McKay still looking for first hit after start as designated hitter

Brendan McKay following his final home game and a win for the University of Louisville over Kentucky in the 2016 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium (Charlie Springer photo).

Brendan McKay, fresh off a remarkable first pitching start in Major League Baseball over the weekend, made another debut on Monday with Tampa Bay. This time at the plate for the Rays against the Baltimore Orioles.

This one, not quit as impressive, with the former University of Louisville baseball star going 0-for-4 as the designated hitter, batting eighth in the lineup in a 6-3 win over the visiting Orioles.

“I felt like I had some good at-bats,” he said after the game. “Obviously not the results you want. Now it’s just time to find holes in the defense and get your first hit out of the way.”

Two of his at-bats were against Tom Eshelman, a former pitcher at Cal State Fullerton, who threw against UofL in the 2015 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.  McKay grounded out to first with the bases loaded and two outs to end the first inning and a fourth-inning grounder against Eshelman who was making his major league debut.

McKay got picked off second base in the sixth after reaching on the fielder’s choice.

“To see him on the other side, it was kind of funny,” Eshelman said. “I knew what not to throw him because he hit a homer off me in that game. Yeah, congrats to him. To be able to do it two ways in the big leagues is pretty awesome. So, it was definitely a weird feeling facing him in a big league uniform, but it was fun.”

McKay is the fourth player since 1913 to begin his career with a start as a pitcher and a non-pitcher within his first two games, according to the Associated Press.

During his big league debut on Saturday, McKay entered the sixth inning with a perfect game against the Texas Rangers. He left the game after allowing only one hit in sixth innings.

The left-handed McKay is scheduled to pitch again Friday night against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay.

 

 

Bordner cuffs Texas A&M batters, Louisville advances in CWS

One will not find Sam Bordner in any listings of 2017 All-America baseball teams. Nor on any All-Atlantic Coast Conference teams either. Not even honorable mention in either of those groupings.

Sam Bordner has given up no runs and one hit in 11 innings of relief in his last four appearances (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

But Dan McDonnell knows where to locate Bordner when one of his starting pitchers is tiring. He will find the 6-foot-6, 240-pound sophomore in the University of Louisville bullpen, cool, calm, collected, ready to go.

As in UofL’s opening game in the College World Series on Sunday. Starter Brendan McKay had given up three straight hits, Texas A&M cutting Louisville’s lead to 5-4 in the sixth inning. Bordner will do what he usually does, shutting down the next three Aggie batters 1-2-3.

Over the next two innings he will hold A&M hitless, not allowing anyone on base. Handing the ball off to Lincoln Henzman in the ninth inning. Louisville will win its opening game 8-4, ending a five-game losing streak in the CWS.

“I think Sam’s been the X factor, a little under the radar,” McDonnell said after the game. “When you’re in that first out-of-the-bullpen or middle relief role, it’s just not as sexy, and you don’t get as much attention. But clearly Sam’s been hot all year.”

The Cardinals (53-10) had used six singles and a walk to build a 5-0 lead in the second inning, with Devin Hairston, Collin Lyman and Colby Fitch contributing run-scoring singles. Fitch winding up with two hits, a walk and four runs batted in. 

 

Brendan McKay joins Lamar Jackson among nation’s elite athletes

The awards keep coming for Brendan McKay, the undisputed player of the year in college baseball.

The University of Louisville is the first school ever to have student athletes to win both of the top individual awards in college football and baseball. 

Brendan McKay on Friday became the 31st recipient of the prestigious Dick Howser Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player.  He joins Lamar Jackson in some very select company, Jackson having been awarded the Heisman Trophy for the country’s best football player.

The Dick Howser Trophy was awarded Friday by the Howser Trophy committee and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association during ceremonies at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, home of the College World Series.

