Bordner cuffs Texas A&M batters, Louisville advances in CWS

One will not find Sam Bordner in any listings of 2017 All-America baseball teams. Nor on any All-Atlantic Coast Conference teams either. Not even honorable mention in either of those groupings.

Sam Bordner has given up no runs and one hit in 11 innings of relief in his last four appearances (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

But Dan McDonnell knows where to locate Bordner when one of his starting pitchers is tiring. He will find the 6-foot-6, 240-pound sophomore in the University of Louisville bullpen, cool, calm, collected, ready to go.

As in UofL’s opening game in the College World Series on Sunday. Starter Brendan McKay had given up three straight hits, Texas A&M cutting Louisville’s lead to 5-4 in the sixth inning. Bordner will do what he usually does, shutting down the next three Aggie batters 1-2-3.

Over the next two innings he will hold A&M hitless, not allowing anyone on base. Handing the ball off to Lincoln Henzman in the ninth inning. Louisville will win its opening game 8-4, ending a five-game losing streak in the CWS.

“I think Sam’s been the X factor, a little under the radar,” McDonnell said after the game. “When you’re in that first out-of-the-bullpen or middle relief role, it’s just not as sexy, and you don’t get as much attention. But clearly Sam’s been hot all year.”

The Cardinals (53-10) had used six singles and a walk to build a 5-0 lead in the second inning, with Devin Hairston, Collin Lyman and Colby Fitch contributing run-scoring singles. Fitch winding up with two hits, a walk and four runs batted in. 

 

Brendan McKay joins Lamar Jackson among nation’s elite athletes

The awards keep coming for Brendan McKay, the undisputed player of the year in college baseball.

The University of Louisville is the first school ever to have student athletes to win both of the top individual awards in college football and baseball. 

Brendan McKay on Friday became the 31st recipient of the prestigious Dick Howser Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player.  He joins Lamar Jackson in some very select company, Jackson having been awarded the Heisman Trophy for the country’s best football player.

The Dick Howser Trophy was awarded Friday by the Howser Trophy committee and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association during ceremonies at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, home of the College World Series.

The latest honor is the fifth national player of the year  for McKay, who received the same honor from Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball newspaper, D1Baseball and Perfect Game. He also earned his third straight John Olerud Two-Way National Player of the Year Award and became the highest MLB Draft selection in school history going fourth overall to the Tampa Bay Rays.

He is also a leading candidate for the The Golden Spikes Award award, created by USA Baseball and sponsored by the Major League Baseball Players Association for best player honors.

McKay has a 10-3 record with a 2.34 ERA and a school record 140 strikeouts in 104.0 innings on the mound this season. During his three-year collegiate career, McKay has accumulated a 31-10 record with a 2.15 ERA and 385 strikeouts, the most ever for a Louisville pitcher.

At the plate, the 2017 ACC Player of the Year has a .343 batting average, 17 home runs, 13 doubles, 56 RBIs and a .464 on-base percentage in 60 starts as a hitter this season. In 179 career starts and 186 total appearances as a hitter, McKay has a .328 career batting average with 27 home runs, 46 doubles and 131 RBIs.

Those stats could be even more impressive with a good run in the College World Series.

Record 6,235 see Louisville advance in Super Regional

Kade McClure looking like his old self, holding Kentucky to only four hits. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)

The scary thing about playing the Kentucky baseball team is that five UK players are hitting .326 and better. The leadoff batter Tristan Pompey at 364, followed by Evan White at 370 and Zach Reks at 354.

Intimidating on paper and in person. One wonders how have they could have lost 22 games.

If the University of Louisville pitcher gets off to a shaky start, the Cardinals would face an uphill battle. Kade McClude, for example, who has more than his share of struggles the past couple of weeks, giving up 17 runs in four games.

Fortunately for UofL, the Kade McClure on the mound Friday closely resembled the Kade McClure who had a 12-0 record and was an All-American last season. Playing with a newfound confidence, he would allow the Wildcats only four hits but no runs.

Setting UofL up for a 5-2 win before a record crowd of 6,235 in the first game of the Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium. Improving his record to 8-3 while Louisville was tying its all-time high of 51 wins, against 10 losses.

