Tough times make for better Louisville baseball in post-season play

By Ed Peak

There are certain things I know about this University of Louisville baseball team. I know it is not coach Dan McDonnell’s best or most talented in his 13 seasons. This Cardinal team has had more than its share of ups and downs.

There was so much drama in Monday's game I had to turn my radio broadcast off at work.

Getting just four hits and scoring two runs in two Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament losses last week clearly signaled a red flag. After a sluggish win Friday over UIC in the first NCAA Tournament game, Illinois State beat the Cardinals to send the No. 7 overall seed into the losers bracket. They would hang on for a two-run win over Indiana on Sunday.

UofL lost top reliever Michael McAvene to an ejection with two outs in the ninth inning against IU when he questioned umpire Ken Langford’s call of a pitch. He did not get a warning, he got ejected. Umpires sometimes overreact. Players sometime overreact. He will sit out three more games. That’s the rule, fair or not.

Dan McDonnell has had plenty of success but says it has never come easily.

There was so much drama in Monday’s game I had to turn the radio broadcast off at work. When Louisville went up 3-1, I thought this might be in the bag. But a line drive mishandled by Trey Leonard in centerfield was deemed a three base error. The next batter singled and the game was tied 3-3. Nothing came easy in the Regional.

“It shouldn’t come easy,” said McDonnell. “All of these teams have done something that has gotten them here. I talk all the time about toughness. Everything in life isn’t going to be easy, go the way you think it should. The same on the baseball field.”

The thing that impresses me most about this team is its mental toughness. It is team-first driven. These players seem to really care for each other. A lot of that had to do with McDonnell and the way he coaches and the kind of person he is.

When was the last time you heard a Louisville player in trouble off the field or discipline for an off the field problem. Never. Athletes and coaches a like have egos. Bigger than most people. They are sure of their abilities beyond belief sometimes. 

What also impresses me is the Louisville players are classy, short on ego.  No, they aren’t perfect and they’re not choir boys. Just look at some of  players that have gone to play professionally. A long list, including Brenden McKay, Will Smith, Drew Ellis, Zack Burdi, Corey Ray, Nick Solak, Chris Dominguez. I’m sure I’ve left some names out but the list is impressive.

Toughness and class abound in the McDonnell’s baseball program, and UofL will continue to reap the benefits in post-season play.

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Author: Ed Peak

Ed Peak has covered UofL sports since 1973, as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.