McDonnell again raises expectations for UofL baseball

Former UofL baseball players Will Smith, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Brendon McKay, of the Tampa Bay Rays, shared their experiences (Mike DeZarn photos)

By Barbara Springer

Seven words.

“Grass. Track. Wall.”
“That ball is gone!”

Words from play-by-play announcer Sean Moth that get University of Louisville baseball fans on their feet, roaring. Words that inspire and challenge baseball players to strive even harder. Words to drive this team all the way to Omaha.

Ranked number one by D1 baseball, this 2020 team begins competition February 14 following a 51-18 record last season. The 2019 team made it to the semifinals of the College World Series, their fifth trip in Coach Dan McDonnell’s 13 seasons here. He begins this season with four seniors to lead a team heavy with freshmen and sophomores.

Junior pitcher Adam Elliott was awarded the Muhammad Ali Leadership Scholarship by Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali (Mike DeZarn photo).

Last year’s team had its highest final ranking in program history, with a No. 3 ranking, and the winningest program in all of Division 1 baseball. Moreover, the players posted the most conference wins since 2015 among Power 5 programs. Fifteen former Cards have made Major League debuts since 2014.

Coach McDonnell announced during the team’s Leadoff Dinner Friday evening that the motivational theme this season is “Somewhat Higher.” Since August, the fall semester GPA was a record 3.35, with 25 hours of community service per athlete. The players enjoyed a team-building trip to the Dominican Republic last fall, stretching themselves as they worked with children in teaching and fun, as well as community service. Coach Mac recalled the trip, saying it “opens your heart and lights a flame. Keep it lit and serve in Louisville.”

Al Greener, the UofL Pep Band Director who plays the organ at games, was doing his thing.

Just a few years ago, at a luncheon, McDonnell spoke to the challenges of luring quality players to Louisville, where the season may very well begin on a cold and rainy day. Or with snow falling. When the stands might be fairly empty on a weekday night. But, somehow, he has found a way to convince prospects to take a chance, to challenge themselves.

Maybe he has succeeded because of the facilities, which have undergone dramatic transformations in the last few years. Maybe the attraction is the coaching staff, which has remained very stable.

Maybe recruits and their parents want to be a part of the program’s notable successes. Maybe even the caliber of the opponents is the attraction.

Whatever, he has succeeded, and with all the pageantry and fanfare and video excitement of the evening plus the presence of former players and current pros, the coaching staff pulled out all the stops and brought the legendary Brendan McKay and Will Smith out. Both have their faces and numbers on that outfield wall at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McKay made his big league debut last June on the mound for the Tampa Bay Rays, while Smith took his position behind the plate in May for the LA Dodgers. The audience enjoyed listening to their conversational Q&A with emcee Moth for 30 minutes.

It is a given that fans in the audience Friday night will show up at Patterson Stadium, even for a cold February or March game, waiting, no, expecting to hear GRASS. TRACK. WALL. THAT BALL IS GONE!

Seven words.

Omaha Bound

Merry Christmas, bring on the holidays for UofL fans

Reflecting the spirit of the season at a UofL basketball game with his elf cap is Sutton Wyatt, the 6-year-old son of Jason and Lori Wyatt. The family has had season tickets for 10 seasons (Photos by Mike DeZarn).

Shopping done, the gifts are wrapped, so we are switching into Christmas mode, fully immersing ourselves in the holiday season.

Every sport at the University of Louisville with an attraction all its own, the fans forever faithful in the pursuit of wins with each new challenge. UofL providing dreams for youngsters old and young, diversions from the rigors, and all the other ups and downs of everyday life.

All those new faces in key positions — Neeli Bendapudi, Vince Tyra, Chris Mack, Scott Satterfield, Dani Busboom Kelly, and John Michael Hayden — exceeding expectations. Dan McDonnell and Jeff Walz maintaining unprecedented success, still aiming higher.

Much to be thankful for, knowing the challenges have made us stronger, the issues will be resolved and the university has so much more to achieve. 

Thanks for being Louisville fans. The Observer appreciates your support of Card Game.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

McKay still looking for first hit after start as designated hitter

Brendan McKay following his final home game and a win for the University of Louisville over Kentucky in the 2016 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium (Charlie Springer photo).

Brendan McKay, fresh off a remarkable first pitching start in Major League Baseball over the weekend, made another debut on Monday with Tampa Bay. This time at the plate for the Rays against the Baltimore Orioles.

This one, not quit as impressive, with the former University of Louisville baseball star going 0-for-4 as the designated hitter, batting eighth in the lineup in a 6-3 win over the visiting Orioles.

