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Spell is broken, Louisville baseball is done

June 9, 2015 2 Comments
Josh Rogers is greeted by teammates after being lifted in the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead.

Josh Rogers is greeted by teammates after being lifted in the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead.

It may take a couple of days to learn what Josh Rogers said to the third base coach after shutting down the Cal State Fullerton batters in 1-2-3 order in the seventh inning. Whatever it was it changed the atmosphere at Jim Patterson Stadium on Monday.

Here was Josh Rogers sailing along, having given up three hits, only two since the first inning off the home run off the bat of the CSF batter with the hyphenated name (David Oldmeda-Barrera). University of Louisville fans could sense something special was about to happen.

The spell was broken, the “humble and hungry” spirit disrupted. Things had changed. Rogers was visibly emotional returning to the dugout. He would return to the mound in the eighth inning. Two pitches. Both balls. One sailing high over the catcher into the backstop. He was done.

While what followed wasn’t exactly what had happened in the loss in the first game but it closely resembled some recent late game breakdowns. Reliever Drew Harrington unable to find his stuff, Lincoln Henzman pitching himself into trouble, and ace closer Nick Burdi looking all too human, pegged with his second loss in three days.

* * *

ESPN could learn some technology lessons from the golf channels on finding a baseball on a clearly lit field. No less than five viewings of the replay off the bat of the guy with two last names could confirm what the hit over the left fence was fair or foul. We may never know for sure. There was little choice except to go with the call on the field.  [I’m told the decision was made elsewhere by someone using “enhanced video” but that doesn’t quite cut it for the viewing audience. Golf has it right.]

*  *  *

Dan McDonnell was visibly emotional in the post game press conference, tearing up, breaking up, need to pause. Here’s the quote you’ll never read in the Courier-Journal:  “These are the times you’re glad you’re a Christian. These are the times you’re glad you have a spiritual faith. You hear me quote the Bible when we win. I’m not perfect … (pause) … I’m a sinner … (pause) … but I love God and I know he loves me. And he’s blessed this program … (pause) … and we’ll be back.”

*   *   *

And they will be back next season with the vast majority of players who posted a 47-17 record this year, losing only three starting seniors in Sutton Whiting, Zach Lucas and Mike White, along with Kyle Funkhouser who was the 35th pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Major League Draft.

This team exceeded expectations all season long. UofL baseball will be back in big way in 2016.

Whiting family thrives at UofL

June 8, 2015 0 Comments
Bob Whiting

Bob Whiting

One University of Louisville baseball fan with a vested interest in the success of the Cardinals is Bob Whiting. He’s spending as much time in Louisville these days as he does in his hometown of New Wilmington, Penn.

Bob and his wife, Susan, have had four children participating in UofL athletic program over the past several years, including Sutton Whiting, who currently plays second base for the baseball team. Sutton was preceded by his older brother, Boomer, who played outfield in the 2007 College World Series.

His daughters, Molly and Addy, have been members of the UofL Ladybirds, a team that also competes for national honors on an annual basis.

Bob was situated on the party deck on the first base side during Sunday’s game between UofL and Cal State Fullerton.

Louisville baseball now 1 win away from Omaha

June 7, 2015 2 Comments
Logan Taylor's is greeted by his UofL teammates after his first home run in his collegiate career.

Logan Taylor is greeted by a swarm of UofL teammates after hitting his first home run in his collegiate career.

No shortage of heroes for the University of Louisville baseball team in a 9-3 win over Cal State Fullerton, the first win for UofL in five tries against CSF, putting the Cardinals within one win of going to the College World Series a third straight season.

Brendan McKay faces challenges head on.

Brendan McKay faces challenges head on.

Cool, calm and always collected Brendan McKay allowing the Titans only one run in seven innings. He would be relieved in the eighth after walking the first batter who would later score. For the day, he would give up eight hits, two bases on balls, and two runs. Nine strikeouts as well.

McKay looks forward to big challenges, noting that life will be full of them, whether it be on the baseball field or elsewhere. “We will have a lot of challenges and we have to deal with them,” he said over the weekend.  “The one right now happens to be baseball.”

