Louisville baseball returning to Omaha, expecting more this time around

Nick-SolakNick Solak delivered the big blow, a two-run home run, in the fifth inning to give UofL a lead it would never relinquish while punching its ticket to another College World Series.

Back to the College World Series again, second year in a row, third time in seven years, the University of Louisville baseball team exceeding expectations year after year.

Something different this time around, however, because these coaches and players will not be satisfied with just getting there again.

“The veteran players were disappointed in themselves last year (when they lost the first two games),” said Coach Dan McDonnell. “Our ultimate objective is to win a national championship. These players expect to compete day in and day out. To achieve greatness, you have to shoot for it.

Celebrating with the record crowd of 6,007 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Celebrating with the record crowd of 6,007 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.

“You gotta have high goals, you gotta dream big. I let the kids set the goals and we just try to live up to them.”

Bergen appeared to be in control going into the fifth inning, his team owning a 4-2 lead. But the Cardinals were figuring him out, Zach Lucas leading off with a double to left field and score on Cole Sturgeon’s first hit, a sharply hit ball to left.

The dog pile was restrained with higher goals in mind.
The dog pile was restrained with higher goals in mind.

Then would come the hit Nick Solak will never forget, sending a towering fly ball high over the left field fence, scoring Sturgeon ahead of him and putting Louisville on top for the first time, 5-2. It was only the UofL freshman’s second home run in his college career.

Anthony Kidston, despite giving up seven hits and walking two batters, would somehow find ways to get out of trouble, wrapping up his ninth win of the season without a loss. He still hasn’t lost a game since his junior year in high school. His sixth inning single would push two runners across the plate, providing some much-needed insurance at the time.

Sturgeon earned his second straight game jersey from McDonnell, with three hits and three runs batted in, plus an inning and a third on the mound. “He just keeps coming through when we need him,” said McDonnell.

Jeff Gardner comes through with a run-scoring single in the third inning.
Jeff Gardner comes through with a run-scoring single in the third inning.

And what about freshman reliever Zach Burdi, coming into the game having thrown for only 10 innings, giving up eight hits, walking seven batters and allowing eight runs.

Asking him to pitch against Max Pentacost, a first round MLB draft pick with a 423 batting average, having a near field day against UofL pitchers this night.  Pentacost managing only a weak fly to right field.

Older brother Nick Burdi slamming the door in the bottom of the ninth, sending the Cardinals back to Omaha one more time.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.