Louisville waves goodbye to Mississippi State, advances in CWS

Photos by Jeff Reinking, UofL Sports

 Another one of those potential nightmares against Mississippi State, the program few University of Louisville fans pay any attention to for the most part. When their paths do cross, Cardinal fans are on full alert, having lost to the Bulldogs three last three times — in the Taxslayer football bowl 2017, an NIT basketball game and a Final Four women’s basketball game in 2018.

Drew Campbell would collect three hits while driving in two runs, including the walkout in the ninth inning (Jeff Reinking, UofL Sport photos)

Understandable that loud collective groan when Mississippi State is the opponent.  Rarely on purpose because they don’t schedule each other. The losses have followed a familiar pattern, ending UofL’s respective seasons.

The last team any Louisville fan wanted to see Thursday night was Mississippi State. Not even close.

Seemed inevitable that the UofL baseball team was going down again, batters struggling again, runners getting caught out of position, and pitchers searching for the strike zone. Meekly going though the motions, seemingly powerless at times.

Still hard to believe that Louisville emerged with a 4-3 win over Mississippi State. The Cardinals had nine hits, none of them for extra bases, managing six singles with their backs against the wall in the final three innings. 

Right fielder Drew Campbell would play a pivotal role in this one, playing in a little too close in the fourth inning. Helplessly watching the baseball fly over his head, opening the gate for two Mississippi State runs.  Another one of those College World Series pitching duels, every run a monumental challenge.

Campbell would emerge the hero in this game, however, with the best hit of the night, a solid hit to right, sending Danny Oriente home from second base with the winning run. Jake Snider had scored earlier on a base hit by Oriente.

It was also Drew Campbell who had given his team some hope, with his single to left field scoring Tyler Fitzgerald with UofL’s first run. Alex Binelas  would score on a fielder’s choice off of Justin Lavey’s bat.

An understandably sweet victory, ending an intolerable drought against Mississippi State. A second straight win over a Southeastern Conference, the Cardinals having eliminated both Mississippi State and Auburn on successive days.

Louisville down to the final four, needing two wins over Vanderbilt advance to the finals of the College World Series next week. Nice to get that Mississippi State monkey off the back, but aiming for unprecedented success on college baseball’s highest plateau.

Been there, done that doesn’t make it any easier for UofL Baseball

Here we go again.

College World series time again for the University of Louisville baseball program. Never gets old.

Five times in 13 years for UofL under Coach Dan McDonnell.  Could easily have been seven times, without some unpredictable outcomes against a couple of California programs.

Some are saying it is expected of UofL to make the CWS. I don’t know about that but it is always an amazing feeling when Louisville wins another Super Regional and becomes one of the select few.

Already one has heard some critcism on a couple of sports talk shows about UofL’s lack of success during the past four trips to Omaha. Two wins against eight losses is nothing about which to write home. But it’s no disgrace either. These are, after all, the best of the best teams year after year.

The ups and downs of college baseball are unpredictable. For example, UofL losing both games, going home early from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. UofL losing to Iowa State in the second game of the Louisville Regional, then winning four straight to host the Super Regional. UofL literally beating the crap out of 10th-ranked East Carolina.

As always the CWS presents some major hurdles, with UofL facing second-ranked Vanderbilt in the first game. Vandy has a lineup that includes some of the most effective pitchers and best hitters in the nation. UofL lost the regular season game by a score of 6-2. 

The really discouraging part about the loss was the score was tied 2-2 going into the eighth inning. UofL employed both of its ace relievers — Michael Kirian in the eighth and Michael McAvene in the ninth. Each of them facing only two batters,  each of them giving two hits and two runs. Not cool at all.

But baseball being baseball, it is difficult to use one game or even a series of games from the past for predicting the future. Some of the most intimidating teams are often eliminated early in the College World Series, with the likes of Virginia and Coastal Carolina having prevailed in recent years. 

McDonnell has said it usually  comes down to the teams that are playing the best at the time. UofL has been there often enough now to avoid all the distractions in Omaha.

A business trip, time to focus on good baseball.

Five-time Louisville back to the College World Series

Bobby Miller and Glenn Albanese celebrate Louisville’s fourth trip to Omaha in the past seven seasons and fifth overall (Photo by Charlie Springer).
Dan McDonnell is getting to be a familiar face in Omaha (Photo by Charlie Springer).

Bobby Miller may have been denied a no hitter, but he will always remember his performance against East Carolina as one of his most rewarding victories. His seventh win of the season securing a trip to Omaha and the College World Series for the University of Louisville baseball team.

