Spell is broken, Louisville baseball is done

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 Zack Burdi looking all too human, pegged with his second loss in three days.

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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.]

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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.”

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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.

Louisville baseball now 1 win away from Omaha

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

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.