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Why Vanderbilt-Louisville baseball rivalry is called the Battle of the Barrel

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 5/4/2021 Adam Sparks, Nashville Tennessean
a train cake sitting on top of a grass covered field: The Battle of Barrel is the annual baseball rivalry between Vanderbilt and Louisville. The oak barrel is given to the winner each year. © Adam Sparks / The Tennessean The Battle of Barrel is the annual baseball rivalry between Vanderbilt and Louisville. The oak barrel is given to the winner each year.

No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 15 Louisville play Tuesday in their annual baseball rivalry, dubbed the Battle of the Barrel.

There have been some tense games between the elite programs in recent years, and the barrel has been shared evenly during that time.

Here is what you need to know about the Battle of the Barrel before Tuesday's game (3 p.m., ESPNU) in Louisville:

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The barrel pits whiskey vs. bourbon

The Battle of the Barrel game has been played between the two teams every year since 2012, except last year because COVID-19 canceled the season. The rivalry is a product of a longstanding relationship between Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin and Louisville coach Dan McDonnell.

An oak barrel, symbolizing Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon, is given annually to the winning team. Since Vanderbilt won the 2019 game, the barrel has been in the Commodores' baseball facility for the past two years.

The Battle of the Barrel rivalry is even

The Battle of the Barrel game is played every May as a midweek game between the SEC and ACC schools rather than a series. Vanderbilt owns a 27-10 all-time record in the series beginning in 1971, but most of those games were before the rivalry had a name.

Since the Battle of the Barrel started, the teams have split eight meetings. Vanderbilt won in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2019. Louisville won in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. 

Postseason games aren't part of this

Since both programs routinely are national title contenders, it's not surprising that they've met 10 times in the postseason. Vanderbilt owns a 6-4 record in those games, including a 3-0 mark in the College World Series.

However, postseason games don't count in the exchange of the barrel.

Vanderbilt beat Louisville in the 2014 College World Series en route to winning the national title. And in 2019, the Commodores beat Louisville twice in Omaha before winning another national title.

Louisville went 2-0 against Vanderbilt in a 2013 Super Regional. Vanderbilt went 2-1 against the Cardinals in a 2010 Regional. And teams split two games in a 2009 Regional.

It got heated in Omaha in the last meeting

On June 21, 2019, Vanderbilt rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the ninth inning to beat Louisville 3-2 and advance to the national championship series. The comeback was stirred by a verbal confrontation one inning earlier.

LOOK BACK: Louisville pitcher's outburst inspired Vandy rally en route to national title series

Louisville starter Luke Smith, who had baffled Vanderbilt bats to that point, shouted at Julian Infante after striking him out to end the top of the eighth inning. Both teams gathered around the dugout steps in a spicy scene that ultimately was kept under control.

The emotional outburst backfired on Smith, as Vanderbilt's bats came alive to win in the ninth.

Most of Vanderbilt's 2019 players are now playing professionally. Smith is a senior on this year's Louisville squad. He has a 3-3 record with a 5.92 ERA in 10 starts this season.

Smith had a very short start against Clemson on Sunday, exiting after allowing six runs in the first inning.

Reach Adam Sparks at asparks@tennessean.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Why Vanderbilt-Louisville baseball rivalry is called the Battle of the Barrel

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