Louisville baseball begins another title chase on Friday

Editor’s Note: The college baseball season has arrived, believe it or or not, with the University of Louisville opening against UConn in the first of a three-game series at Lakeland, Fla. The series begins on Friday evening at 6 p.m. with game two set for Saturday at 3 p.m. and the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.

By Ed Peak

Logan Wyatt couldn’t help but bring up the painful past during the University of Louisville baseball media day recently.  Specifically, his team’s loss in the Texas Tech Regional. One game away from another College World Series, the Cardinals were unceremoniously dumped 11-6 by the home-standing Red Raiders in a game that was never really that close. 

Louisville teammates Tyler Fitzgerald and Logan Wyatt discussed prospects for the 2019 season (Photos by Ed Peak).

“The ending of our season as we all know was kind of rough,” said Wyatt, one of several returning starters from the team that finished 45-19. “Following the fall season and scrimmages right now everybody’s intensity and focus seems to be heightened right now (because of last year).”

Infielder Tyler Fitzgerald echoed Wyatt’s feelings. “It’s with us a lot,” said Fitzgerald. “We talk about it every week. It was no secret we were a young team last year. We’ve got guys that will step up.

“One of our goals is we host a Regional and a Super Regional. I think that will make it a little easier on us. That was not the ending we wanted last year. It has definitely helped prepare us for the upcoming year. We know what to expect now,” said Fitzgerald.

All three games against UConn this weekend are scheduled for coverage on 93.9 The Ville.

Louisville returns a bulk of that team from last year, according to coach Dan McDonnell, and added a freshman class that could help this team get to Omaha and the College World Series for the fifth time in program history.

“When I try to put the measurables in place, what am I looking for it starts with our commitment to academics in the class room. We’re coming off a good summer. We’ve obviously got a lot of talented players returning.”
Louisville returns seven starters to from its every day lineup and the bulk of its pitching staff led by Adam Wolf, Nick Bennett and Bryan Hoeing.

The Cardinals were ranked ninth by Street & Smith’s preseason publication. Oregon State the defending champions were ranked No 1 followed by Louisiana State, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Auburn, North Carolina, Stanford, Arkansas and Florida.

“We’ve got a bunch of leaders this year that can step up and if we keep the leaders going in the right direction we’ll be all right,” said Wyatt a junior from North Bulllitt High.

Wyatt has received some preseason accolades after batting .339 and leading the team with 69 rbi’s. His six home runs were second on the team. Danny Oriente, Drew Campbell and Jake Snider also hit 300 or higher last season. The pitching staff includes some familiar names, including Adam Elliott, Sam Bordner, who battled injuries last season, Austin Conway and Shay Smitty. Reid Deters and Bobby Miller will be in the mix.

The Cardinals are ranked in most preseason polls somewhere in the top 10. Last week Atlantic Coast Conference coaches voted UofL as the top team in the conference edging perennial power Florida State. 

“I think there’s power in saying we’re going to win a national championship,” said McDonnell. “So today’s the day to do that. Today’s the day to let the world know that’s the goal of our program. That’s what we believe in. That’s what we see happening. That’s why we work our players so hard.”

As one coach said a couple of years ago, “Louisville is the new elite program in the Midwest.”

No doubt about that.

22,046 witness Louisville implosion against Duke

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was in near panic mode before Louisville got slippery fingers and collapsed, giving up a 23-point lead (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Things aren’t always as good as when everything seems to be going well. When things going bad, they are not as bad as it seems.

Louisville leads No. 2 Duke by 23 points with 9:54 to play. The Cardinal fans in the crowd of 22,046  are delirious. Then all of the sudden the bottom falls out. The roof caves in on Louisville. Duke erupts for a 71-69 win, leaving the Cardinal faithful in dismay.

Chris Mack had his team prepared for Duke but his players couldn’t sustain the effort indefinitely (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I’m stunned,” said Louisville coach Chris Mack. The Cardinals under a barrage of turnovers were outscored 35-10 the rest of the way. The Cardinals had only three field goals the rest of the way. They had only four turnovers at halftime but finished 17.

It was the second straight game Louisville lost a late lead. Saturday, Florida State edged the Cards 80-75 in overtime after leading by seven with around four minutes to play.

“As tough as it was on Saturday to swallow…..(tonight) tougher,” said Mack. “I’m really proud of my team. They competed their tails off. We played as hard as we’ve played all year.”

Louisville (17-8, 8-4) started playing a big conservatively in the last eight minutes. They were playing not to lose. They quite attacking. When Duke (22-2, 10-1) turned up the defensive pressure the Cardinals didn’t respond.

“We could sense that they got hesitant,”said Cam Reddish who scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half. “We just feed off of that. Just kept grinding, grinding through every possession.”

Duke was ready for a loss. Last Saturday the Blue Devils beat No.3 Virginia, 81-71. So it figured you might get Duke at a good time.

Freshman Zion Williamson led Duke with 27 points and 12 rebounds, but played the second half in series foul trouble. He picked up his fourth with 12:14. He returned with 9:41.

“Give Duke credit, they turned us over it seems like 1,000 times in the last four or five minutes,” said Mack. Duke had 15 points off turnovers and 11 steals in the second half. Williamson had three steals.

“I thought we outplayed the best team in the country for a long time,” said Mack. “As hard as it is to accept, we’re going to grow from it and there will be better times.”