The latest honor is the fifth national player of the year  for McKay, who received the same honor from Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball newspaper, D1Baseball and Perfect Game. He also earned his third straight John Olerud Two-Way National Player of the Year Award and became the highest MLB Draft selection in school history going fourth overall to the Tampa Bay Rays.

He is also a leading candidate for the The Golden Spikes Award award, created by USA Baseball and sponsored by the Major League Baseball Players Association for best player honors.

McKay has a 10-3 record with a 2.34 ERA and a school record 140 strikeouts in 104.0 innings on the mound this season. During his three-year collegiate career, McKay has accumulated a 31-10 record with a 2.15 ERA and 385 strikeouts, the most ever for a Louisville pitcher.

At the plate, the 2017 ACC Player of the Year has a .343 batting average, 17 home runs, 13 doubles, 56 RBIs and a .464 on-base percentage in 60 starts as a hitter this season. In 179 career starts and 186 total appearances as a hitter, McKay has a .328 career batting average with 27 home runs, 46 doubles and 131 RBIs.

Those stats could be even more impressive with a good run in the College World Series.

Brendan McKay delivers early, Louisville buries Purdue

Brendan McKay with that home run swing of his (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Brendan McKay is so methodical and so businesslike in his approach to baseball that he doesn’t attract much notice when he’s having a great day at the plate. So much is expected of him.

On the other hand, McKay probably gets more than his share of attention in games when he’s popping up or not getting the ball out of the infield. Or when he’s not driving in the lion’s share of his team’s runs.

Such is the life of a college super star, never quite able to live up to expectations. Baseball is like that, with even the best players having their share of challenging games. Two hits in eight at-bats making for a long weekend against a tough Wake Forest team. 

McKay found his hitting eye again Tuesday, leading the second-ranked University of Louisville baseball team to a 13-2 win over visiting Purdue before a crowd estimated at 1,569 at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Making his presence felt early in this one, following a walk to Colby Fitch and an error putting Devin Hairston on base in the first inning. McKay would drive a 2-and-1 pitch 340 feet over the right centerfield wall, his sixth home run of the season putting his team up 3-0.

McKay would follow that up with another drive to right centerfield in the third inning, sending Logan Taylor and Hairston across the plate. Louisville was up 8-0, and on its way to its 28th win in 32 games this season.

Nothing flashy, just two extra base hits, scoring twice and batting in five runs in two trips to the plate. Going about his business, getting the job done again.

Devin Hairston just keeps on delivering for UofL Baseball

Devin Hairston is the man you want at the plate with UofL runners on base (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“When the lights are on, Devin Hairston’s the guy you want at the plate.”

The word coming from Dan McDonnell, coach of the University of Louisville baseball team following a 7-5 win in a game that clinched two out of three in a series against Wake Forest over the weekend.

That’s saying something when your team has players like Brendan McKay, with a hefty .388 batting average, and Drew Ellis, currently hitting .364. They get the attention of the professional scouts. Hairston gets the job done with runners on base.

Hairston is leading the team in runs batted in with 36 of them through 31 games. He is followed by Colby Fitch with 27, Ellis with 25, McKay with 22, Devin Mann and Logan Taylor with 21, and Colin Lyman with 16.

“Devin is just very even keel,” said McDonnell. “He just very confident in his ability as he should be. He’s just competing, he’s grinding out, he’s very consistent. When the lights are on, he has those very good at-bats.”

Hairston, who is currently batting .325, had three hits and drove in four runs, including a game-clinching two-run double in the eighth inning before a crowd of 4,056 at Jim Patterson Stadium. It was UofL’s 31st consecutive series win at home, including 13 straight against Atlantic Coast Conference foes.

“I’m really happy for him, and I’m happy for our guys,” said McDonnell. “We showed a lot of toughness today.”

The Cardinals are now 27-4 overall and 12-3 in the ACC. Clemson, meanwhile, moved into first place in the Atlantic Division with a 13-2 mark following a weekend sweep of Virginia Tech.