McKay still looking for first hit after start as designated hitter

Brendan McKay following his final home game and a win for the University of Louisville over Kentucky in the 2016 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium (Charlie Springer photo).

Brendan McKay, fresh off a remarkable first pitching start in Major League Baseball over the weekend, made another debut on Monday with Tampa Bay. This time at the plate for the Rays against the Baltimore Orioles.

This one, not quit as impressive, with the former University of Louisville baseball star going 0-for-4 as the designated hitter, batting eighth in the lineup in a 6-3 win over the visiting Orioles.

“I felt like I had some good at-bats,” he said after the game. “Obviously not the results you want. Now it’s just time to find holes in the defense and get your first hit out of the way.”

Two of his at-bats were against Tom Eshelman, a former pitcher at Cal State Fullerton, who threw against UofL in the 2015 Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.  McKay grounded out to first with the bases loaded and two outs to end the first inning and a fourth-inning grounder against Eshelman who was making his major league debut.

McKay got picked off second base in the sixth after reaching on the fielder’s choice.

“To see him on the other side, it was kind of funny,” Eshelman said. “I knew what not to throw him because he hit a homer off me in that game. Yeah, congrats to him. To be able to do it two ways in the big leagues is pretty awesome. So, it was definitely a weird feeling facing him in a big league uniform, but it was fun.”

McKay is the fourth player since 1913 to begin his career with a start as a pitcher and a non-pitcher within his first two games, according to the Associated Press.

During his big league debut on Saturday, McKay entered the sixth inning with a perfect game against the Texas Rangers. He left the game after allowing only one hit in sixth innings.

The left-handed McKay is scheduled to pitch again Friday night against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay.

 

 

UofL’s Luke Smith owned Vanderbilt before the distractions

Luke Smith, a Louisville junior, dominating Vanderbilt for eight innings, allowing only one run and three hits before the fatal ninth inning (UofL photo by Jeff Reinking).

Not sure what all the yelling was all about between the University of Louisville and Vanderbilt University baseball players. What is certain, however, is that the verbal sparring in the eighth inning left an ugly taste after what would have been one of college baseball’s best games of the season.

Some players in the Vandy dugout apparently frustrated with Luke Smith’s total dominance on the mound. One or more of them reportedly hurling gay taunts at the Louisville pitcher who had made quick work of the Vandy batters. Julian Infante the third batter, striking out, specifically mouthing something in Smith’s direction.

Luke Smith, with the most impressive pitching performance of the season up to that point, putting UofL in a position to win. In total control up to that point, ready to lead his team into a third game against Vandy and possible in the finals against Michigan.

Moments later, the network camera going to closeup mode, showing Smith mouthing the most common of profanities between bitter antagonists. The umpires taking charge, warning Smith, demanding that Vanderbilt players stay in the dugout.

The magic evaporating quickly for UofL, just one inning after scoring two runs to finally get the lead. A lead that likely would have held without the theatrics. Three measly popups for UofL batters in the bottom of the eighth.

Smith had lost his command and his focus after returning to the mound the ninth. Forced to finally leave the game after facing three batters in the ninth, giving up a walk, a double and the tying run.  The momentum back to Vanderbilt.

No closer in the vicinity. Reliever Michael McAvene loading the bases,  allowing the winning run. The magic gone, along with all the optimism and the possibilities.  Louisville losing 3-2, and eliminated from the 2019 College World Series.

Louisville waves goodbye to Mississippi State, advances in CWS

Photos by Jeff Reinking, UofL Sports

 Another one of those potential nightmares against Mississippi State, the program few University of Louisville fans pay any attention to for the most part. When their paths do cross, Cardinal fans are on full alert, having lost to the Bulldogs three last three times — in the Taxslayer football bowl 2017, an NIT basketball game and a Final Four women’s basketball game in 2018.

Drew Campbell would collect three hits while driving in two runs, including the walkout in the ninth inning (Jeff Reinking, UofL Sport photos)

Understandable that loud collective groan when Mississippi State is the opponent.  Rarely on purpose because they don’t schedule each other. The losses have followed a familiar pattern, ending UofL’s respective seasons.

The last team any Louisville fan wanted to see Thursday night was Mississippi State. Not even close.

Seemed inevitable that the UofL baseball team was going down again, batters struggling again, runners getting caught out of position, and pitchers searching for the strike zone. Meekly going though the motions, seemingly powerless at times.

Still hard to believe that Louisville emerged with a 4-3 win over Mississippi State. The Cardinals had nine hits, none of them for extra bases, managing six singles with their backs against the wall in the final three innings. 

Right fielder Drew Campbell would play a pivotal role in this one, playing in a little too close in the fourth inning. Helplessly watching the baseball fly over his head, opening the gate for two Mississippi State runs.  Another one of those College World Series pitching duels, every run a monumental challenge.

Campbell would emerge the hero in this game, however, with the best hit of the night, a solid hit to right, sending Danny Oriente home from second base with the winning run. Jake Snider had scored earlier on a base hit by Oriente.

It was also Drew Campbell who had given his team some hope, with his single to left field scoring Tyler Fitzgerald with UofL’s first run. Alex Binelas  would score on a fielder’s choice off of Justin Lavey’s bat.

An understandably sweet victory, ending an intolerable drought against Mississippi State. A second straight win over a Southeastern Conference, the Cardinals having eliminated both Mississippi State and Auburn on successive days.

Louisville down to the final four, needing two wins over Vanderbilt advance to the finals of the College World Series next week. Nice to get that Mississippi State monkey off the back, but aiming for unprecedented success on college baseball’s highest plateau.

Been there, done that doesn’t make it any easier for UofL Baseball

Here we go again.

College World series time again for the University of Louisville baseball program. Never gets old.

Five times in 13 years for UofL under Coach Dan McDonnell.  Could easily have been seven times, without some unpredictable outcomes against a couple of California programs.

Some are saying it is expected of UofL to make the CWS. I don’t know about that but it is always an amazing feeling when Louisville wins another Super Regional and becomes one of the select few.

Already one has heard some critcism on a couple of sports talk shows about UofL’s lack of success during the past four trips to Omaha. Two wins against eight losses is nothing about which to write home. But it’s no disgrace either. These are, after all, the best of the best teams year after year.

The ups and downs of college baseball are unpredictable. For example, UofL losing both games, going home early from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. UofL losing to Iowa State in the second game of the Louisville Regional, then winning four straight to host the Super Regional. UofL literally beating the crap out of 10th-ranked East Carolina.

As always the CWS presents some major hurdles, with UofL facing second-ranked Vanderbilt in the first game. Vandy has a lineup that includes some of the most effective pitchers and best hitters in the nation. UofL lost the regular season game by a score of 6-2. 

The really discouraging part about the loss was the score was tied 2-2 going into the eighth inning. UofL employed both of its ace relievers — Michael Kirian in the eighth and Michael McAvene in the ninth. Each of them facing only two batters,  each of them giving two hits and two runs. Not cool at all.

But baseball being baseball, it is difficult to use one game or even a series of games from the past for predicting the future. Some of the most intimidating teams are often eliminated early in the College World Series, with the likes of Virginia and Coastal Carolina having prevailed in recent years. 

McDonnell has said it usually  comes down to the teams that are playing the best at the time. UofL has been there often enough now to avoid all the distractions in Omaha.

A business trip, time to focus on good baseball.

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

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”36″ display=”pro_mosaic” ngg_proofing_display=”0″ captions_enabled=”0″ captions_display_sharing=”1″ captions_display_title=”1″ captions_display_description=”1″ captions_animation=”slideup”]