Five-time Louisville back to the College World Series

Bobby Miller and Glenn Albanese celebrate Louisville’s fourth trip to Omaha in the past seven seasons and fifth overall (Photo by Charlie Springer).
Dan McDonnell is getting to be a familiar face in Omaha (Photo by Charlie Springer).

Bobby Miller may have been denied a no hitter, but he will always remember his performance against East Carolina as one of his most rewarding victories. His seventh win of the season securing a trip to Omaha and the College World Series for the University of Louisville baseball team.

Miller giving up only one hit in a 12-0 win.  A game in which UofL was never threatened by one of the best-hitting teams in college baseball. Allowing only three players to reach base while striking out six batters and giving up two bases on balls. The UofL sophomore faced the minimum through six innings, allowing just a walk in the third that was erased by a double play.

Miller’s no-hit bid coming to an end in the ninth inning on a single to right by pinch hitter Thomas Francisco. Miller exiting to a standing ovation before returning for a curtain call from the nearly 4,500 in attendance at Jim Patterson Stadium.  

Bobby Miller closing the door on East Carolina holding the Pirates hitless for eight innings (Photos by Charlie Springer).

The 2019 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium will largely be remembered as one of total dominance for the University of Louisville baseball team over East Carolina. From beginning to end, starting with a 14-1 win over the Pirates in the Friday opener.

At the plate, Louisville scored its 26 runs off of 32 hits, none of which were home runs. On the mound, it got two strong outings from starters Reid Detmers and Miller. The pitching staff should be well rested for the College World Series, which gets under way on Friday.

This will be Coach Dan McDonnell’s fifth trip to Omaha in 13 seasons at Louisville, including four times in the past seven season. He’s not making any proclamations or making any comparisons, having won only two games  in eight CWS games.

“It’s a whole new tournament. It’s a crazy game,” McDonnell said. “That’s what you have to love about baseball. It’s not the bigger, stronger, faster team that wins. It’s not necessarily the most talented team or the team with the most draft picks, it’s who plays the best.” 

Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton

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UofL batters unload on East Carolina in Super Regional opener

Louisville left-hander Reid Detmers gets plenty of support while posting his 12th win of the season at Jim Patterson Stadium (Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton).

Ten University of Louisville batters up, 10 UofL batters down after the first three innings. Been there, done that a couple of weeks ago. Not a good way to get started in a Super Regional. 

Attendance for Super Regional opener was 2,955 (Cindy Rice Shelton photos)

Not for long, not with Logan Wyatt ending the pitching dreams of East Carolina’s Jake Agnos. Second batter up in the fourth Wyatt would launch a double to right center field.

Tyler Fitzgerald would follow with another two-bagger, scoring Wyatt from second. The beating was about to begin.

When the inning was over, UofL had scored four runs on five hits, including another double by Danny Oriente and singles by Jake Snider and Drew Campbell. The Cardinals would follow up with five more runs in the fifth inning, three in the sixth and two in the seventh, burying East Carolina 14-1 in the opening game.

Left hander Reid Detmers, who has gone begging for support in more than a few games this season, was the beneficiary of the slugfest. He would be credited with his 12th win against four losses, allowing only five hits while striking out six batters.

UofL had 18 hits in the game, led by Fitzgerald with the first four-hit game of his career, along with four runs scored and two runs batted in. Dunn, Wyatt, Lucas, Alex Binelas, Snider, Oriente and Drew Campbell each had multi-hit games as well. 

The win ended a 10-game losing streak to East Carolina. Couldn’t have come at a better time.

Gallery by Cindy Rice Shelton

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Tough times make for better Louisville baseball in post-season play

By Ed Peak

There are certain things I know about this University of Louisville baseball team. I know it is not coach Dan McDonnell’s best or most talented in his 13 seasons. This Cardinal team has had more than its share of ups and downs.

There was so much drama in Monday's game I had to turn my radio broadcast off at work.

Getting just four hits and scoring two runs in two Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament losses last week clearly signaled a red flag. After a sluggish win Friday over UIC in the first NCAA Tournament game, Illinois State beat the Cardinals to send the No. 7 overall seed into the losers bracket. They would hang on for a two-run win over Indiana on Sunday.

UofL lost top reliever Michael McAvene to an ejection with two outs in the ninth inning against IU when he questioned umpire Ken Langford’s call of a pitch. He did not get a warning, he got ejected. Umpires sometimes overreact. Players sometime overreact. He will sit out three more games. That’s the rule, fair or not.

Dan McDonnell has had plenty of success but says it has never come easily.

There was so much drama in Monday’s game I had to turn the radio broadcast off at work. When Louisville went up 3-1, I thought this might be in the bag. But a line drive mishandled by Trey Leonard in centerfield was deemed a three base error. The next batter singled and the game was tied 3-3. Nothing came easy in the Regional.

