Brendan McKay and company were more than ready for the conference portion of the University of Louisville baseball season to begin on Friday. The Cardinals would post a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh before a crowd of 995 fans in 50-degree temperatures at Jim Patterson Stadium.
McKay continuing his impressive start to the 2017 season, fanning seven of the first nine batters he faced while racking up a total of 15 strikeouts for the game.
The 6-foot-2 lefthander would allow only three Pittsburgh batters to reach base in seven innings, giving up two singles and a base on balls. The Panthers were held hitless until the fourth inning when Frank Maldanado reached base on a drive to right.
McKay entered the game with an 0.84 earned run average, raising his won-lost record to 3-0 for the season. The win improved UofL’s record to 13-0 overall and 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
He would be held hitless himself for the first time this season in four at-bats. One of them was a sacrifice fly, however, driving in a Louisville run in the third inning. McKay’s batting average is still a hefty .613.
Reliever Lincoln Henzman preserved the shutout for McKay, entering the game in the eighth, striking out three batters, giving up one base on balls but allowing no hits.
Brendan McKay never gets excited, just an even keel type of guy, taking everything in stride, knowing baseball has lots of ups and downs from one day to the next.
No big deal with the bases loaded in the first inning. But not just another at bat this time. The Louisville slugger sending the first pitch high and deep over the centerfield fence, quickly getting UofL off to a 4-0 start.
The Cardinals would go on to 19-3 win over Eastern Kentucky University before a crowd of 2,154 Wednesday, improving its record to 4-0 on a 75-degree day at Jim Patterson Stadium.
McKay, a junior, would also get one other hit and a base on balls. After four games, he is batting an even .500 with three home runs and nine runs batted in. Never changing his expression, even when mobbed by his teammates at plate after his latest four-bagger.
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….” the lyrics go, and there was a lot of hand clapping Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium as the University of Louisville baseball team crushed Eastern Kentucky 19-3.
With that tune and many others orchestrating the game, organist Al Greener pulled out all the stops (pun intended) as one after another batter tried to subdue the Cards’ 2017 home opener energy. Greener, a University of Iowa grad, has been doing UofL baseball games for 11 years, coming on board with Coach Dan McDonnell in 2006.
Fans were in for a musical blast when the stirring Sandstorm rumbled from the loudspeakers, revving up the crowd on a beautiful springlike winter day. And also when All-American Brendan McKay hit his first Grand Slam of the season, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Dan McDonnell doesn’t have to remind players of the annual aspirations or the ultimate objective for University of Louisville baseball.
They are, in this order: Getting back to Omaha for the College World Series and winning a national championship.
Reminders abound throughout baseball complex. The wall behind his desk is a super magnified photo of Ameritrade Stadium. The same one adorns the wall of the team meeting room. The outfield walls in Jim Patterson Stadium feature giant billboards commemorating three past trips to Omaha.
A banner on the front entrance to the stadium declares that the road to Omaha goes through Louisville. The coaches, the players and the fans share the same expectation of getting back to Omaha, of someday getting out of Omaha with the biggest trophy of them all.
The coach went to the College World Series as a college player at The Citadel in 1990. He expects it, always anticipates returning.
“You got to believe it before you can achieve it,” McDonnell said. “I felt like this year I didn’t have to say it as much, which is good. It’s understood. It’s why the kids are here. It’s what the fans expect here and I’m really proud of that. That’s a neat place to be – a program where the expectations are to go to Omaha and win a national championship.”
The season begins for the Cardinals this weekend in Clearwater, Fla., with a Friday game at 3 p.m. against Alabama State, a Saturday game at 6 p.m. against Maryland, and a Sunday 1 p.m. game against Ball State. No television but the games will be broadcast on 93.9 The Ville.
The opening home game is against Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday at 3 p.m., followed by a three-game weekend series against Nebraska-Omaha.
The Chicago Cubs and their fans are celebrating the 2016 World Series championship in Major League Baseball. Everywhere. And there is no end in sight.
Clearly the class of the major leagues this year, winning their division by 17 1/2 games. Ending 108 years of frustration, rewarding fans loyal to their franchise, many of them never expecting the Cubs to ever again win another championship. It could be argued that many of them were Cubs’ fans because the Cubs were perpetual losers.
One or two generations of fans living and dying without seeing their Cubs, some blaming the curse of a Chicago bar owner who brought his Billy goat to Wrigley Field during the 1946 World Series. After getting booted from the ball park, he placed a curse on the Cubs, saying they would never win another championship.
But they refused to desert their Cubs, remaining faithful through so many lean years. That would include my 93-year-old mother-in-law who at one time knew every player on the roster. She’s got a lot to talk about at the retirement home today, her Cubs have finally come through for her.
The “curse” has been lifted at long last. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and Cubs’ fans everywhere.