Five of the top UofL baseball games ever

Nick-SolakAfter nearly a century in obscurity, University of Louisville baseball has established itself as a major player, finishing among the top 10 teams the past three seasons.

Die-hard baseball fans would argue that post-season baseball is every bit as exciting as watching football on autumn night or basketball on a winter afternoon. Something like hitting a massive underdog sports bet that no one but you saw happening. If you have been in the same situation but didn’t get around to placing that bet, it’s good to learn the odds before one makes a wager.

While many great games have undoubtedly been lost to the annals of history, by magnitude and importance to the program, here are five of my top UofL baseball games of all-time.

June 3, 2007: Louisville 8, Miami 7

UofL has been to the College World Series three times in the last decade. But trips to Omaha (or even Regionals) were far from imaginable most of the program’s history. That all started to change with the arrival of manager Dan McDonnell in 2007.

Third-seeded UofL had already recorded the program’s first ever NCAA regional win two days prior, a 13-7 comeback win against perennial power Miami. After losing to Missouri the next day, a re-match with the Hurricanes loomed. Louisville won an 8-7 thriller thanks to four runs batted in by Jorge Castillo. The Cards would go on to eliminate Missouri and Oklahoma State en route to the program’s first ever College World Series berth.

May 24, 2008: Louisville 6, Cincinnati 3

Despite earning a trip to Omaha the year before, the Cards had still never won a conference tournament champion in their history. But a second consecutive 40-plus win season put UofL in position to end the drought against rivals Cincinnati in the Big East Conference.

Deadlocked at 3-3 in the top of the 8th, a two-run double from Stewart Ijames broke the tie to give the Cards a late edge. First baseman Andrew Clark would add an additional run on a single later that inning, allowing Louisville to win their first conference tournament and make their third trip to an NCAA Regional in history.

June 9, 2013: Louisville 2, Vanderbilt 1

Despite multiple regular season conference titles and four seasons in excess of 40 wins, the Cardinal nine had been unable to find their way back to Omaha since 2007. But a new class of Cards now had the opportunity to punch their ticket by beating #2 Vanderbilt in the 2013 Nashville Super Regional.

The Cards won game one narrowly 5-3, and the second game was expected to be a pitcher’s duel as they faced the Commodores’ 14-0 Tyler Beede. He would allow two runs on five hits, that was all Louisville needed with Jeff Thompson giving up only three hits in a 2-1 win, sending the Cards back to Omaha.

June 6, 2014: UofL 5, Kennesaw State 3

A crowd of 4,235 turned out at Jim Patterson Stadium to watch Louisville try and clinch their second straight trip to Omaha against the visiting Kennesaw State Owls in the 2014 Super Regional.

They would not be disappointed, as the Cardinals rallied back from an early 4-2 deficit to regain the lead in the fifth inning. The big hit, a two-run home run by freshman Nick Solak. Right hander Drew Harrington would earn his 12th win of the season.

April 19, 2016: UofL 7, Kentucky 6

Whether it’s basketball, football, lawn bowling or anything else, there are few simpler joys in life than watching UofL beat UK. That’s become a frequent occurrence on the diamond lately, with Louisville winning the last five games.

UK led most of the way, but coughed up three runs in the seventh inning and then two more in the eighth, allowing UofL to tie the score at 6-6. For a second straight season, UK would suffer a walk off defeat, thanks to a run-scoring single up the middle by Devin Hairston.

Al Greener enlivens atmosphere at Louisville baseball games

Al Greener's view from the press box at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Al Greener’s view from the press box at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The atmosphere engulfing University of Louisville home baseball games is contagious. A fun place to be, especially while UofL was winning 33 of 34 games at Jim Patterson Stadium this season.

Integral to the atmosphere is the organ music offered up by Al Greener, the director of the UofL Pep Band. He is part of a vanishing breed, playing the organ at college baseball games these days.

“No place I would rather be,” he said recently. “It’s a great job, doing what you love, cheering on your favorite team,”

Greener has an encyclopedic knowledge of popular songs covering several decades. He’s also got a response for every play and any situation it seems, as well as for descriptive player names and a wide range of diamond dramatics.

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McKay homer propels Louisville past Wake Forest

Brendan McKay clears the bases. File photo by Cincy Rice Shelton.
Brendan McKay cleared the bases with a three-run home run. File photo by Cindy Rice Shelton.

When Brendan McKay isn’t knocking scorching line drives to opposing infielders, he’s a deadly hitter. Not that he’s predictable, but there’s a noticeable shift when he’s at the plate.

McKay couldn’t have picked a better time to break the routine, sending the first pitch over the right field fence for his fourth home run of the season. The blast scored two runners in front of him, breaking a 3-3 tie, and propelling the University of Louisville to a 9-4 win at Wake Forest.

The UofL sophomore, who had his streak of reaching base safely 37 straight games broken in Thursday’s game, got back on track in the past two games, with three hits on Friday and the four-bagger on Saturday. He’s hitting .338 for the season.

Senior right-hander Kyle Funkhouser giving up a pair of home runs to Wake Forest in the first inning, giving the Demon Deacons a 3-0 jumpstart. The Cardinals would tie the game in the third inning on Danny Rosenbaum’s eighth home run, driving in Blake Tiberi.

The win was Funkhouser’s eighth this season against three losses, raising his all-time program record to 34 wins in his UofL career.

The second regular season in the Atlantic Coast Conference is in the books, with UofL winning the Atlantic Division the first two seasons in teh conference, finishing the current season 22-8 in the conference and 46-10 overall.

Louisville, the second seed behind Miami, will enjoy a first day bye for the ACC tournament, which begins Tuesday at Durham, N.C.

Louisville baseball tops Atlantic Division back to back

No. 1 in the Atlantic Division. Again.

The University of Louisville baseball team finishes the regular season on top after defeating Wake Forest 3-1 Thursday while Florida State was losing 4-2 at home to Miami.

Devon Hairston on a tear. File photo by Cindy Rice Shelton.
Devon Hairston on a tear. File photo by Cindy Rice Shelton.

Devon Hairston providing the hitting, knocking the first pitch to him over the left field wall in the second inning. He would finish the day with two hits, score two runs and drive in two runs. The home run was his third this year and he’s currently batting .370.

Brendan McKay and Zack Burdi supplying the bulk of the pitching.

McKay struck out six batters, gave up six hits but only one run in six innings. He’s 11-2 this season and 20-5 in his collegiate career. Burdi claimed his 10th save of the season, shutting down all three batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth.

The Cardinals are guaranteed one of the top two seeds in next week’s ACC Championship tournament, which kicks off Tuesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina.

 

Kade McClure overcomes elements, shuts down Indiana

Kade McClure had to endure five innings of cold and rainy conditions Tuesday afternoon, soaked to the bone, wondering if and when the University of Louisville baseball bats were ever going to come to life.

U of L was trailing 2-0 going in the sixth inning, some fans wondering if Indiana University was destined for a fourth straight win over Louisville. To make matters worse, the strike zone seemed to be a moving target, with so many unpredictable calls.

Corey Ray on the way to his 36th stolen base. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton.)
Corey Ray on the way to his 36th stolen base. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton.)

Not to worry for all that long for McClure. His teammates would come through just as they have all season long, exploding for seven hits and eight runs in that inning to put the game all but out of reach for the stunned visitors.

The win was the 11th of the season against no losses for McClure who struck out 10 batters while giving up only five hits. The win raised UofL’s midweek record to 13-0 and improved the overall record to 43-10 for the season.

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