“It shouldn’t come easy,” said McDonnell. “All of these teams have done something that has gotten them here. I talk all the time about toughness. Everything in life isn’t going to be easy, go the way you think it should. The same on the baseball field.”

The thing that impresses me most about this team is its mental toughness. It is team-first driven. These players seem to really care for each other. A lot of that had to do with McDonnell and the way he coaches and the kind of person he is.

When was the last time you heard a Louisville player in trouble off the field or discipline for an off the field problem. Never. Athletes and coaches a like have egos. Bigger than most people. They are sure of their abilities beyond belief sometimes. 

What also impresses me is the Louisville players are classy, short on ego.  No, they aren’t perfect and they’re not choir boys. Just look at some of  players that have gone to play professionally. A long list, including Brenden McKay, Will Smith, Drew Ellis, Zack Burdi, Corey Ray, Nick Solak, Chris Dominguez. I’m sure I’ve left some names out but the list is impressive.

Toughness and class abound in the McDonnell’s baseball program, and UofL will continue to reap the benefits in post-season play.

Binelas gets a grizzly hug, UofL baseball another Super Regional

Trey Leonard is among the first players to congratulate Chris Binelas following that bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning. The ball eluding the second baseman, giving the University of Louisville baseball team a 4-3 win over Illinois State.

Alex Binelas comes through the base-loaded winning single in the bottom of the ninth (Photos by Charlie Springer)

Leonard, replacing Lucas Dunn in centerfield in the eighth inning, misjudging a fly ball in the top of the ninth. Two outs at the time, UofL ahead by two runs, needing one out. Leonard’s error will open the gate for Illinois State, tying the score on the next play. 

Visions of an extended extra inning games looming for the crowd of 2,878 at Jim Patterson Stadium. The game had moved along at such a nice pace, lasting only 2:48 of playing time. No extra innings today, thank you.

Leonard, in a quick reversal of fortunes, reaching base on a fielder’s choice, making it to third after Justin Lavey is forced out at home plate. He is the player who scores the winning run.

The UofL sophomore quickly chasing down Binelas, smothering him with an embrace that could only best be described as a grizzly bear hug. Leonard forever grateful, no words needed.

The win was UofL’s 47th win of the season, against 16 losses, sending the Cardinals to a Super Regional for the eighth time in the program’s history and sixth in the last seven years.

*   *   *

Left fielder Jake Snider is at his best when when it counts the most — in NCAA post-season play. Snider is 3-for-4 at the plate, including two doubles, and was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. 

UofL has seven other players named to the All-Louisville Regional Team: Zeke Pinkham, Justin Lavey, Tyler Fitzgerald, Alex Binelas, Drew Campbell, Danny Oriente and Luke Smith.

A new day for Luke Smith, and UofL is in Regional finale

Luke Smith returned from near obscurity in a must-win game against Illinois State to lead the Cardinals to the Regional Championship game (Photos by Jared Anderson).

It’s a new day for Luke Smith. Waking up Monday morning “feeling brand new, ’cause the dreams he has been dreaming has finally came true.” He keeps going and going on the mound and when the game is over, Louisville has emerged with an 11-2 win over Illinois State in a must-win game.

No doubt about who the man was on the mound in the second game NCAA Regional game on Sunday. None other Luke Smith, taking names, taking charge (Photos by Jared Anderson).

Smith was the last pitcher anyone could have expected going eight and a third innings in what could have been the final game for the University of Louisville baseball team.  Submerged in a hitting slump, the end is painfully near.

Needing someone to lift them up, to cut through the doldrums. A 9-7 win over Indiana in the first game Sunday didn’t hurt, with a crazy ending that got Mike McAvene suspended for four days. A wild and crazy day, two memorable games, setting the stage for a classic finish.

Probably the least imposing person on the roster, Luke Smith had but disappeared from the rotation until a few weeks ago. Came out of hiding in the 11th inning against Indiana on May 15th. Showed some different stuff that night. Handcuffed the Hoosiers, one hit in two innings, big win for him and UofL. His fifth win against no losses.

That brief showing had to have made quite an impression on Coach Dan McDonnell. Trusting him with the immediate future of Louisville baseball. Smith in and out of trouble early against Illinois State, looking lost at times.

Especially in the bottom of the fourth, with two Illinois State runners on first and third. Eyes shifting toward bull pen. Not to worry. Smith is up to the challenge, forcing a fly out to right field, and striking out the final two batters.

The Louisville batters, perhaps desperate with their backs against the wall, more than likely inspired by Luke Smith, would break out en masse in the eighth inning. Posting six more runs, putting the game out of reach. A dream game for Luke Smith, and the 46th win of the season. 

Say goodbye to the lethargy.