Jordan Nwora led the Cards with 23 points and 12 rebounds. He played probably his best game of the season. Dwayne Sutton added 15 points and six rebounds. Steve Enoch came off the bench for 14 points and thee rebounds.
The Cardinals got a good performance from guard Darius Perry who had six points, but did turn the ball over three times.
Graduate transfer Christen Cunningham didn’t score but had 12 assists but did turn the ball over six times. He had difficulties seeing over the bigger Duke guards.

Did the full court press Duke employed at the 9:54 juncture do UofL in?

“That’s a great question,” said Mack. “I think that our spacing was good, we were just tentative. Every pass was like they wanted it to get to their teammate and that tentativeness becomes a negative when you have such a great anticipating teams.

“My belief in these guys is crazy strong and that’s not going away after a really tough loss. They have to grow from it and get better.”

Walz lets Louisville women work themselves out of jam

By Ed Peak

Maybe this is a good week for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team to take a break.  A respite from all the travel and rigors of the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference.

Jeff Walz saving his timeouts, letting his players work themselves out of jam against Virginia Tech (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Jeff Walz has had a great time this season, often joking, clowning and high-fiving his players as they have wound their way to a 23-1 won-lost mark. But he was not smiling Sunday when Virginia Tech cut a 20-point lead to five points with less than a minute to go.

That look of confidence replaced by one of genuine concern on that stubble-framed countenance. He knew they were in trouble. The second ranked Cardinals letting a 20-point lead dwindle to almost nothing to a team hitting everything it threw at the basket in the fourth quarter. 

Walz avoiding using up precious timeouts during those final minutes, wanting his players to get themselves out of troubling situations. “I wanted them to figure it out themselves,” he said. Durr taking the cue, digging deep, taking the team on her shoulders again. 

Durr has been banged up a bit lately, actually sitting out a game two Sundays ago. But Asia would answer the call time and time again in a scary 72-63 win at Virginia Tech. With more than a little help from Sam Fuehring, banking layup after layup during the late going.

Durr would wind up with 34 points for the game, the fourth 30-point-plus outing for her career. The go-to player in the clutch, making five of seven 3-point attempts and all seven of her seven free throw shots, the final two icing the win with 13 seconds to go. Fuehring would collect her fourth double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

The close call for the Cardinals a reminder that the ACC remains one of the women’s college basketball’s toughest conferences. The week ahead a time to heal, get back to the basics, and prepare for the stretch drive. No time to take anyone or anything for granted.

Next game Sunday at 3 p.m. against Miami, a team fresh from upsetting Notre Dame, one game behind the Cardinals in the ACC standings, a team not be taken lightly. 

Louisville women take care of Cuse, move to top of ACC

The Syracuse women’s basketball team, never one to be taken lightly, arrives in town with an impressive 17-4 won-lost record. Ready to take it to the University of Louisville, they were. But Asia Durr was ready, too.

Asia scoring UofL’s first eight points and 12 of her 15 points in the first quarter. Getting the Cardinals off to a splendid start with a 30-17 in the first 10 minutes. The visitors would be playing catch up the rest of the night.

Kylee Shook playing one of her best games of the season against a good opponent, with 12 points and 11 rebounds (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Louisville posting a 76-51 win over the nation’s 14th ranked team before a crowd of 8,251 at the KFC Yum! Center. This on a night when Notre Dame and North Carolina State were losing, putting the Cardinals on top of the ACC with an 9-1 mark and 22-1 overall.

Durr would cool off, failing to make a field goal during the next three quarters. She was four of 13 from the field but five of five from the free throw line and she had four assists.

Kylee Shook and Dana Evans taking up the scoring slack. Shook recording 12 points while pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. Evans with 12 points while adding four assists and making four steals.

Arica Carter and Sam Fuehring with four assists as well, Jazmine Jones with three. An amazing total of 22 assists for the night.

Another one of those great games in what could be a special season for the Louisville women.

Satterfield eager to begin Louisville spring football

Scott Satterfield eager to get his player on the football field as spring practice begins Monday.

Two months after he was hired at the University of Louisville, Coach Scott Satterfield was introducing the newest members of his first recruiting class on Wednesday at the Howard Schnellenberger football complex. Now he can finally focus on cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor.

The coach he replaced having lost the confidence and respect of his assistant coaches, the players, the administration and the fans, finishing the 2018 season with a humiliating 2-10 record. Still another unhappy ending from Bobby Petrino. Par for the course for him, but a double whammy for UofL following two tenures.

Satterfield hasn’t had much time to work with the players he inherited from Petrino. When he was hired on December 4th, he was faced with the challenges of hiring an entirely new staff,  evaluating the existing commitments before the early signing date of December 19th, and then hitting the recruiting trail in earnest. 

The UofL coach acknowledged that getting his staff and first recruiting class together was a time-consuming process. He was, however, pleased with reports from the strength coaches that players were making significant progress in the weight room. 

Satterfield will have plenty of time to know his players starting on Monday with the beginning of the spring training camp. He’s not making any assumptions about what went wrong under Petrino, saying everyone is starting off with a clean slate.

He will have 15 days to begin to reverse some of the failures of the second Petrino era, to instill a new culture with a winning attitude, and new offensive and defensive schemes at Louisville. Major challenges for any coach but Satterfield can’t wait to get started.

“The Louisville brand is a good one, the program has had a lot of success, with some major accomplishments,” he said. “The response from high school coaches has been awesome. They know what went on here before and what we want to do. What Louisville has been able to do in the past has been awesome.”

“Our staff did an outstanding job of going out, working their tails off to get the kind of players we need at Louisville,” he said. “We’re glad to get much of the administrative stuff behind us. We’re eager to get out on the field and begin the process of getting better as a football team.