Five-time Louisville back to the College World Series

Bobby Miller and Glenn Albanese celebrate Louisville’s fourth trip to Omaha in the past seven seasons and fifth overall (Photo by Charlie Springer).
Dan McDonnell is getting to be a familiar face in Omaha (Photo by Charlie Springer).

Bobby Miller may have been denied a no hitter, but he will always remember his performance against East Carolina as one of his most rewarding victories. His seventh win of the season securing a trip to Omaha and the College World Series for the University of Louisville baseball team.

Miller giving up only one hit in a 12-0 win.  A game in which UofL was never threatened by one of the best-hitting teams in college baseball. Allowing only three players to reach base while striking out six batters and giving up two bases on balls. The UofL sophomore faced the minimum through six innings, allowing just a walk in the third that was erased by a double play.

Miller’s no-hit bid coming to an end in the ninth inning on a single to right by pinch hitter Thomas Francisco. Miller exiting to a standing ovation before returning for a curtain call from the nearly 4,500 in attendance at Jim Patterson Stadium.  

Bobby Miller closing the door on East Carolina holding the Pirates hitless for eight innings (Photos by Charlie Springer).

The 2019 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium will largely be remembered as one of total dominance for the University of Louisville baseball team over East Carolina. From beginning to end, starting with a 14-1 win over the Pirates in the Friday opener.

At the plate, Louisville scored its 26 runs off of 32 hits, none of which were home runs. On the mound, it got two strong outings from starters Reid Detmers and Miller. The pitching staff should be well rested for the College World Series, which gets under way on Friday.

This will be Coach Dan McDonnell’s fifth trip to Omaha in 13 seasons at Louisville, including four times in the past seven season. He’s not making any proclamations or making any comparisons, having won only two games  in eight CWS games.

“It’s a whole new tournament. It’s a crazy game,” McDonnell said. “That’s what you have to love about baseball. It’s not the bigger, stronger, faster team that wins. It’s not necessarily the most talented team or the team with the most draft picks, it’s who plays the best.” 

Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton

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Solak wakes up record crowd, powers UofL past Kennesaw in Super Regional opener

Zach Lucas, No. 11,  goes into dance mode after scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
Zach Lucas, No. 11, goes into dance groove after scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on Nick Solak’s second two-bagger.

The largest crowd in Jim Patterson Stadium history,  but also one of the quietest ever for seven-and-a-half innings, most of the 5,351 individuals sitting on the edge of their seats watching a defensive battle.

Fans packed into the 3,500 seats in the expanded grandstand, standing on the party deck, along the left and right field fences, on recently added bleachers along the berm in left field, even on the play ground. But oh so quiet for so long.crowd

So much apprehension in the University of Louisville camp about this Kennesaw State team, arriving out of the Atlanta shadows for the Super Regional, owning a 3-2 edge over the Cardinals going into the bottom of the eighth. Having no doubt Kennesaw State is for real, patiently waiting for UofL to make a move.

The Louisville fans will finally erupt again and again in the eighth inning, a sea of red, capped by a tide white towels, rippling with unbridled emotion, the Cards make their way back, getting on base, finally doing their thing.

Grant Kay singling down the left field line, stealing second, Sutton Whiting going down attempting to bunt on the third pitch, Kay advancing on a wild pitch, Adam Lucas walking, Kyle Gibson bunting to the pitcher, Kay scoring, tying the game 3-3.

Nike Solak, 5-foot-11, 163 pounds, the smallest UofL starter comes to bat. Two outs, two on base Gibson on second, Lucas at third. Now or never.  Now it is, Solak driving the ball to the wall in right center field.  Gibson scoring, Lucas hot on his heels crossing the plate, giving UofL a two-run lead.

Kirk Gibson jumps on home plate for UofL's first run, thanks to a single by Nick Solac.
Kirk Gibson jumps on home plate for UofL’s first run, thanks to a single by Nick Solak in the third inning.

The double is Solak’s second extra base hit of the game, his third hit in a milestone game for the freshman, collecting three runs batted in. “The kind of game you dream of every day,” he said afterwards. “A dream come true.”

Solak has singled in the third inning, scoring Gibson with UofL’s first run. Not quite Kyle Funkhouser’s day, not hearing his name called during the Major League Baseball draft, the big 6-foot-3 righthander giving only three hits but walking five batters, forced to work his way out of bases-loaded jams in the fourth and fifth innings. Never losing his cool, however, doing what he needed to do to survive. Kyle McGrath, who relieved him in the eighth, would get the win.

Nick Burdi would put the clamps on the Kennesaw State hitters in the ninth, allowing one hit, but striking out two to notch his 17th save of the season.

Expect the place to be packed again Saturday at 7 p.m. with a crowd that has tasted victory, hungry and boisterous. clamoring for a return to Omaha.

Reserved seats sold out for Louisville Super Regional, general admission available

ticket-lineUniversity of Louisville baseball fans got an early start on purchasing tickets for the NCAA Super Regional in Louisville, lining up at the Jim Patterson Stadium ticket windows following the 12:25 a.m. conclusion of the UofL-UK game Monday morning.

All reserved seats, priced at $45 each for the entire session, had been sold out by 10:30 Tuesday morning. All-session tickets priced at $25 for general admission and outfield berm seating and $15 for college students are still available. The reserved seating situation could change if Kennesaw State doesn’t sell its allocation but that’s highly unlikely.

Times for the best two-out-of-three series between Louisville and Kennesaw State are 6:30 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 6 p.m. on Sunday, if necessary.

The-Brackets

 

Ratajsczak sets tone, UofL edges Vandy 5-3

Nick Ratajczak hadn’t struck out since May 4th — and that’s an eternity in college baseball.

Truth be told, Ratajczak shouldn’t have been anywhere near second base, much less in the batter’s box, in the opening game of the NCAA Super Regional at Nashville.

NIck Ratajczak
NIck Ratajczak

Playing with a severely injured right shoulder, he had rebuffed any suggestions that he wasn’t game worthy. Somehow convincing Dan McDonnell he could play, or maybe McDonnell just couldn’t, wouldn’t say no.

Ratajczak would work Vandy pitcher Kevin Ziomek for 11 pitches, including six foul balls, before going down on strikes in the third inning, clearly in excruciating pain on his eighth or ninth swing, prompting McDonnell to have serious second thoughts, sending him to the dugout.

The senior second baseman had done his job, however, serving as the inspiration for his University of Louisville teammates for a 5-3 win in the first game against second-ranked Vanderbilt on the Commodores’ home field.

With that, Louisville would win its 50th game of the season, Nick Burdi would get his 16th save, Dace Kime his sixth win, Matt Helms his second run-scoring hit this season, and the Cardinals would be within one win of returning to Omaha again for a College World Series.

The odds of Ratajczak being in the lineup again Sunday for the 4 p.m. game against Vandy are remote. The pain of not playing has to be worse than any physical ailment for Nick who, no doubt, will be waiting for a look from McDonnell to get back out there.

Whether he plays or not again in this series, or even in a Cardinal uniform, Ratajczak may have set something special in motion.