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.

Louisville clobbers Oklahoma 11-1 in pitchers’ duel

Quite possibly the game of his college career for Logan Taylor, with a two-run hit that ignited a seven-run eighth inning for Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The final score was 11-1 in favor of the University of Louisville over Oklahoma but it really was one of the better pitching duels of the 2017 college baseball season.

Brendan McKay holding Oklahoma at bay until Louisville could get the bats going. He chalked up his 376th strike out, stying Kyle Funkhauser for all-time honors at UofL (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville managing only two hits through the first seven innings off of Oklahoma’s Jake Irvin while Brendan McKay was holding the Sooners to three of them in a 1-1 game after seven. McKay wound up with seven strike outs for the game, bringing his career total to 376 at UofL.

Irvin finally started to look human in the eighth, giving up a walk to Devin Hairston and a single to Colin Lyman. Irvin showing signs of weakness, time for him to go, lifted for reliever Connor Berry.

The guy Logan Taylor wanted to see, propelling a line shot to centerfield, sending Lyman and Josh Stowers home, giving UofL a two-run lead. The Cardinals would collect three more hits, including a two-run triple by Colby Fitch, and four more runs, emerging with a 7-1 lead from the inning.

“It was definitely huge to get some runs to go ahead finally; it was the first lead of the game. But then our guys really poured it on after that,” said Taylor.

The win was the 49th of the season against 10 losses, putting UofL in the driver’s seat. The Cardinals need to win only one game to capture the Regional, facing the winner of Sunday afternoon’s Oklahoma-Xavier game on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Jake Snider’s first homer powers Louisville past Radford

Reliever Sam Bordner slammed the door on Radford after the Highlanders tied the score at 6-6 in the sixth inning. He would give no hits or runs while striking out six batters (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Kade McClure almost made it through the sixth inning before being lifted (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Kade McClure having problems again, providing still more drama in the University of Louisville’s opening game in the NCAA Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McClure struggling to get anybody out, loading the bases in the fourth inning against Radford University.  A double, a walk and a hit batsman, followed by a grand slam by Adam Whitacre, slashing a six-run Louisville lead to four runs. Whitacre would tap McClure again two innings later for a two-run triple, tying the score at 6-6.

Jake Snider breaks out with two hits and three runs batted in.

It was the night Jake Snider would emerge from obscurity, coming through with the first home run of his college career, a two-run blast over right centerfield to put UofL ahead to stay in an 11-6 before a crowd of 3,763. Nice to have some production from the ninth spot in the batting order for a change. 

It has taken a while for Snider to get going but Dan McDonnell was not surprised. “Snider has got one of those swings,” said the UofL coach. “He’s going to be a phenomenal hitter.”

Sam Bordner, a 6-foot-6 right hander, relieving McClure with two on and two outs in the sixth inning. He would quickly shut down the Highlanders, getting six strikeouts while allowing no hits the rest of the way.

Bordner getting better at just the right time, improving his won-lost record to 2-0 and lowering his earned run average to .50.  Turning the off button on the drama, ensuring Louisville advances another day in the NCAA.