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. 

 

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.

Louisville baseball on the road again to Omaha

Dan McDonnell doesn’t have to remind players of the annual aspirations or the ultimate objective for University of Louisville baseball.

They are, in this order: Getting back to Omaha for the College World Series and winning a national championship.

Dan McDonnell: “You have to believe before you can achieve.”

Reminders abound throughout baseball complex. The wall behind his desk is a super magnified photo of Ameritrade Stadium. The same one adorns the wall of the team meeting room.  The outfield walls in Jim Patterson Stadium feature giant billboards commemorating three past trips to Omaha.

A banner on the front entrance to the stadium declares that the road to Omaha goes through Louisville. The coaches, the players and the fans share the same expectation of getting back to Omaha, of someday getting out of Omaha with the biggest trophy of them all.

The coach went to the College World Series as a college player at The Citadel in 1990.  He expects it, always anticipates returning.

“You got to believe it before you can achieve it,” McDonnell said. “I felt like this year I didn’t have to say it as much, which is good.  It’s understood.  It’s why the kids are here.  It’s what the fans expect here and I’m really proud of that.  That’s a neat place to be – a program where the expectations are to go to Omaha and win a national championship.”

The season begins for the Cardinals this weekend in Clearwater, Fla., with a Friday game at 3 p.m. against Alabama State, a Saturday game at 6 p.m. against Maryland, and a Sunday 1 p.m. game against Ball State. No television but the games will be broadcast on 93.9 The Ville.

The opening home game is against Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday at 3 p.m., followed by a three-game weekend series against Nebraska-Omaha.

Five of the top UofL baseball games ever

Nick-SolakAfter nearly a century in obscurity, University of Louisville baseball has established itself as a major player, finishing among the top 10 teams the past three seasons.

Die-hard baseball fans would argue that post-season baseball is every bit as exciting as watching football on autumn night or basketball on a winter afternoon. Something like hitting a massive underdog sports bet that no one but you saw happening. If you have been in the same situation but didn’t get around to placing that bet, it’s good to learn the odds before one makes a wager.

While many great games have undoubtedly been lost to the annals of history, by magnitude and importance to the program, here are five of my top UofL baseball games of all-time.

June 3, 2007: Louisville 8, Miami 7

UofL has been to the College World Series three times in the last decade. But trips to Omaha (or even Regionals) were far from imaginable most of the program’s history. That all started to change with the arrival of manager Dan McDonnell in 2007.

Third-seeded UofL had already recorded the program’s first ever NCAA regional win two days prior, a 13-7 comeback win against perennial power Miami. After losing to Missouri the next day, a re-match with the Hurricanes loomed. Louisville won an 8-7 thriller thanks to four runs batted in by Jorge Castillo. The Cards would go on to eliminate Missouri and Oklahoma State en route to the program’s first ever College World Series berth.

May 24, 2008: Louisville 6, Cincinnati 3

Despite earning a trip to Omaha the year before, the Cards had still never won a conference tournament champion in their history. But a second consecutive 40-plus win season put UofL in position to end the drought against rivals Cincinnati in the Big East Conference.

Deadlocked at 3-3 in the top of the 8th, a two-run double from Stewart Ijames broke the tie to give the Cards a late edge. First baseman Andrew Clark would add an additional run on a single later that inning, allowing Louisville to win their first conference tournament and make their third trip to an NCAA Regional in history.

June 9, 2013: Louisville 2, Vanderbilt 1

Despite multiple regular season conference titles and four seasons in excess of 40 wins, the Cardinal nine had been unable to find their way back to Omaha since 2007. But a new class of Cards now had the opportunity to punch their ticket by beating #2 Vanderbilt in the 2013 Nashville Super Regional.

The Cards won game one narrowly 5-3, and the second game was expected to be a pitcher’s duel as they faced the Commodores’ 14-0 Tyler Beede. He would allow two runs on five hits, that was all Louisville needed with Jeff Thompson giving up only three hits in a 2-1 win, sending the Cards back to Omaha.

June 6, 2014: UofL 5, Kennesaw State 3

A crowd of 4,235 turned out at Jim Patterson Stadium to watch Louisville try and clinch their second straight trip to Omaha against the visiting Kennesaw State Owls in the 2014 Super Regional.

They would not be disappointed, as the Cardinals rallied back from an early 4-2 deficit to regain the lead in the fifth inning. The big hit, a two-run home run by freshman Nick Solak. Right hander Drew Harrington would earn his 12th win of the season.

April 19, 2016: UofL 7, Kentucky 6

Whether it’s basketball, football, lawn bowling or anything else, there are few simpler joys in life than watching UofL beat UK. That’s become a frequent occurrence on the diamond lately, with Louisville winning the last five games.

UK led most of the way, but coughed up three runs in the seventh inning and then two more in the eighth, allowing UofL to tie the score at 6-6. For a second straight season, UK would suffer a walk off defeat, thanks to a run-scoring single up the middle by Devin Hairston.

Louisville baseball sets attendance mark during 2016 season

UofL fans depart Jim Patterson Stadium following final game but before setting an all-time attendance record.
UofL fans depart Jim Patterson Stadium following a loss in the final game but not before setting an all-time attendance record.

“I’m really proud of our fans. I was hoping we were give them one more day, one more game.”

One more game may have gotten Dan McDonnell’s baseball team into its fourth College World Series. One more out, a couple more strikes, a few less balls. What could have been.

The good news is the University of Louisville baseball team broke the 100,000 mark in attendance for the first time in the program’s history during the 2016 season.

UofL baseballThe Cardinals attracted a total of 101,415 for 39 games, including five NCAA tournament games, or an average of 2,600 spectators per game. Total attendance for the NCAA regional games was 22,461 or 4,492 per game.

Total attendance for 34 regular season games was 78,874 or 2,330 persons per game.

The second game in a three-game series against Clemson on April 16 drew the largest crowd of the season, a total of 4,950 fans.

Second largest was 4,784 in the Super Regional final against Santa Barbara, followed by 4,770 against Western Michigan in the first game of the Regional, 4,642 against Kentucky, and 4,634 for the first game of the Super Regional against Santa Barbara.