Louisville baseball returns to the friendly confines of Jim Patterson

Life is so different on the road.

Drew Harrington is human, unfortunately, giving up six hits and seven runs in one inning. Yes, that Drew Harrington, the Atlantic Coast Conference pitcher of the year.

Coach Dan McDonnell leaving him on the mound, trusting Harrington to regain control, finally lifting him only after Virginia had batted around and scored seven runs … with no end in sight. Harrington shellshocked, escaping the mound for the safety of the dugout.

A pitcher’s worst nightmare, even worse than Brendan McKay’s experience from the day before. The team’s two most dependable pitchers burnt toast — one unable to get the ball over the plate, the other providing batting practice for the opposition.

Louisville will go on to lose a 7-2 decision to Virginia, probably dropping down three or four seed spots in the NCAA tournament after finishing the season ranked No. 1 in the RPI ratings.

More proof that University of Louisville baseball fans can never relax, never take anything for granted. One loss, bad. Two in a row, whoa.

This UofL team is exceptionally good at Jim Patterson Stadium, winning 33 or 34 games at home this season. Take these players on the road, however, and it’s a different story,  struggling at the plate and on the mound.

Understandable if the Cardinals are in a hurry get back to Louisville. Exactly what they need in the NCAA tournament, hosting a Regional and possibly a Super Regional at JPS. They will be highly motivated after being embarrassed in the ACC tournament.

This was a team talking about winning a national championship when the season began. Playing well at home just may help get them to Omaha. But just getting there won’t be any fun if they are road weary.

ACC baseball tournament title only important to winner

Drew Harrington
Drew Harrington

Just when it seemed the University of Louisville baseball team was damn near invincible, the bats went wimpy in a 5-3 loss to Clemson, putting an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in doubt.

Brendan McKay hitting the wall on Friday, having trouble finding the strike zone. When he did find it, his pitches looked like beach balls to Clemson, good for four home runs. Reed Rohlman, who entered the game without a home run in his first 57 games of the season, had two of them.

Better for that winning streak to end this week than next week. The good thing about winning an Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament championship is that it’s only important to the team that wins it.

Drew Harrison, the ACC pitcher of the year, will be on the mound for the University of Louisville against Virginia. The odds of winning the tourney are long for UofL at this point, but Harrington (11-1) usually takes care of business.

Brendan McKay usually gets the job done for Louisville baseball

As one watches Brendan McKay go into his windup, the mind moves forward, envisioning the big lefthander on the mound as the University of Louisville baseball team goes for a College World Series championship. It’s unavoidable, dreaming, looking forward. He’s one of those rare individual who radiates confidence.

Brendan McKay, deliberate and focused.
Brendan McKay, deliberate and focused.

There’s nothing flashy about how McKay goes about his job, rarely showing any emotion or seeming to be in a hurry. He just appears to be totally zoned in on the next pitch, his next at-bat, or the next play. Not much of a conversationalist either from what we’ve heard, not one for horseplay, rarely smiling, never laughing, just totally focused on baseball. The basics, the fundamentals, they work for him.

He’s off to relatively slow start at the plate this season, with his 292 batting average. He has two home runs, eight doubles and 16 runs batted in. Forget about stolen bases or triples, he is not a gambler or fleet of foot. Expect his batting average to improve, however, because he’s always striving to get better at everything he does. His future is as a pitcher. Expect him to do well at that position in professional baseball.

Last season, McKay finished 9-3 with a 1.77 ERA, four saves and 117 strikeouts in 96.2 innings while starting 13 games and making 20 appearances overall on the mound. Had a .308 average with four home runs, 34 RBI and 14 doubles in 58 starts as a hitter

The soft spoken sophomore is the logical choice to be No. 1 in the pitching rotation because he always seems to be in control. He earned the assignment after Kyle Funkhouser, one of UofL’s always winningest pitchers, got off to a shaky beginning. Brendan was ready, eager to bear the responsibility, embracing the challenge.

With his impressive 1.70 earned run average, McKay is off to a 6-1 start this season, third in the nation in 61 strikeouts, having recorded eight or more whiffs in six of his seven starts this season. Earlier this season, he had a career-best 13 strikeouts against Notre Dame, the most for a UofL pitcher since 2003.

McDonnell vowed Louisville baseball will be back

Corey Ray, an All America outfielder who batted 325 last season, returns for his junior year.
Corey Ray, an All America outfielder who batted 325 last season, returns for his junior year.

Tears were flowing down his cheeks the last time we saw Dan McDonnell. As disappointed as we’ve ever seen him, struggling to regain his composure, one game short of a fourth trip to the College World Series.

His University of Louisville baseball team had just lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to Cal State in the 11th inning of the Super Regional. He was shocked and dejected for his players, but promising UofL fans through the tears, “We’ll be back.”

Won’t be long now. The college baseball season begins in a little over a month, with Louisville opening the 2016 season against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on February 19th. Gets earlier every year, it seems, despite wintery conditions.

Louisville will enter the season having been picked No. 2 in the nation in three different rating services — Perfect Game, D1 Baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball — and with four players named first-team Louisville Slugger Preseason All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. They are junior pitcher  Zack Burdi, senior pitcher Kyle Funkhouser, sophomore pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay and junior outfielder Corey Ray. Junior infielder Nick Solak was named to the third team.

Continue reading “McDonnell vowed Louisville baseball will be back”

Hairston again, Louisville baseball edges Michigan

Corey Ray would fly out to left field in the seventh inning but his teammate Danny Rosenbaum would come through with a two-run home run.
Corey Ray connects for a single in the eighth inning, driving in a run. (Card Game photo)

Left-handed pitchers continue to pose a challenge for University of Louisville hitters, the Cardinals scoreless through the first six innings. Give them time and they will eventually solve Michigan’s Brett Adcock, sidelining him for the remainder of the regional.

Devin Hairston couldn’t match the four-for-four hitting from the night before. But he still found a way to push the winning run across in the 4-3 win over Michigan, possibly putting his University of Louisville baseball team one game away from another NCAA Super Regional.

It was Hairston’s foul ball to right field in the top of the ninth and a running and diving catch by Michigan’s Johnny Slater doing the damage. Slater should have let the ball go. All Colin Lyman, running for Danny Rosembaum, had to do was tag up at third and head for home.

As a result, the Cardinals will play the winner of the Michigan-Bradley game, scheduled for noon, at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Josh Rogers will be on the mound for UofL.

Freshman Brendan McKay came within one out of completing eight innings, being lifted for reliever Drew Harrington after giving up his only walk of the game. He would allow only five base runners while giving up four hits, one of them a home run by Carmen Benedetti in the fourth inning. One runner reached on an error in the eighth when Michigan scored two runs to tie the game at 3-3 going into the ninth.

Adcock, Michigan’s starting pitcher, would allow only three hits and three walks before handing the ball over to Bryan Pall in the eighth inning. The big blow off Adcock was a two-run home run in the seventh by Danny Rosenbaum, scoring Zach Lucas who had walked.

Big game for Rosebaum, with two hits, two runs batted in and scoring another.