Probably the best University of Louisville baseball team since Dan McDonnell arrived in 2007. That’s saying a lot with three College World Series appearances behind him.
Seven players batting over .300 in the starting lineup, four pitchers with nine wins or better, four with an earned run average of 2.54 or less. Three players drafted in the first round of the major league draft, a total of eight overall.
Such a good team on paper … and on the field. But baseball can be a cruel game, unforgiving much of the time, disrespecting even the best of teams. A formidable UofL baseball team is surprisingly derailed again, falling by the way side, again watching others compete for the national championship.
Such a sad way for one of college baseball’s best closers to go out. Deja vu all over again.
Zack Burdi, for a second year in a row, giving up a lead, yielding a home run to seal another 4-3 defeat of the University of Louisville in a Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The 2015 defeat at the hands of Cal State Fullerton, the latest to California Santa Barbara, both cruelly denying UofL access to the College World Series. Giving up a 3-0 lead in the latest loss, a grand slam home run after Burdi had agonizingly loaded the bases.
Coach McDonnell meeting with his team for quite a while in the outfield after the game, taking longer than usual to get to the post-game press conference.
“I wouldn’t be able to get through what I told Zack,” McDonnell told the reporters at the presser. “I walked out there and hugged him. Because you know he’s hurting.
“What he and his brother (Nick) and his family have meant to this program … I am forever grateful. I just don’t want him to blame himself. It’s not fair. It’s a team game. I could have coached better. We could have scored a few more runs.”
Drew Harrington coming through with a masterful performance in his final game, pitching into the eighth inning after striking out 12 batters, giving up six hits, walking one batter and holding the visitors scoreless.
Harrington was among the first players to hug Burdi after the game. “It was tough … but he’s a tough competitor and he will fight back. I just told him I was looking forward to seeing him play at the next level.”
Sophomore Brendan McKay paced the Cardinals at the plate, going two-for-four, including a home run. Sophomore Blake Tiberi was three-of-four with a RBI double. Senior Danny Rosenbaum added two hits and drove in a run.
McDonnell, so deserving of a much better outcome, an individual loved by his players and the fans, again serving notice.
“As I said last year, you will see me again. This program will be back.”