Shots not falling but Mitchell focused, Louisville moves to next round

A little shaky getting out of the gate, understandable with so few members of the University of Louisville basketball team having NCAA tournament experience. Good to get those first few minutes out of the way, get down to business.

Not the best of starts for Donovan Mitchell, his first ever appearance in the tourney, missing all of his first eight field goal attempts in the first half.  Actually a good day for Mitchell, not allowing his lack of scoring to affect the rest of his game. He would wind up with nine points, 10 rebounds, fives assists and three steals.

Rick Pitino happy for Donovan Mitchell’s all around game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I was very impressed with Donovan Mitchell,” said Coach Rick Pitino afterwards. “I’ve been trying to get him to focus on other things other than scoring. If it’s not your night because you’re the main target to do other things … To me, he’s come a long way.”

Equally encouraging was the fact that his teammates picked up the slack in UofL’s 78-63 win over Jacksonville State in the tournament’s opening round. Playing aggressively, dominating the backboard 36-23, making 11 of 14 free throw attempts, and hitting 48.4% of their field goal attempts, including a third of their 3-point attempts.

Fifth-year senior Mangok Mathiang looking very comfortable around the basket lately, connecting on eight of his 13 field goal attempts, and leading his team in scoring with 18 points. Made both of his free throw attempts as well. Hopefully, he’s finally getting it in the twilight of his college career, maybe just the right time for UofL.

“Coach has made a big point of trying to go play inside-out,” said Mathiang. “And it’s been working out pretty well for me. A lot of guys that are not expecting me to make a move in the post and going up and scoring. I mean, it’s working out pretty well for me and for my teammates because I’m kicking that out as well.”

Deng Adel may have taken his play to another level, becoming one of his team’s most consistent players, reliable on both offense and defense. Adel making six of seven field goal attempts, including both of his 3-point attempts, for 16 points. Two of two free throw attempts.

A collective sigh of relief for free throw concerns, with the Cardinals making 11 of their 14 free throw attempts. Quentin Snider made one of two attempts, but Anas Mahmoud missed both of his.

Come on, Anas. Every shot matters this time of the season. Especially with a rematch Sunday of the schools that competed for the national championship in 2013.

McKay with 15 strikeouts, Louisville blanks Pitt 3-0 in conference opener

Brendan McKay and company were more than ready for the conference portion of the University of Louisville baseball season to begin on Friday. The Cardinals would post a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh before a crowd of 995 fans in 50-degree temperatures at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Brendan McKay striking out seven of the first nine batters on a 15-strikeout day.

McKay continuing his impressive start to the 2017 season, fanning seven of the first nine batters he faced while racking up a total of 15 strikeouts for the game.

The 6-foot-2 lefthander would allow only three Pittsburgh batters to reach base in seven innings, giving up two singles and a base on balls. The Panthers were held hitless until the fourth inning when Frank Maldanado reached base on a drive to right.

McKay  entered the game with an 0.84 earned run average, raising his won-lost record to 3-0 for the season.  The win improved UofL’s record to 13-0 overall and 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He would be held hitless himself for the first time this season in four at-bats.  One of them was a sacrifice fly, however, driving in a Louisville run in the third inning. McKay’s batting average is still a hefty .613.

Reliever Lincoln Henzman preserved the shutout for McKay, entering the game in the eighth, striking out three batters, giving up one base on balls but allowing no hits.

 

 

Brendan McKay sets tone for Louisville baseball in home opener

Never any doubt about where this ball was going for Brendan McKay, a 400-foot-plus grand slam (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Brendan McKay never gets excited, just an even keel type of guy, taking everything in stride, knowing baseball has lots of ups and downs from one day to the next. 

No big deal with the bases loaded in the first inning. But not just another at bat this time. The Louisville slugger sending the first pitch high and deep over the centerfield fence, quickly getting UofL off to a 4-0 start.

Devin Hairston continues his two-season sizzle, going four-for-four at the plate (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The Cardinals would go on to 19-3 win over Eastern Kentucky University before a crowd of 2,154 Wednesday, improving its record to 4-0 on a 75-degree day at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McKay, a junior, would also get one other hit  and a base on balls. After four games, he is batting an even .500 with three home runs and nine runs batted in. Never changing his expression, even when mobbed by his teammates at plate after his latest four-bagger.

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Al Greener brings vast repertoire to Louisville baseball

Al Greener is back at the organ at Jim Patterson Stadium. He began 11 years ago in 2006, the same year Dan McDonnell came on board (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….” the lyrics go, and there was a lot of hand clapping Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium as the University of Louisville baseball team crushed Eastern Kentucky 19-3.

With that tune and many others orchestrating the game, organist Al Greener pulled out all the stops (pun intended) as one after another batter tried to subdue the Cards’ 2017 home opener energy. Greener, a University of Iowa grad, has been doing UofL baseball games for 11 years, coming on board with Coach Dan McDonnell in 2006.

Fans were in for a musical blast when the stirring Sandstorm rumbled from the loudspeakers, revving up the crowd on a beautiful springlike winter day. And also when All-American Brendan McKay hit his first Grand Slam of the season, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the first inning.

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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.