Another early exit from ACC tourney for Louisville baseball

With no momentum going into NCAA play, Dan McDonnell faces a major challenge next week.

Not a good day for University of Louisville baseball.

Three hours, twenty-two minutes of slow, agonizing, drawn out drama. The Cardinals managing only four hits in a 6-2 loss to Florida State, exiting the ACC Championship tournament early for the third consecutive season.

Making FSU’s Tyler Holton look like a world beater, striking out 10 Cardinal batters while allowing only five runners to reach base in eight innings. His only mistake giving up a 420-foot home run to Brendan McKay in the sixth inning.

The third consecutive loss to FSU and the fourth loss in the last five games. The latest loss confirming that the team ranked second nationally for most of the season has some serious challenges to overcome as the NCAA tournament approaches.

The only good news following the latest loss is, thanks to an impressive regular season record, Louisville is assured of hosting a regional tournament at Jim Patterson next week.

A crowd of 8,843 mostly University of Louisville baseball fans had little to cheer about at Louisville Slugger Field.

McDonnell honored for 500th win before 200th loss

University of Louisville Baseball Coach Dan McDonnell is congratulated by Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich for his 500th win before Friday night’s game against Florida State. McDonnell won his 500th, 501st and 502nd wins last weekend at Clemson.

He was on a three-game losing streak after the 8-2 loss to the Seminoles on Friday, having lost to Indiana mid-week and in the first two weekend games against Florida State at Jim Patterson Stadium. Current won-lost record in his 11th season is 502-200.

Hopefully getting the garbage out of the system before the post-season arrives.

Photos courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton.

Few takers for fireworks, Florida State chases McKay

Not one of Brendan McKay’s better nights on the mound in his final regular season appearance for the University of Louisville baseball team (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)

They had a nice fireworks show Thursday night at Jim Patterson Stadium to celebrate the University of Louisville baseball team winning its third consecutive Atlantic Division title in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Not many people on hand for the post-game celebration, however.

Most in the crowd of 3,487 had hit the exits in the eighth inning when it became apparent that a happy ending was not in the Cards. A long, long game, almost four hours, UofL giving up 14 hits in a 12-9 loss to Florida State.

Another night of struggle for Brendan McKay, who some analysts describe as one of the best to ever play in college baseball. That’s based largely on the fact that he has been a first team All-American for three seasons and a two-time winner of the John Olerud Award for the best two-way player.

McKay has struggled on the mound in some recent games, lacking consistency, searching for the strike zone. Still another shaky outing in his latest appearance, chased from the game after giving up four runs in the fifth inning — seven runs, five hits and four walks for the game. His record going into post-season play is 8-3.

Not much help from the bullpen this night. Jake Sparger, in relief, shouldering his first loss in five decisions, coughing up four more runs over two-and-a-third innings. 

UofL highlights were provided by Josh Stowers and Drew Ellis, each contributing three-run home runs.

Josh Stowers is welcomed at home plate by his teammates after hitting a three-run home run, his fifth round tripper of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Dan McDonnell earns 500th, intense one over Clemson

Dan McDonnell earns his 500th win and a share of the ACC’s Atlantic Division title (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Lots of base runners for Clemson, but 16 of them left in waiting on the base paths.

One of those long, long games, this one three hours and forty-nine minutes, with the outcome always in doubt. The kind of game that ages college baseball coaches prematurely.

Happy ending, however, with still another milestone for Dan McDonnell. His University of Louisville baseball team chalking up an important 4-2 win at Clemson in the first game of a three-day series. No. 500 for McDonnell, coming in the 50th game of his 11th season at UofL.

He is, of course, the winningest coach in the program’s history, averaging 45.6 wins per season. He entered the season ranked fifth among active coaches in winning percentage. The win improves UofL’s record to 44-6 with six games remaining in the regular season.

Few of those wins more challenging than the one the one on Thursday, not with left hander Brendan McKay loading the bases in the first and second innings. His pitch count was well over 50 by the end of the third, but he still managed to hold Clemson scoreless through five innings. He’s now 8-3 on the season.

Clemson would tap Louisville reliever Sam Bordner for three hits and a couple of walks in the sixth, sending two runs across the plate. With the Cardinals clinging to a two-run lead, junior Lincoln Henzman toss two shutout innings of relief to earn his 15th save of the season.

Colby Fitch, moving back to second in batting lineup, got things off to a positive start with a home run over the right field wall in the first inning. Drew Ellis was 3-for-4 with his 17th double while raising his batting average to .392. Josh Stowers chipped in with a single, one walk and one run scored.

The win earned at least a tie for first place for Louisville in the ACC’s Atlantic Coast Division. The Cardinals need one more conference win to clinch their third division title since joining the conference three years ago.

Bright lights time, Devin Hairston comes through again for UofL

The bright lights were on and so was Devin Hairston.

Bottom of the 10th, score tied, two outs, and the bright lights are on.

Freshman Justin Lavey perched on second base after getting hit by a pitch. Gotta get him home.

Dan McDonnell couldn’t be happier, seeing who’s coming to the plate, none other than Devin Hairston. Just a few days ago, the University of Louisville baseball coach was saying there was no one he would rather see when a game is on the line.

Problem was Hairston had gone into a mini slump since his coach had made the declaration. Brendan McKay and Drew Ellis had caught up with him in runs batted in. He had gone hitless in his four at-bats on Tuesday.

Looking like one of those extra inning affairs that could drag on all night.

But the bright lights are burning brightly, the game on the line. Devin Hairston was ready for the game to be done, taking things in hand, banging a 1-1 pitch into left field.

Lavey sliding into home just ahead of the ball. Game over. UofL winning 6-5 over Miami of Ohio.

The win was Louisville’s 39th against only six losses, in front of a crowd of 1,724 at Jim Patterson Stadium. Hairston making his coach look good again. 

Lots of help from Devin Mann, with two hits, three runs batted; Brendan McKay with a solo home run, his 13th homers; Drew Ellis with a couple of double, and Lavey with the other run batted in.

Bright lights, indeed.