Reliever Tony Zych is welcomed to the mound in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game against Western Kentucky University. Zych shut down the Hilltopper bats, striking out five batters and allowing only one hit in two and two-third innings. The University of Louisville won, 7-4, and the win went to starting pitcher Justin Amlung. It was U of L’s sixth straight win. (Click to enlarge photo)
Dan McDonnell’s goal for University of Louisville baseball is to go far in the College World Series this season but he never expected the journey to be without significant challenge.
Going into the West Virginia series, U of L had dropped three of its last five games on the road. “Playing on the road is especially difficult in baseball,” he said recently. “Every venue presents a different set of obstacles, with sometimes unique playing surfaces and unusual ball park dimensions. Sometimes you just hope to keep your head above water.”
His team did better than that over the weekend, closing out a three-game sweep over the Mountaineers on Sunday with a 10-1 win behind the one-hit pitching of sophomore Gabriel Shaw through seven innings.
Shaw’s six strikeouts are a season-high and just one short of a career high. Seventy-two of his 102 pitches were strikes.
Louisville is currently riding a five-game win streak, returning to Jim Patterson Stadium for a 6 p.m. Wednesday game against a strong Western Kentucky University team and a three-game series with Seton Hall this weekend.
Admission to all but one University of Louisville home baseball game is currently free but that could change if the coach can convince Athletic Director Tom Jurich to change the policy.
Dan McDonnell believes the program has reached a point where fans would dig in their pockets to see the caliber of athletes U of L is putting on the field. “I would like to charge admission for the right reasons,” he told a gathering at the University Club this week. “We would like to pay our way as much possible.”
The flood that engulfed portions of the U of L campus last August destroyed virtually all of the team's equipment.
McDonnell says games are currently free because Jurich wants to give something back to Louisville fans for their support of the overall program. “That’s a positive, and we understand where he’s coming from.”
In his remarks, he cited a couple of examples of where additional funds would have been helpful.
The flood that engulfed portions of the U of L campus last August destroyed virtually all of the team’s equipment. “Much of it was covered by insurance but, while restoring our facility, it was a good time to make some other improvements.”
McDonnell also noted the rainout forcing a postponement of the championship game last season during the Big East Tournament in Clearwater, Fla., cost more than $30,000 for another flight. “Kevin Miller (who oversees athletic expenses) almost choked on that one,” he said.
While the program is largely funded by the athletic department, the team also receives some support from the Dugout Club. Currently, U of L charges admission only for the game against the University of Kentucky, this year scheduled April 28th.
The University of Louisville baseball team will be traveling practically incognito when it travels to West Virginia this week for a three-game series against the Mountaineers, starting Friday.
The team usually travels to away games on the big black and red University bus, with the big L-O-U-I-S-V-I-L-L-E on the sides and team members decked out in U of L gear. On this and future trips to WV, the baseball team will be on a private coach and team logos will be held to a minimum.
Dan McDonnell says his team was subject to some questionable treatment two years ago on the way to Morgantown. One restaurant locked the front door when the proprietor saw the University of Louisville bus pull up. And while visiting a Subway franchise, they were turned away because the employees told McDonnell they had run out of bread. These and a couple of other uncouths prompted the decision.
“Let’s just say we weren’t received very warmly in a number of instances,” said the coach during a luncheon Tuesday at U of L’s University Club. “We just think it’s best to take a low profile.”
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Josh Richmond’s recovery from a hand injury has taken much longer than expected but there’s a possibility the U of L outfielder could make the trip to West Virginia, maybe even see limited action.
“Josh has been slow to heal,”Â said McDonnell. “He’s having the hand X-rayed again this week,” said McDonnell. “If there is significant improvement, we will make a decision on whether he makes the trip.”
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Good thing Adam Duvall hit a home run in the ninth inning of U of L’s 9-7 win over Pittsburgh. McDonnell said Duvall was hurting from a pulled hamstring so badly there was no way he could have run the bases.
“I told him he could hit but couldn’t run,” said McDonnell. “I had a runner ready if he got on. But I also told Adam if he hit the ball over the fence, he could just jog around the bases.”
Duvall responded, “I know, coach, I know.”