OMAHA, Neb. -- He was pitching one of the best games of his life, against the No. 2 team in baseball, and Luke Smith, Louisville's flashy, emotional right-hander, notched his 10th strikeout of the night and let the expletives fly.
It was the eighth inning Friday; Louisville was three outs away from beating Vanderbilt in the College World Series, and Smith had just struck out Julian Infante and started chirping.
It did not go over well.
The Commodores rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat Louisville 3-2 and advance to the College World Series finals opposite Michigan. Smith was dealing before the exchange, scattering three hits over eight innings on a mix of off-speed pitches.
When Smith struck out Infante to end the eighth, he stared him down and hurled several cuss words at him.
"A couple of people have done that this year," Vanderbilt designated hitter Philip Clarke said. "We've responded well every time."
With one out in the top of the ninth, Commodores shortstop Ethan Paul doubled down the right-field line, scoring JJ Bleday, tying the game and chasing Smith. Clarke singled, then Pat DeMarco doubled down the left-field line to plate the winner.
Smith, who was handed his first loss of the season, said his actions were "just adrenaline."
"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."
Though Infante didn't say if he said something to provoke Smith, it did not appear, at least from replays, that he did.
"I know he was staring at him," Louisville catcher Henry Davis said, "and Luke doesn't usually like that sort of thing. Luke kind of told him what he thought."
Louisville, which would've had to beat Vanderbilt twice to make it to the finals, was revved up from the start. On several occasions when Smith struck out a batter, the fiery reaction could be picked up on an on-the-field microphone.
Davis said Smith "pitched his ass off."
But Vanderbilt had the last word. The Commodores could feel the energy shift in the dugout. And when it was over, Infante said he didn't say a word to Smith.
"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."