NCAA Tournament, U of L had beaten UK six in a row until the Cats turned a triple play en route to besting the Cards Tuesday night.
Women’s basketball: Matthew Mitchell and UK had bested Jeff Walz and U of L five in a row and six of seven before the Cardinals erased a late UK lead in regulation and won by two in overtime in the KFC Yum Center Dec. 4.
Football: Louisville had defeated Kentucky five times in a row before relatively unheralded UK quarterback Stephen Johnson outdueled U of L’s soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and led the Wildcats — 27-point underdogs — to a 41-38 upset of the Cardinals.
Men’s soccer: U of L had beaten UK two straight and five of six before the Cats — in spite of being outshot a robust 16-2 — prevailed 1-0 Sept. 6.
Playing to form
Not every streak in the UK-U of L competition ended in 2016-17:
Swimming: The Louisville men beat Kentucky for a ninth-straight season while the U of L women ran their winning streak over UK to eight.
Women’s soccer: Kentucky won for the sixth-straight year. In falling 3-1 to UK Sept. 2, at least U of L scored a goal against the Wildcats for the first time in six seasons.
Softball: UK’s 10-1 victory April 12 gave Rachel Lawson’s Cats six wins in their past seven meetings with U of L.
Volleyball: Kentucky’s Sept. 15 victory over Louisville was UK’s fourth in a row and sixth of the last seven.
Both Kentucky and Louisville appear headed for their best finishes ever in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings, which uses a school’s results in NCAA tournaments and football bowl games to evaluate the overall strength of athletics departments.
UK, whose previous best in the Directors’ Cup was 11th in 2013-14, currently stands eighth.
U of L, whose previous best in the Directors’ Cup was 28th in 2006-07, currently stands 15th.
Given the wide-ranging turmoil at Louisville — NCAA investigation into the use of paid escorts for recruiting purposes in men’s basketball; the “Wakey-leaks” scandal that enveloped Cardinals’ football; the mysterious “Papa John” Schnatter vs. Tom Jurich dust up; and all the administrative turnover and controversy at the top of the university — U of L’s athletes have performed at a high level amidst epic, potential distractions.
This school year, Cats-Cards matchups have been between teams representing two of the most successful all-around athletics departments in the country.
The results of head-to-head competition between Kentucky and Louisville in 2016-17:
April 4: Louisville 5, Kentucky 3
April 18: Kentucky 11, Louisville 7
Dec. 21: Louisville 73, Kentucky 70
Nov. 26: Kentucky 41, Louisville 38
Sept. 6: Kentucky 1, Louisville 0
Jan. 21: Louisville 176.5, Kentucky 123.5
Dec. 4: Louisville 69, Kentucky 67 (OT)
Sept. 2: Kentucky 3, Louisville 1
Jan. 21: Louisville 167, Kentucky 133
April 12: Kentucky 10, Louisville 1
Sept. 15: Kentucky 3, Louisville 0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-9)