Miller giving up only one hit in a 12-0 win.  A game in which UofL was never threatened by one of the best-hitting teams in college baseball. Allowing only three players to reach base while striking out six batters and giving up two bases on balls. The UofL sophomore faced the minimum through six innings, allowing just a walk in the third that was erased by a double play.

Miller’s no-hit bid coming to an end in the ninth inning on a single to right by pinch hitter Thomas Francisco. Miller exiting to a standing ovation before returning for a curtain call from the nearly 4,500 in attendance at Jim Patterson Stadium.  

Bobby Miller closing the door on East Carolina holding the Pirates hitless for eight innings (Photos by Charlie Springer).

The 2019 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium will largely be remembered as one of total dominance for the University of Louisville baseball team over East Carolina. From beginning to end, starting with a 14-1 win over the Pirates in the Friday opener.

At the plate, Louisville scored its 26 runs off of 32 hits, none of which were home runs. On the mound, it got two strong outings from starters Reid Detmers and Miller. The pitching staff should be well rested for the College World Series, which gets under way on Friday.

This will be Coach Dan McDonnell’s fifth trip to Omaha in 13 seasons at Louisville, including four times in the past seven season. He’s not making any proclamations or making any comparisons, having won only two games  in eight CWS games.

“It’s a whole new tournament. It’s a crazy game,” McDonnell said. “That’s what you have to love about baseball. It’s not the bigger, stronger, faster team that wins. It’s not necessarily the most talented team or the team with the most draft picks, it’s who plays the best.” 

Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton

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UofL batters unload on East Carolina in Super Regional opener

Louisville left-hander Reid Detmers gets plenty of support while posting his 12th win of the season at Jim Patterson Stadium (Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton).

Ten University of Louisville batters up, 10 UofL batters down after the first three innings. Been there, done that a couple of weeks ago. Not a good way to get started in a Super Regional. 

Attendance for Super Regional opener was 2,955 (Cindy Rice Shelton photos)

Not for long, not with Logan Wyatt ending the pitching dreams of East Carolina’s Jake Agnos. Second batter up in the fourth Wyatt would launch a double to right center field.

Tyler Fitzgerald would follow with another two-bagger, scoring Wyatt from second. The beating was about to begin.

When the inning was over, UofL had scored four runs on five hits, including another double by Danny Oriente and singles by Jake Snider and Drew Campbell. The Cardinals would follow up with five more runs in the fifth inning, three in the sixth and two in the seventh, burying East Carolina 14-1 in the opening game.

Left hander Reid Detmers, who has gone begging for support in more than a few games this season, was the beneficiary of the slugfest. He would be credited with his 12th win against four losses, allowing only five hits while striking out six batters.

UofL had 18 hits in the game, led by Fitzgerald with the first four-hit game of his career, along with four runs scored and two runs batted in. Dunn, Wyatt, Lucas, Alex Binelas, Snider, Oriente and Drew Campbell each had multi-hit games as well. 

The win ended a 10-game losing streak to East Carolina. Couldn’t have come at a better time.

Gallery by Cindy Rice Shelton

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Binelas gets a grizzly hug, UofL baseball another Super Regional

Trey Leonard is among the first players to congratulate Chris Binelas following that bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning. The ball eluding the second baseman, giving the University of Louisville baseball team a 4-3 win over Illinois State.

Alex Binelas comes through the base-loaded winning single in the bottom of the ninth (Photos by Charlie Springer)

Leonard, replacing Lucas Dunn in centerfield in the eighth inning, misjudging a fly ball in the top of the ninth. Two outs at the time, UofL ahead by two runs, needing one out. Leonard’s error will open the gate for Illinois State, tying the score on the next play. 

Visions of an extended extra inning games looming for the crowd of 2,878 at Jim Patterson Stadium. The game had moved along at such a nice pace, lasting only 2:48 of playing time. No extra innings today, thank you.

Leonard, in a quick reversal of fortunes, reaching base on a fielder’s choice, making it to third after Justin Lavey is forced out at home plate. He is the player who scores the winning run.

The UofL sophomore quickly chasing down Binelas, smothering him with an embrace that could only best be described as a grizzly bear hug. Leonard forever grateful, no words needed.

The win was UofL’s 47th win of the season, against 16 losses, sending the Cardinals to a Super Regional for the eighth time in the program’s history and sixth in the last seven years.

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Left fielder Jake Snider is at his best when when it counts the most — in NCAA post-season play. Snider is 3-for-4 at the plate, including two doubles, and was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. 

UofL has seven other players named to the All-Louisville Regional Team: Zeke Pinkham, Justin Lavey, Tyler Fitzgerald, Alex Binelas, Drew Campbell, Danny Oriente and Luke Smith.