Free admission gone for Louisville baseball

This probably could have waited for a couple of weeks.

Like after all the fallout from the UofL Foundation audit and the NCAA Infractions Committee report have died down. Get all the negative news out en masse had to be the thinking behind the timing.

Success in the College World Series would go a long way toward making the new policy more acceptable. Timing is everything.

The freebies for University of Louisville baseball will be nothing but a fond memory in the immediate future. No more free chair backs, zeroing out what was one of the best bargains in town. Going down in history alongside those Convenient Store coupons for UofL football in the mid-Sixties.

After decades of free parking, UofL announced Wednesday that season passes are expected to be offered for as low as $150 – saving fans almost double off the single-game price.

Single-game tickets will begin at $10, which presumably includes prices for tickets on the left field berm area. Whether that price pertains to chair back seats is not clear. UofL students will receive free admission by showing a student ID.

Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich had resisted charging admission for games, indicating that free admission was a reward for fans who have been so supportive of UofL. The only explanation for a change in the official announcement was that “many of our terrific fans have wanted to have a reserved seat in Jim Patterson Stadium for years …”

Sad that the free admission days are going away. But it was probably a luxury that UofL can no longer afford with all the financial belt-tightening that has begun across the campus.

Louisville has unfinished business on fourth trip to Omaha

Brendan McKay picks up his 10th win of the season, and Louisville is in the College World Series for the fourth time in Dan McDonnell’s 11 seasons (Charlie Springer photo).

Brendan McKay was having a tough time controlling his emotions, tearing up when he left the mound of the deciding game in the Super Regional. Wiping his eyes with his gloved hand, knowing it was his last home game.

The University of Louisville left hander had divvied up eight hits to a powerful Kentucky offense until being relieved in the seventh inning. UK runners on first and second, time to go, time to hand the ball off to reliever Sam Bordner.

“Too many emotions to think of, really,” McKay said. “Just about the whole career and just everything in that moment, you know, the last time you’re ever going to pitch on that mound again … You’ve been to a lot of great places and a lot of dark places on that field, and it was just a great feeling to have.” 

None of McKay’s 31 career victories at UofL any sweeter than UofL’s 6-2 win over UK Saturday. The UofL community, distracted by off the field issues, needed a major boost. They got it before a record crowd of 6,237 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Sam Bordner keeps the Wildcats at bay.

“The reason Brendan is arguably the best player to play college baseball is how much his teammates love him,” said UofL Coach Dan McDonnell. “This group’s no problem taking a backseat to him or sharing all the success with him. They know how valuable he’s been to this program, and they’re appreciative that they got to play with this guy.”

McKay would get a big helping hand from Bordner, a 6-foot-6 right-handed sophomore, walking a batter before shutting UK down. He would walk two batters in the ninth but he held the Kitties hitless. Nerves of steel. No doubt who will be UofL’s closer next season.

Drew Ellis back in the groove, three home runs in two games.

After a home run on Friday, Drew Ellis was eager to reaffirm that his hitting slump is in the past. He would, in fact, provide an early omen in this game, the first of his two home runs sailing over the College World Series billboard in left center. A 390-foot blast that one in the second inning. His second of the day, a 305-foot poke clearing the left field bleachers. His 19th and 20th home runs of the season.

Other players shaking off the hitting slumps Devin Hairston and Colby Fitch, each of them collecting three hits off the UK pitching staff. More good news for a UofL baseball team headed to the College World Series for the fourth time in McDonnell’s 11 seasons.

And how about Logan Taylor? Reaching base safely in four of his six at-bats and scoring two runs. He also made an incredible catch crashing into the wall in the ninth inning to help quell UK’s last-ditch rally.

“There’s no way I wasn’t catching that ball,” Taylor said. “The last two years, the games got away from us late in the supers. I just saw it hit and I knew it had to be me.”

Dan McDonnell: More work to do in Omaha.

McDonnell praised UK after the game, describing the Wildcats as one of the better teams UofL played during the season. “I’ve been here 11 years and I can understand the rivalry and the passion the fans have for it. They had a phenomenal team and the future is bright for them.”

No denying, however, that the sweep of arch-rival Kentucky made the win even more meaningful for Louisville, which has won eight of the last nine games against UK. The Cardinals never trailed during the Super Regional.

During the post-game huddle in center field, McDonnell congratulated his players, thanking them for their effort, encouraging them to be gracious in winning. “We’re far from done,” he reminded them. “We will have some important games ahead of us. We are not done just yet.”

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Completion of Cardinal Stadium in 2018 will be loud, symbolic

One of the first impressions one had while checking out the expansion of the University of Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium on Tuesday was that Athletic Director Tom Jurich was wise to get the project going a year earlier than anticipated.