Reassuring that Drew Ellis would finally shake off the doldrums, finally collecting his 18th home run, finally shaking the post-season slump. He would slap a 3-2 pitch at least 430 feet in the fifth inning, clearing the left field bleachers, driving in three huge runs.

Leadoff hitter Logan Taylor, who seems to depend more on bases on balls and being hit to reach base, getting UofL off to a good start with a two-bagger in the first inning.  Stealing second and scoring on a single by Devin Mann, getting Louisville off on the right foot.

Taylor would also collect a walk in the fifth inning and score on that Drew Ellis blast.

Louisville managing only four hits in the win, needing to pick up the pace on Saturday, needing to provide some hitting support for Brendan McKay in what will be his last home game on the mound at UofL.

Attendance of 6,235 for the first game of the Super Regional is an all-time record.

Suddenly Kentucky followers are diehard baseball fans

The already caustic rivalry between the universities of Louisville and Kentucky will become more vitriolic after this week’s NCAA Super Regional baseball competition. One season ending, another pursuing glory.

Bitter, as in bitter, end for the loser. 

UK is a newcomer to Super Regional competition, having never won a Regional tournament in the program’s 100-year history. The Lexington school is a surprise, having compiled a 43-21 record overall and a 19-11 mark in the Southeastern Conference in Coach Nick Mingione’s first season.

Whether that winds up being the proverbial flash in the pan or long-term success remains to be seen. But suddenly the basketball-centric UK followers consider themselves diehard baseball fans.

UofL, meanwhile, will be participating in its fifth consecutive Super Regional and its seventh during Coach Dan McDonnell’s 11th season. The Cardinals also have won six of the last seven games against the Wildcats over the last four seasons. UofL is 50-10 this season.

Lots of complaints from UK fans after it was announced the Super Regional was a sellout less than 24 hours after UofL won the Regional against Xavier.  Some Kentucky fans arguing that it was unfair for Louisville to sell out the event before they had qualified. Others suggesting that the games should be moved to Louisville Slugger Field.

Sorry, Cat fans, neither argument is valid. UofL earned the right to host the Super Regional during the regular season. A national seed is supposed to mean something. That includes the home field advantage and everything that goes along with playing at Jim Patterson Stadium. 

Given the success of the UofL baseball program over the past decade, long-time observers of the rivalry are not surprised that Kentucky has been investing heavily in baseball. The Wildcats will begin play in a new $49 million 2,500-seat stadium, starting the 2018 season.

Welcome to the world of college baseball, Wildcat fans. We were wondering how long it would take for them to stop pretending they hadn’t noticed UofL’s success in baseball.

Expect some fireworks this week, on and off the field.

One more time: Louisville baseball back to Super Regionals

Louisville reliever Lincoln Henzman quickly cooled down the Xavier bats after entering the game in the seventh inning.  (Photo by GARRY JONES)

The final out:

The Cards thanking their fans:

This game seemed to be won and lost more times than most University of Louisville baseball fans could count, so many potential heroes, so many potential goats, so many ups and downs.

Never give up, never give in, always competing. Don’t play the score, play the game is what UofL Coach Dan McDonnell always says. No lead was safe, the lead changing hands so often.

That was until reliever Lincoln Henzman got the call prematurely to put out the Xavier fire in the seventh inning. Stopping the bleeding, ending the drama, after three runs had been scored, pitching two-and-two-thirds innings of flawless baseball.

Josh Stowers (25) is greeted at the plate by happy teammates after three-run home run against Xavier (Photo by GARRY JONES).

Sending UofL to the Super Regional for the seventh Super Regional in 11 years with a dramatic come-from-behind-three-times 8-7 win over a determined Xavier team. The win witnessed by 4,012 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The firepower and the winning runs coming largely coming from the bottom half of the Cardinals lineup. 

Josh Stowers putting Louisville back in the lead in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out RBI double hit towards the same spot as earlier three-run home run. Collin Lyman slid home to tie the score, and Stowers would score on a single by Logan Taylor.

Three wins in a row, three hard-fought ones. No one said it was going to be easy, nothing really good ever is. The Louisville Cardinals will be back at Jim Patterson Stadium next weekend, hopefully en route to Omaha.