The University of Louisville baseball team was back in town Tuesday, enjoying the friendly confines of Jim Patterson Stadium where the UofL had yet to lose after 15 games at home.
Little drama in this one with the Cardinals pounding out 17 hits in an 11-1 win over Western Kentucky.mWins over WKU are not taken lightly, not with the series dating back to 1924. With the win, UofL now owns a 65-64 advantage in the series.
Brendan McKay, who had one hit in 10 at-bats in the weekend series against Boston College, had three hits, including a double, while scoring two runs and batting in another. He is currently hitting .431. Devin Hairston, at his best with runners on base, had two hits and drove in two runs while raising his batting average to .340.
The win improved the second-ranked Cardinals to 22-2 for the season. They travel to Virginia for a three-game series this weekend.
Budweiser in hand, I’m mingling amongst the rag-tag band of pedestrians assembled along the warning track at Jim Patterson Stadium. We don’t know each other and come from walks of life as different as they are disconnected, but a distinct commonality make us a we on this brisk Saturday morning: we’re all Cardinal fans, and all of us have foregone the other endless possibilities that Possibility City lends to its citizens on weekends to watch the University of Louisville play baseball today.
I remember when I started going to UofL baseball games. I was still an undergraduate student at the time. The stadium was nice and new, the beer was cold, and sold, the hot dogs were warm and, on the right night, dirt cheap, and a valid student ID doubled as a voucher for general admission: glass half full, students got free tickets, glass half empty, renting a seat at Jim Patterson for an afternoon ran me around five grand. But that’s a conversation for another day: the fact of the matter was that I had every reason to go watch the Cards play the great American past time, except, of course, a desire to watch Louisville baseball.
My University was a football powerhouse, a national contender in basketball: baseball was a side show, a season between seasons, an excuse to skip class and drink beer on weekdays with the fiery New England Equestrian girls who, for some reason, saw it fit to hang out with me and my undeserving friends.
Fast forward a decade, and I’m impatiently waiting on an opening pitch with an eagerness normally reserved for a tip or kick off. I study batting practice as furiously as the folks at the Brandeis Building doing bar preparation. I had done some bar preparation of my own at the Granville, which has been a pre-game tradition of mine since the days I enjoyed the company of those infamous horse ladies from Connecticut. Ten years have gone by since this ritual was first inaugurated, and both myself and the baseball team have enjoyed a considerable amount of growth and maturation in that time. I look on as the second baseman for Boston College takes a cut at a fairly decent curve ball, which he rockets foul down the left field line. I’m taken back a couple of Junes ago, when David Olmedo-Barrera sent a similar pitch in a similar direction. A call was subsequently made from a television monitor in Atlanta that could have been decided from a ladder on Third Street, and the Cards’ season was over. The following year, a shocking walk off grand slam was given up by power closer Zach Burdi after loading the bases with a three run lead: once again, what seemed to be a date with postseason destiny became a stunning loss, ending a season defined by excellence and success with a question mark, in lieu of the exclamation point the Cardinal faithful hope for and, at this point, expect.
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.