By the time the stadium expansion is completed in 2018, much of the controversy surrounding the school administration will have been resolved, with a new President and Board of Trustees firmly committed to returning to the university’s upward trajectory.

The closing in of the football stadium at that time could well symbolize a university that has come full circle overcoming major challenges while pursuing new objectives and milestones.

One got the feeling Tuesday that the closing end of the North end of the stadium is going to enhance the home field advantage (i.e., significantly raising the noise level). It’s going to be very compact, folks, with the new seating capacity of 65,000 fans.

Michael Ortman has the fun job of managing the stadium during another major expansion.

All kinds of activity going on Tuesday at Cardinal Stadium. Even though the spring semester has ended, the parking lots adjacent to the stadium seem to be near capacity. On the south end of the stadium, numerous UofL athletes headed for the Thornton’s Academic Center for Excellence. Some for study (maybe), many for socialization and recreation, and others for the snack bars.

On the third floor of the Brown & Williamson Club, a local organization is setting up for a get-together.  On the fifth floor, Stadium Manager Michael Ortman is meeting with his staff to discuss the challenges of managing the stadium with all the construction occurring during the 2017 football season.

Stadium capacity will have increased by 10,000 seats by the beginning of the 2018 season — to include 1,000 club seats, 70 premium boxes and 12 exclusive field-level suites. Premium seats will access two upscale gathering areas, including Pepsi Club, offering an elevated view of the field, and a lower-level club that will put fans close to the action.

The Schnellenberger Complex will have doubled in size for expanded weight room and conditioning facilities, as well as an enhanced training space with hydrotherapy.

Completion of the project in 2018 could not come at a better time, hopefully with much of the conflict at the university in the past. The stadium expansion reflecting strong support not only for the football program but for a university that serves as the heart and soul of the community.

UofL’s Nick Bennett handcuffs Duke on four hits

Freshman Nick Bennett pauses for a moment of reverence and solitude each inning before he takes the mound for the University of Louisville baseball team.

 

With a couple of All American pitching on Fridays and Saturdays, one of the big unknowns was who would earn the Sunday starting spot for the University of Louisville baseball team.

Nick Bennett off to a 4-0 start and a promising future with Louisville baseball.

That question has been answered with the emergence of Nick Bennett, a freshman who was down the list of potential starters in February. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound left hander from Cincinnati Moeller High School showed why as UofL defeated Duke 10-0 to wrap up another conference series.

Bennett, looking like he could have gone the distance, allowed the visiting Blue Devils only four hits while striking out five batters and yielding no bases on balls. Confidently securing the series after Brendan McKay had dropped a 5-3 decision on Friday and Kade McClure survived a 7-5 decision on Saturday.

Bennett’s longest previous outing was 6.1 innings against Wake Forest on April 9, while Sunday’s effort moved his record to 4-0 on the season, including a 3-0 mark in the ACC.

Sunday’s shutout was the eighth of the season for the Cardinals, who improved to 33-6 overall and a conference-leading 17-4 in the ACC.

A day after scoring seven runs in the second inning of Saturday’s win, the Cardinals gained control with a three-run third inning. Following back-to-back singles from McKay and Drew Ellis, Devin Mann drove both players home with his two-run double to left field. 

Sophomore righthander Riley Thompson followed Bennett and registered three strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief to complete the shutout for the Cardinals, who moved to 23-2 at home this season.

How to win the Golden Ticket for top Louisville sports events

The Louisville Sports Commission, in the business of attracting major sports events to Louisville, is conducting a Golden Ticket raffle to support the organization’s marketing efforts.
 
Karl Schmitt is all sports all the time, promoting Louisville as a major events sports town.

Karl Schmitt, the President and CEO, says five of the last six winners have been University of Louisville fans, each confirming it was one of the best years of their lives.

Only 400 raffle tickets will be sold for donations of $100 each. The winner will win two tickets to each of the following:
 
  • 2017 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks – 3rd floor grandstand
  • 2017 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway – Bluegrass Club
  • 2017 UofL or UK (winner’s choice) – every regular season home football game
  • 2017-18  UofL or UK (winner’s choice) – every regular season home basketball game
  • 2017 Louisville Bats – season tickets
  • 2017-18 UofL Women’s Basketball – season tickets
  • 2017 Paul Hornung Award Banquet VIP guest

To purchase raffle tickets, call Hadassah Chilton at 587-7767 or get them online at http://www.kyexpo.org/goldenTicket.html.

The winner will be drawn on April 25, 2017, at 9:55 a.m. on WHAS-11 Great Day Live! The winner does need not to be present to win.