Not a good day for University of Louisville baseball.
Three hours, twenty-two minutes of slow, agonizing, drawn out drama. The Cardinals managing only four hits in a 6-2 loss to Florida State, exiting the ACC Championship tournament early for the third consecutive season.
Making FSU’s Tyler Holton look like a world beater, striking out 10 Cardinal batters while allowing only five runners to reach base in eight innings. His only mistake giving up a 420-foot home run to Brendan McKay in the sixth inning.
The third consecutive loss to FSU and the fourth loss in the last five games. The latest loss confirming that the team ranked second nationally for most of the season has some serious challenges to overcome as the NCAA tournament approaches.
The only good news following the latest loss is, thanks to an impressive regular season record, Louisville is assured of hosting a regional tournament at Jim Patterson next week.
Brendan McKay badly needed to rebound from a dismal performance that capped a three-game losing streak at the end of the regular season. And he got it, getting the University of Louisville baseball team off to a good start in the ACC championship tournament.
McKay got exactly what he wanted, his ninth win of the season as UofL walloped Notre Dame 10-3 before a predominantly UofL crowd of 6,945 fans at Louisville Slugger Field on Thursday.
McKay (9-3) worked six innings in his 14th pitching start of the season, allowing seven hits while walking four batters and striking out eight batters. He has now posted eight or more strikeouts in 27 of his career collegiate pitching appearances.
The big blow was McKay’s two-out bases-loaded home run in the third inning, putting UofL on top 5-0, his 16th four bagger of the season. Drew Ellis got the the Cardinals on the board in the second inning with a blast of the left field wall.
Still another memorable game, too, for Josh Stowers, with four hits in five at-bats, scoring three runs and driving in another.
Michael Bollmer was a two-way player, a power hitter and a shutdown pitcher, with a promising college baseball future when he committed in 2013 to play at the University of Louisville. Dreams of greatness were reasonable for someone blessed with his talent.
Fate would intervene, however, with a series of injuries forcing Bollmer to the sidelines. Today, the UofL senior is finally healthy, pulling for his team, hoping his name will be called. He will be ready if and when Coach Dan McDonnell beckons.
Bollmer was catching the eyes of pro scouts at Lexington Bryan Station when he was recruited by McDonnell. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder batted .424 and posted a 4-2 won-lost record, with a 2.15 earned run average his senior season.
“When UofL was recruiting Michael, they were recruiting him as a pitcher and a first baseman,” recalls his father Bob Bollmer. “He was one of the top pitchers in Lexington coming out of high school. He was the Fayette County Player of the Year and he was first team All-State during his junior and senior years. We were really looking forward to watching him at Louisville.”
Two weeks before the beginning of the 2013 season, Michael would tear his UCL in his pitching arm. The injury would require Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss his entire freshman year. After recovering from the arm surgery, he would hurt his back lifting weights, herniating a disc, requiring him to have two back surgeries the same year.
“Michael tried to come back in 2014 but he really wasn’t ready,” said Bob. “I think he batted once that season. He really couldn’t work out much with the team because of his back.”
He played in nine games during in 2015 and, after injuring an ankle, appeared in only three games during his redshirt junior season in 2016. “That was another major setback,” said his dad. “He had been playing well in the fall.”
One month before the beginning of this season, Michael’s best friend (Cameron Hart) in high school, also a baseball player, was killed in an automobile accident in Lexington. Michael was a speaker at the funeral. “I dedicated this season to him, and he’s my ‘why’ for this season,” said the UofL reserve.
Michael has played in 14 games this season, with five hits in 17 at bats, including a three-run home run against Morehead State. He was actually going to get to start a game on Senior Night against Florida State but, as fate would have it, the game was rained out and cancelled.
“It has been one thing after another, but Michael has never questioned whether he went to the right school,” said his dad. “He loves his team and he loves the school.”
Michael, who’s brother Bob, Jr. is also attending UofL, received a Bachelor’s degree in sports administration and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in special education. He learned Spanish in early grade school and believes it will enable him to help more people. He intends to work with special education students and possibly become an athletic director.
Michael says he has no remorse about missing out on a professional baseball career. “Pro baseball was very much on my mind, but I think everything has worked out the way God wanted them,” he said.
He remains enthusiastic despite all the setbacks and confident that he can still contribute during his final weeks with the UofL baseball program. “That’s just how I was brought up, to finish what I started,” said Michael. “I have become brothers with my teammates and I want to do anything I can to help them get better.”
Despite his lack of playing time, Michael will be ready if McDonnell needs him during the post season tournaments. “I’m always ready, locked into the game, ready to going in and make a difference, no matter what,” he said. “I have all the confidence in the world. I will be ready.”
University of Louisville Baseball Coach Dan McDonnell is congratulated by Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich for his 500th win before Friday night’s game against Florida State. McDonnell won his 500th, 501st and 502nd wins last weekend at Clemson.
He was on a three-game losing streak after the 8-2 loss to the Seminoles on Friday, having lost to Indiana mid-week and in the first two weekend games against Florida State at Jim Patterson Stadium. Current won-lost record in his 11th season is 502-200.
Hopefully getting the garbage out of the system before the post-season arrives.
They had a nice fireworks show Thursday night at Jim Patterson Stadium to celebrate the University of Louisville baseball team winning its third consecutive Atlantic Division title in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Not many people on hand for the post-game celebration, however.
Most in the crowd of 3,487 had hit the exits in the eighth inning when it became apparent that a happy ending was not in the Cards. A long, long game, almost four hours, UofL giving up 14 hits in a 12-9 loss to Florida State.
Another night of struggle for Brendan McKay, who some analysts describe as one of the best to ever play in college baseball. That’s based largely on the fact that he has been a first team All-American for three seasons and a two-time winner of the John Olerud Award for the best two-way player.
McKay has struggled on the mound in some recent games, lacking consistency, searching for the strike zone. Still another shaky outing in his latest appearance, chased from the game after giving up four runs in the fifth inning — seven runs, five hits and four walks for the game. His record going into post-season play is 8-3.
Not much help from the bullpen this night. Jake Sparger, in relief, shouldering his first loss in five decisions, coughing up four more runs over two-and-a-third innings.
UofL highlights were provided by Josh Stowers and Drew Ellis, each contributing three-run home runs.