That’s a very mature 19-year-old player speaking, the one chosen Freshman of the Year for 2015 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. UofL baseball is blessed.

And what about Logan Taylor, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on June 21st? Possibly in Omaha? As a pinch hitter, he would collect his first collegiate home run, driving in two runs to improve UofL’s lead to 6-1. He was, in fact, three for three for day with three runs batted in.

Corey Ray, taking note of deep outfielders in that sixth inning, landing a ball in short centerfield to push two other runs across. He was three of five for the game, including a double and three runs batted in.

Danny Rosenbaum, who sees action mostly when is McKay is pitching, coming through with four hits, one RBI and a run. Got to make more room for him.

Devin Hairston continuing his post-season surge, also collecting three hits and an RBI while also scoring a run. His transformation continues.

Monday’s game is scheduled at 7:05 p.m., and will be televised by ESPN2.

Still two wins away from another College World Series

June 6, 2015 0 Comments

Still two wins away from another College World Series.

No one expected it to be easy for the University of Louisville baseball team against Cal State Fullerton. The Titans  have won the NCAA championship four times — in 1979, 1984, 1995 and 2004 — and have been a consistent contender.

UofL is 0-4 against Cal State, including a Super Regional sweep in 2009, an 8-6 loss early this season and the 12-inning 3-2 loss at Jim Patterson Stadium on Saturday.

Kyle Funkhouser in control much of the way, giving up only five hits and two bases on balls through seven innings. Sending him back to the mound in the eighth inning a bit much, a little too optimistic.

Expect the Cardinals to start reversing the trend Sunday. There’s too much on the line. They’ve seen the best pitching Cal State Fullerton has to offer. They collected 12 hits, including two home runs, in a pitcher’s duel on Saturday, leaving 11 runners on base. That won’t happen again.

Sunday’s first pitch will be at Noon, and will be televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.

Kenny Klein surprised by Louisville staff and media

June 4, 2015 2 Comments
Tom Jurich and Kenny Klein raise a toast to their working relationship and friendship at the University of Louisville.

Tom Jurich and Kenny Klein raise a toast to their working relationship and friendship at UofL.

Another late night for Kenny Klein, the sports information director at the University of Louisville on Wednesday. But this time the focus was on him, not one of UofL’s 22 teams.

The time was around 6:45 p.m. when he tweeted the news that Anas Mahmoud would be having knee surgery to repair a knee and would be out for six weeks. Kenny’s day was not done yet, however, finally leaving the office with assistant Rocco Gasparro to attend a hospitality event sponsored by Gatorade  at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

When he walked into the PNC Cub, Klein was greeted by applause from a lot of familiar faces. No sign of anyone from Gatorade. He figured quickly what was up, passing by a large sheet cake with the words, “Congratulations, Kenny.” It was a surprise party to congratulate him on being named a member of the Hall of Fame by the College Sports Information Directors of America. He will be inducted June 16th in Atlanta.

Over the next hour or so, Klein would be praised for by members of the media, his staff and his boss Tom Jurich as the best in the business. Jurich described Klein as a role model, a professional committed to the highest principles, thanking him for his expertise during many challenging times for himself and the university.  “There have been a few rough spots along the way, but Kenny has always helped through those times,” he said.

One by one, such notables as Fred Cowgill, Howie Lindsey, Jeff Greer, Russ  Brown, Jody Demling, and numerous other personalities told their stories, about Klein’s accessibility, his recognition of competing interests between the coaching staffs and the media, and his ability to serve both in a professional way. His staff was equally complimentary of Klein’s work ethic, noting that he’s always first one in the office in the morning and the last to leave at night.

While Klein is the ultimate professional, he also likes to have little fun, sometimes playing elaborate pranks on staff members and friends. A photographer told a tale about how a photo of his car wound up in the classified section of the Courier-Journal. The only problem was that he hadn’t placed the ad the asking price was about $5,000 less than the value of the car. He got lots and lots of calls, of course.