“I felt like I had some good at-bats,” he said after the game. “Obviously not the results you want. Now it’s just time to find holes in the defense and get your first hit out of the way.”

Two of his at-bats were against Tom Eshelman, a former pitcher at Cal State Fullerton, who threw against UofL in the 2015 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.  McKay grounded out to first with the bases loaded and two outs to end the first inning and a fourth-inning grounder against Eshelman who was making his major league debut.

McKay got picked off second base in the sixth after reaching on the fielder’s choice.

“To see him on the other side, it was kind of funny,” Eshelman said. “I knew what not to throw him because he hit a homer off me in that game. Yeah, congrats to him. To be able to do it two ways in the big leagues is pretty awesome. So, it was definitely a weird feeling facing him in a big league uniform, but it was fun.”

McKay is the fourth player since 1913 to begin his career with a start as a pitcher and a non-pitcher within his first two games, according to the Associated Press.

During his big league debut on Saturday, McKay entered the sixth inning with a perfect game against the Texas Rangers. He left the game after allowing only one hit in sixth innings.

The left-handed McKay is scheduled to pitch again Friday night against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay.

 

 

UofL’s Luke Smith owned Vanderbilt before the distractions

Luke Smith, a Louisville junior, dominating Vanderbilt for eight innings, allowing only one run and three hits before the fatal ninth inning (UofL photo by Jeff Reinking).

Not sure what all the yelling was all about between the University of Louisville and Vanderbilt University baseball players. What is certain, however, is that the verbal sparring in the eighth inning left an ugly taste after what would have been one of college baseball’s best games of the season.

Some players in the Vandy dugout apparently frustrated with Luke Smith’s total dominance on the mound. One or more of them reportedly hurling gay taunts at the Louisville pitcher who had made quick work of the Vandy batters. Julian Infante the third batter, striking out, specifically mouthing something in Smith’s direction.

Luke Smith, with the most impressive pitching performance of the season up to that point, putting UofL in a position to win. In total control up to that point, ready to lead his team into a third game against Vandy and possible in the finals against Michigan.

Moments later, the network camera going to closeup mode, showing Smith mouthing the most common of profanities between bitter antagonists. The umpires taking charge, warning Smith, demanding that Vanderbilt players stay in the dugout.

The magic evaporating quickly for UofL, just one inning after scoring two runs to finally get the lead. A lead that likely would have held without the theatrics. Three measly popups for UofL batters in the bottom of the eighth.

Smith had lost his command and his focus after returning to the mound the ninth. Forced to finally leave the game after facing three batters in the ninth, giving up a walk, a double and the tying run.  The momentum back to Vanderbilt.

No closer in the vicinity. Reliever Michael McAvene loading the bases,  allowing the winning run. The magic gone, along with all the optimism and the possibilities.  Louisville losing 3-2, and eliminated from the 2019 College World Series.

From Sports to Slots: The Cure of Heartbreak for UofL Students

By Terry McMillan

Heartbreak is perhaps a huge understatement following the course of play which happened after the ninth inning. Alas, the season comes crashing to an end where reflection can only be used as a positive to build for the next season, till then what is left for the students of the U of L?

Back to the Drawing Board for Team and Students

 As the summer now moves into that unnerving quiet period. You might be at a loss (no pun intended) how to kill the time which most of it will have been spent supporting the team on the field.

So as reality creeps in, we can advise of one approach that will cure your boredom and will also give you back some financial support should you wish to pursue the option of online gambling.

Let’s have a look at these options in closer detail so you can get a better understanding of how your months ahead can be spent.

  1. Free online casino games:

Head over to https://www.casinobonusesindex.com/free-games/where you can enjoy a comprehensive list of all the major online casino games for free. Themes there include sport, horror, Sci-Fi and movies. Get the best software development on the market within America’s largest content site for everything relating to casinos.

All titles and the entire site, in fact, is accessible through your Mac, Tablet or Mobile and you don’t need to download extra software to back up the play, just click and enjoy the option of this free games page.

  1. Online gambling:

Sports betting is an available option from casino bonuses index.com, through their top ten casino’s, you are able to pick up America’s best online operators who provide the in-play sports betting features. This will now cover the summer sporting events and upcoming seasons of college and major league baseball games. Will Louisville bounce back stronger next time? If you feel you that you have a top tip for the College World Series, then see if it can pay off.

Continue reading “From Sports to Slots: The Cure of Heartbreak for UofL Students”