Jeff Walz sees his team again at press conference

Jeff Walz was hit hard by the flu bug over the weekend, and he hasn’t been the same since. He coached the team from a balcony overlooking the court on Monday, not wanting to infect members of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team.

He intended to coach them on Tuesday, getting out of his sick bed, hopping in his car to go to practice. “I got halfway there and had to pull over to the side of the road and go back home,” he said, without providing graphic details.  “I’m not 100% now but I’m feeling better, probably 80%. I should be okay by Friday.”Jeff Walz

He was seated at a table at an NCAA press conference Thursday, alongside Myisha Hines-Allen, Mariya Moore and Asia Durr. “This is about as close as I have been to the team in about five days. I’m very fortunate to have a great staff.  They know exactly what we’re trying to do and what we’re going to do. We all have each other’s backs, it’s something we pride ourselves on here.”

The coach’s eyes seem to light up as he heard his players discuss their commitment to getting better on defense going into Friday’s NCAA game against Arkansas Central.

“The coaches have been stressing defense all week,” said Hines-Allen. “When we played Syracuse (a loss in the ACC tournament), we didn’t play defense. Offensively, we can play with a lot of teams, we just need to work on defense.”

“Defense, defense, defense,” said Moore. “We’ve done a lot of work on defense and we need to be at our strongest in tournament play.”

Music to Walz’s ears, the coach with the bleary eyes actually managing a smile.

“The tournament is what we’ve been preparing for for six months,” he said. “If you have a bad day in the tournament, we’re done. You might not make shots,  you might not do something you normally do well but you have to figure out a way to have a positive impact. If you’re not on the floor, be cheering.

“We played enough basketball now that our freshmen are no longer freshmen. Youth is not an excuse. We’re prepared, they’re prepared. We hope it’s going to be a great weekend of basketball.”

That would put the effects of flu a distant memory.

Spell is broken, Louisville baseball is done

Josh Rogers is greeted by teammates after being lifted in the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead.
Josh Rogers is greeted by teammates after being lifted in the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead.

It may take a couple of days to learn what Josh Rogers said to the third base coach after shutting down the Cal State Fullerton batters in 1-2-3 order in the seventh inning. Whatever it was it changed the atmosphere at Jim Patterson Stadium on Monday.

Here was Josh Rogers sailing along, having given up three hits, only two since the first inning off the home run off the bat of the CSF batter with the hyphenated name (David Oldmeda-Barrera). University of Louisville fans could sense something special was about to happen.

The spell was broken, the “humble and hungry” spirit disrupted. Things had changed. Rogers was visibly emotional returning to the dugout. He would return to the mound in the eighth inning. Two pitches. Both balls. One sailing high over the catcher into the backstop. He was done.

While what followed wasn’t exactly what had happened in the loss in the first game but it closely resembled some recent late game breakdowns. Reliever Drew Harrington unable to find his stuff, Lincoln Henzman pitching himself into trouble, and ace closer Zack Burdi looking all too human, pegged with his second loss in three days.

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ESPN could learn some technology lessons from the golf channels on finding a baseball on a clearly lit field. No less than five viewings of the replay off the bat of the guy with two last names could confirm what the hit over the left fence was fair or foul. We may never know for sure. There was little choice except to go with the call on the field.  [I’m told the decision was made elsewhere by someone using “enhanced video” but that doesn’t quite cut it for the viewing audience. Golf has it right.]

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Dan McDonnell was visibly emotional in the post game press conference, tearing up, breaking up, need to pause. Here’s the quote you’ll never read in the Courier-Journal:  “These are the times you’re glad you’re a Christian. These are the times you’re glad you have a spiritual faith. You hear me quote the Bible when we win. I’m not perfect … (pause) … I’m a sinner … (pause) … but I love God and I know he loves me. And he’s blessed this program … (pause) … and we’ll be back.”

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And they will be back next season with the vast majority of players who posted a 47-17 record this year, losing only three starting seniors in Sutton Whiting, Zach Lucas and Mike White, along with Kyle Funkhouser who was the 35th pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Major League Draft.

This team exceeded expectations all season long. UofL baseball will be back in big way in 2016.

Louisville baseball No. 3 seed but humble and hungry

A force with which to be dealt.cardinal logo

The University of Louisville enters the 2015 NCAA baseball tournament as the No. 3 seed, hosting a regional for a third straight season. Almost expected these days, but only because Louisville remains humble and hungry.

UofL also hosted the regional round of the NCAA Championship in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014 while also hosting super regionals in 2007 and 2014. This marks the Cardinals’ eighth NCAA postseason berth in the last nine seasons and the program’s ninth NCAA appearance overall.

Louisville will host No. 4 Morehead State on Friday at 6 p.m., following the game between No. 2 Bradley against No. 3 Michigan at 2 p.m.

The winner of Friday’s first round games will play on Saturday at 4 p.m., while the two losing teams will play an elimination game on Saturday at noon. The winner of Saturday’s elimination game will play the losing team from Saturday night’s winner’s bracket game in an elimination game on Sunday at noon, with the winner advancing to play the winner of Saturday night’s winner’s bracket game on Sunday at 4 p.m.

If needed, the two teams from Sunday’s second game will return for the final game of the Louisville Regional on Monday at 7 p.m.

ESPNU on hand as Louisville baseball awaits pairings

A timely break for the University of Louisville baseball team, possibly just what it needs.

UofL is assured of  hosting one of the 16 NCAA baseball regionals this week. Each regional will feature four teams in a double-elimination tournament that’s scheduled to start Friday and could last until June 1.

Other hosts are LSU, Illinois, Texas A&M, Miami, Dallas Baptist, TCU California State Fullerton, Florida, Houston, California Santa Barbara, UCLA, Missouri State, Oklahoma State and Florida State.

The regional pairings will be televised at Noon on Monday. An ESPNU crew will be on hand to get the players’ reaction and to interview Coach Dan McDonnell.

If UofL wins the regional, it would advance to the super regionals June 5-8, with each super-regional involving two teams that play a three-game series.

The winners of the super regionals advance to the College World Series, scheduled to be played June 13-24 in Omaha.

Happy Easter, and Kentucky is done

A beautiful Easter Sunday.

What a weekend in Louisville with the enormous fire at Appliance Park and all the flooding, the road closures and other damage throughout the community. It almost hit home Friday, Barbara shrieking from the basement about “flooding.”I had just tested the carpet with my feet a few minutes earlier and found nothing. Oh, no, as I go running down the steps.

Turns out to be a broken CVC connection, located above the sump pump, leading ground water into the basement on a non-carpeted area. Thankfully a slow trickle, the water emptying outside the sump pump basin. Quick trip to Lowe’s for a new elbow and some plumber’s putty, and the water is going back to the sump pump.

The area is completely dry a few hours later. Some do-it-yourself projects are actually easier than others. But there was still another concern.

The biggest sigh of relief would come the next day at around 11 p.m. after Wisconsin has eliminated Kentucky in the NCAA basketball tournament, immediately squelching all talk about pursuing perfection and a ninth national championship.

The UK fans were subdued, almost difficult to find in church Sunday morning. No UK flags on cars in the parking lot. The only trace of UK apparel to be found on a youngster about 7 years old. The guy sitting next to us wearing a Wisconsin sweatshirt, enjoying new levels of popularity with University of Louisville fans in the congregation.

No smug looks, or mentions of perfect seasons. Happy Easter weekend, indeed.