Few takers for fireworks, Florida State chases McKay

Not one of Brendan McKay’s better nights on the mound in his final regular season appearance for the University of Louisville baseball team (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)

They had a nice fireworks show Thursday night at Jim Patterson Stadium to celebrate the University of Louisville baseball team winning its third consecutive Atlantic Division title in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Not many people on hand for the post-game celebration, however.

Most in the crowd of 3,487 had hit the exits in the eighth inning when it became apparent that a happy ending was not in the Cards. A long, long game, almost four hours, UofL giving up 14 hits in a 12-9 loss to Florida State.

Another night of struggle for Brendan McKay, who some analysts describe as one of the best to ever play in college baseball. That’s based largely on the fact that he has been a first team All-American for three seasons and a two-time winner of the John Olerud Award for the best two-way player.

McKay has struggled on the mound in some recent games, lacking consistency, searching for the strike zone. Still another shaky outing in his latest appearance, chased from the game after giving up four runs in the fifth inning — seven runs, five hits and four walks for the game. His record going into post-season play is 8-3.

Not much help from the bullpen this night. Jake Sparger, in relief, shouldering his first loss in five decisions, coughing up four more runs over two-and-a-third innings. 

UofL highlights were provided by Josh Stowers and Drew Ellis, each contributing three-run home runs.

Josh Stowers is welcomed at home plate by his teammates after hitting a three-run home run, his fifth round tripper of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
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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.

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Dan McDonnell earns 500th, intense one over Clemson

Dan McDonnell earns his 500th win and a share of the ACC’s Atlantic Division title (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Lots of base runners for Clemson, but 16 of them left in waiting on the base paths.

One of those long, long games, this one three hours and forty-nine minutes, with the outcome always in doubt. The kind of game that ages college baseball coaches prematurely.

Happy ending, however, with still another milestone for Dan McDonnell. His University of Louisville baseball team chalking up an important 4-2 win at Clemson in the first game of a three-day series. No. 500 for McDonnell, coming in the 50th game of his 11th season at UofL.

He is, of course, the winningest coach in the program’s history, averaging 45.6 wins per season. He entered the season ranked fifth among active coaches in winning percentage. The win improves UofL’s record to 44-6 with six games remaining in the regular season.

Few of those wins more challenging than the one the one on Thursday, not with left hander Brendan McKay loading the bases in the first and second innings. His pitch count was well over 50 by the end of the third, but he still managed to hold Clemson scoreless through five innings. He’s now 8-3 on the season.

Clemson would tap Louisville reliever Sam Bordner for three hits and a couple of walks in the sixth, sending two runs across the plate. With the Cardinals clinging to a two-run lead, junior Lincoln Henzman toss two shutout innings of relief to earn his 15th save of the season.

Colby Fitch, moving back to second in batting lineup, got things off to a positive start with a home run over the right field wall in the first inning. Drew Ellis was 3-for-4 with his 17th double while raising his batting average to .392. Josh Stowers chipped in with a single, one walk and one run scored.

The win earned at least a tie for first place for Louisville in the ACC’s Atlantic Coast Division. The Cardinals need one more conference win to clinch their third division title since joining the conference three years ago.

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Stowers clearing the fences now, UofL over Vandy 6-2

Josh Stowers clearing the fences lately, collecting his third career home run in the last seven games.

Josh Stowers has been hitting the baseball hard all season long, sending opposing outfielders back to the warning track on a regular basis, the vast majority of them long outs. Like he was measuring the distance or something. 

Well, Stowers seems to have figured it out, looking really comfortable going for the fences.

He was back at it again Tuesday, with another one of those towering home runs, the kind that look like they will go into orbit. The sophomore outfielder obviously getting more comfortable at the plate.

Score tied 0-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Louisville looking to get over off to a quicker start than in recent games. Pitching duels can be fun but they get old quickly one game after the other. 

Stowers will take things into his own hands, one of those blasts that looks like it will shatter the outfield lights. His third home run in the last 10 days, the third in his college career — a three-run blow scoring Devin Mann and Colin Lyman in front of him.

He will collect his second hit of the day, a single, driving in Mann again in the sixth inning, having provided much of wham in Louisville’s 6-2 win over Vanderbilt before a crowd of 4,120 at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Josh sharpening his batting eye, getting confidence and gaining respect for the lower part of the lineup. Couldn’t happen at a better time, with only seven more games remaining to the regular season.

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Louisville’s new prep basketball academy has lofty aspirations

Jeremy Kipness and his father, Michael, hold the championship trophy for winning the Elite 1 Fall Showcase in Phoenix last year.

Between racing dates at Churchill Downs, Jeremy Kipness is keeping a close eye out for real estate listings in the Louisville area. He and his father, Michael, are in the process of bringing the Aspire Basketball Academy to town.

They are intense fans when it comes to thoroughbred horse racing and prep school and college basketball. The academy is moving here from Scottsdale, Ariz., for the 2017-18 academic year.

While Jeremy was attending the Kentucky Oaks with his good friend Luke Hancock last Friday, Michael was selling his selections and analysis for the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby as well as the 25 under-card races that made up this two-day racing extravaganza.

Michael, better known as “The Wizard,” is considered the most successful and respected professional handicapper in the world. He has been selling his thoroughbred racing selections since 1987, including the last year’s partnering with The Daily Racing Form, horseracing’s premier horse-racing publication.

“Jeremy and Luke are the closest of friends,” said Michael. “Luke is like a second son to me.”

Continue reading “Louisville’s new prep basketball academy has lofty aspirations”

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