Mississippi State rears its head again, threat to Louisville baseball

Dan McDonnell has transformed the baseball program during his 12 seasons at the University of Louisville (Charlie Springer photo).

Always something.

During an academic calendar year when Mississippi State teams brought abrupt ends to numerous University of Louisville athletic teams, one is not shocked that the same school is believed to be pursuing UofL’s baseball coach. This one may not end well either.

Louisville fans learned the hard way to not take Mississippi State lightly. Losses to the Bulldogs downed the football team in the TaxSlayer Bowl, the men’s basketball season in the NIT, the women’s basketball season in the Final Four, and the men’s tennis team in NCAA play.

Artist rendering of 13,000-capacity Mississippi State baseball facility.

The latest clash between the two schools is the most serious challenge yet. Dan McDonnell is among the best college baseball coaches in the country. He has guided UofL to four College World Series appearances, 11 appearances in the NCAA tournament and a school record 554 wins against only 222 losses in 12 seasons.

Mississippi State, however, has been serious about college baseball for much longer, compiling a program resume that could intimidate even the most serious UofL baseball fan. The Bulldogs have been to the College World Series nine times, participated in 33 NCAA regionals, won the SEC regular season 11 times, and the SEC tournament seven times. Their best finish in the CWS was second in 2013.

Mississippi State plays in a newly-renovated 13,000-seat Polk-Dement Stadium in Starkville, a facility that rivals many minor league baseball parks. The Bulldogs average more than 10,000 spectators per game. Their largest crowd ever was 15,586 for a game against arch-rival Mississippi in 2014.

With that kind of success come come sky high fan expectations. Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen has been looking for a new coach since the beginning of the season when Coach Andy Cannizaro was fired for an alleged affair with an athletic department employee.

Still looking for a new leader even tough the interim coach , Gary Henderson, formerly at Kentucky, wrapped up a championship in the NCAA Regional at Tallahassee on Monday. It’s possible Mississippi State will host Vanderbilt in a Super Regional next week. Cohen is probably still in the hunt despite the team’s recent success.

Dan McDonnell reportedly turned down overtures from Auburn baseball a few years ago, saying something to the effect that grass is not always greener somewhere else. McDonnell has built something special at Louisville and he knows it, exceeding the expectations he has set for the program on an ongoing basis.

Mississippi State is a whole different story, with a whole new level of pressures and assumptions, and a rowdy and demanding fan base   Whether that appeals to McDonnell wants remains to be seen, but he has always seemed happy at Louisville. The Bulldogs have a lot to offer, and no UofL baseball fan can relax for now.

Louisville makes it look almost too easy in win over Kentucky

Minimum suspense, almost too easy.

Rivalry games between the universities of Louisville and Kentucky are almost always go down to the wire. Not on Tuesday, not with UofL coasting to an easy 8-2 decision over the visiting Wildcats in front of 3,806 at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Kentucky was ranked sixth in the nation in one poll, having lost eight of their last 11 games against the Cardinals, including all four games last season. Highly motivated, but mostly frustrated in this one.

Oh, there was some drama, with UK right hander Jimmy Ramsey, a 6-foot-7  freshman, throwing a ball at Devin Mann’s head, striking him in the neck, in the bottom of the sixth. Disbelief from everyone, one of those moments when chaos could have erupted. Mann glaring at Ramsey, catching his breath, thinking about it, making the right decision, and taking the base without incident.

Louisville putting up two runs in the fourth inning, four in the fifth, and two more in the sixth for all of its eight runs. The big hit a two-run blast by Jake Snider in the decisive fifth inning. Snider would win up with three hits, two runs and two runs batted in. No bad for the son of Eric Snider, the hitting coach.

Another clutch performance by Danny Oriente, the designated hitter, coming through with two hits, including a double and a single, and two runs batted. First baseman Logan Wyatt kept under wraps by the Wildcats, reaching base four times, all on bases on balls.

UK could manage only three hits off of five Louisville pitchers, with starter Reid Detmers getting his second win. UofL had nine hits off of seven Kentucky hurlers.

The win improved UofL’s won-lost record to 25-11, and UK is now 25-12. Next up for the Cardinals is a three-game series against Virginia, with the first game at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Louisville baseball overcomes Texas Tech, frigid temperatures

The reading on the temperature gauge indicating a chilly 28 degrees for Elementary School Day as the University of Louisville baseball team prepares for game two against Texas Tech.

The youngsters, in constant motion and seemingly unfazed by the cold weather, providing a noisy backdrop for a game between two highly-ranked teams.  But clearly not ideal conditions for pitchers, batters or other spectators.

Sam Bordner notches his seventh save in just 17 games.

Just ask Reid Detmers, a 6-2 left handed freshman pitcher for UofL, trying to fight off the frigid temperatures. He will walk two of the first three batters and give up a home run to the fifth, giving the visiting Red Raiders a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Not a good start, especially with UofL having lost in the opener of the two-game set. The Cardinals will battle back with Jake Snider slamming a triple and scoring on a sacrifice by Devin Mann. They will make up more ground with Josh Stowers collecting his first home run of the season in the fifth inning. 

Louisville would push three runs across the plate in the sixth to take the lead, with contributions from Logan Wyatt, Tyler Fitzgerald, Pat Rumero, Tyler Fitzgerald and Snider. UofL would prevail by a score of 7-4, improving its overall record to 15-2.

Bobby Miller, a 6-2 right hander, would earn the win, taking the mound in the fifth inning, striking out five batters and allowing no Red Raiders to reach base in three-and-a-third innings.  It was the third win for the freshman from McHenry,Ill.

Junior right hander Sam Bordner would complete the shutdown with a perfect ninth inning, striking out all three batters for his seventh save of the season. Bordner has a scoreless streak of 21.0 innings dating back to last season.

Lavey blast powers Louisville past Xavier, Cards are 8-0

d

Pat Rumoro is welcomed home by his teammates after scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, thanks to a two-run home run by Justin Lavey. The blow gave the University of Louisville baseball team a 6-4 win over Xavier before 2,163 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Louisville also benefitted from a solo home run by outfielder Ethan Stringer in the second inning. Lavey and Stringer each have two home runs and a total of 13 runs batted in between them.

Right handed junior Bryan Hoeing was chased from the mound in the fifth inning after giving up four runs on seven hits. The win went to righty Bobby Miller, a freshman who allowed only hit, improving his record to 2-0. Sam Bordner would come to the rescue in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, shut the Musketeers down, and earn his third save.

Justin Lavey comes through in the seventh inning with his second home run to improve UofL’s record to 8-0 (Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton)

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.