Jake Snider’s first homer powers Louisville past Radford

Reliever Sam Bordner slammed the door on Radford after the Highlanders tied the score at 6-6 in the sixth inning. He would give no hits or runs while striking out six batters (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Kade McClure almost made it through the sixth inning before being lifted (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Kade McClure having problems again, providing still more drama in the University of Louisville’s opening game in the NCAA Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McClure struggling to get anybody out, loading the bases in the fourth inning against Radford University.  A double, a walk and a hit batsman, followed by a grand slam by Adam Whitacre, slashing a six-run Louisville lead to four runs. Whitacre would tap McClure again two innings later for a two-run triple, tying the score at 6-6.

Jake Snider breaks out with two hits and three runs batted in.

It was the night Jake Snider would emerge from obscurity, coming through with the first home run of his college career, a two-run blast over right centerfield to put UofL ahead to stay in an 11-6 before a crowd of 3,763. Nice to have some production from the ninth spot in the batting order for a change. 

It has taken a while for Snider to get going but Dan McDonnell was not surprised. “Snider has got one of those swings,” said the UofL coach. “He’s going to be a phenomenal hitter.”

Sam Bordner, a 6-foot-6 right hander, relieving McClure with two on and two outs in the sixth inning. He would quickly shut down the Highlanders, getting six strikeouts while allowing no hits the rest of the way.

Bordner getting better at just the right time, improving his won-lost record to 2-0 and lowering his earned run average to .50.  Turning the off button on the drama, ensuring Louisville advances another day in the NCAA.

Brendan McKay makes it look so easy

He’s the National Player of the Year in collegiate baseball, and his career at the University of Louisville is winding down to a precious few games. Time has passed quickly but he has taken advantage of every opportunity to get better.

Seems like yesterday Brendan McKay first appeared in Cardinal uniform, making his debut as a relief pitcher against Arkansas State in February 2015. He would hurl four shutout innings while striking out eight batters and giving up two runs that day.

Only the beginning, getting better every season.

During his freshman year, he would compile a 9-3 record with a 1.77 ERA, four saves and 117 strikeouts in 96.2 innings while starting 13 games and making 20 appearances overall on the mound. Had a .308 average with four home runs, 34 RBI and 14 doubles in 58 starts.

Next season he was 12-4 on the mound with 2.30 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 17 starts on the mound. He was batting .333 with six home runs, 19 doubles and 41 RBI at the plate

As NCAA play begins in 2017, McKay has a .363 batting average, 17 home runs, 52 RBI, .705 slugging percentage and .481 on-base percentage. On the mound, McKay owns a 9-3 record with a 2.37 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 91.0 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .181 against him.

Never take Brendan McKay for granted.

Dan McDonnell keeps bouncing back, eyeing ultimate breakthrough

How many times can a season end? 

Well, there’s the regular season, which ended with three straight losses for the University of Louisville baseball team. Then there is the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, concluding with still another loss to Florida State.

Two weeks of losing after four weeks of winning 15 games in a row. There were times when it was tempting to wonder whether they would lose again. It would take a former UofL assistant now coaching at Indiana University to end the winning streak.

Here we go with the post season again. UofL selected as the No. 7 seed nationally, hosting its fifth consecutive regional tournament. The way this usually goes is the Cardinals rebound to win the regional only to lose in the last game of the super regional.

Not always, of course, not with Louisville having participated in the College World Series in 2007,  2013 and 2014. But often enough, with the Cardinals being eliminated the past two seasons on heartbreaking home run blasts late in the final game.

The pain of those losses is compounded by tears on Coach Dan McDonnell’s face during the post-game press conferences. A good man, a great coach, with another good team, on the cusp, four or five games away from a  national championship. Only to be thwarted again. 

Following a 47-10 season during which his team was ranked second nationally most of the year, McDonnell has still another shot at getting to the College World Series again, of competing for a championship. 

That’s what it’s all about for McDonnell. He has once again put UofL into a position to contend. Louisville is, in fact, a perennial contender.

Dan McDonnell is way overdue. Ready for the ultimate breakthrough, and he’ll keep coming back until he makes it happen.

Link: Printable Regional Bracket

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.