Alluding to the pranks, Klein declared, “Sports are supposed to be fun so we try hard to have a little enjoyment and laughs on the job.”

Kenny gave credit to Donnie Russell for luring him to UofL a couple of years after he graduated from Murray State University. His first job was sports information director at Morehead State. Russell, a former play-by-play TV announcer was also assistant athletic director for external affairs, hired Klein in 1983 after Joe Yates went to LSU. “He’s the reason I’m at the University of Louisville,” he said. “I will be forever grateful to Donnie for hiring me.”

He also had some high praise for his boss, Tom Jurich, choking up at one point, saying, “He’s my best friend and the best boss ever,” he said. “I love this job, what a great job, with so many rewarding moments and highlights over the years.”

UofL Academic Center update

June 3, 2015 0 Comments

Construction has yet to begin on the University of Louisville’s new Academic Center for Excellence, which is expected to be complete by September 2016. The bid process has been completed, with three local companies submitting estimates.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony was held in February, with a May construction start anticipated. That didn’t happen so the work will begin this summer if the project is to meet the deadline.Screenshot 2015-06-03 11.12.26

According a UofL website, three local companies submitted estimates for the project. They were Messer Construction, which bid $14,479,000, Wehr Construction, $15,227,700, and Abel Construction, $16,300,000.

The new facility it an addition to the existing stadium structure, and involves construction of a two level academic center at the south end of the main concourse of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The two stories will be elevated above the existing berm south of the main concourse, below the existing South Terrace (Norton Terrace). Functions include a central dining/gathering area, kitchen, tutoring rooms, learning labs, group study areas, auditorium and offices.

Work includes connection to existing utilities, structural foundations, steel structure, masonry, aluminum curtain wall system, steel framed interior partitions, doors and hardware, finishes, two traction passenger elevators, a hydraulic service elevator, steel stairs, trash chute, fire suppression system, mechanical and electrical support facilities and systems.

Work also includes providing new fiber optic cable system and connecting it to the existing fiber optics cabinet north of Central Ave., and to the stadium’s main frame system in the basement area in the northwest corner of the stadium.

Louisville drubs Michigan, off to another Super Regional

May 31, 2015 0 Comments

Happy days are here again.

The University of Louisville is off to its third consecutive Super Regional, totally dominating Michigan 13-4 in a game in which the Cardinals had 14 hits and seven innings of masterful pitching from Josh Rogers.

Rogers, a sophomore left-hander from New Albany, was making his second start in an NCAA Regional, a little nervous he admitted after the game. Reality struck quickly in the first inning when Carmen Benedetti clocked him for a two-run home run, jump starting Michigan with a two-run lead.

Devin Hairston earns outstanding player award in Louisville Regional. (UofL photo)

Devin Hairston earns outstanding player award in Louisville Regional. (UofL photo)

Rogers shakes it off, settles down and gives up only four hits while striking out five batters the rest of the way.

“I was nervous,” said Rogers during the post-game press conference. “If anybody says they’re not nervous before a game like this, they’re lying to you. I had some nerves going, but I got calmed down, settled in there and, after that home run, I just gave my team a chance to win.”

Nick Solak breaks the ice for UofL the next inning with  his third home run of season. He would followup the next inning sending a runner home on a sacrifice to tie the game at 2-2, and still another runner on a single in a three-run sixth inning. By then, UofL owned a 8-3 advantage.

“We were very consistent all weekend — never really panicked,” Louisville Coach Dan McDonnell said. “We handled everybody’s best punch.”

Sutton Whiting, Zach Lucas and Logan Taylor added two hits each for UofL, improving its season record to 46-16.

Coach Dan McDonnell had some special praise for Devin Hairston who was named the Regional’s Most Outstanding Player after going five-for-ten at the plate and scoring four runs over the weekend.

“He’s the epitome of a great week of practice,” McDonnell said. “He and (assistant) coach (Eric) Snider just tweaked the swing a little bit, got him right.”

McDonnell can’t wait for a few more days of practice. Tweaking, tweaking, always tweaking.
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