Like a team being sponsored by O-Cedar Brooms.
Like a team hellbent on returning to the College World Series after two frustrating years of walk off disappointments when heavy favorites.
Like a team focused such that no impediment would prove an obstacle.
Such as, you know, the somewhat disturbing reality that the best player in the history of the program, who happens to be the best player in the sport this year, has so far hit a less than glossy .148 (3/21) for the NCAA tourney so far, including an ofer in the two Ws over UK.
But the dude in hurler mode was all that on the mound for six and two-thirds in the capper. He hit a batter for the first time all season. No biggie. Then, with Cats on 1st and 2d and one gone in the bottom of the 6th, he flinched while on the rubber. It was his first balk of the season.
No biggie. With the runners each having advanced a sack on the gaffe, Brendan McKay went K and K.
From the bullpen, Sam Bordner, as he’d done the weekend before, was brilliant and closed the deal.
Meanwhile, McKay’s Bash Bro, Drew Ellis rocked two more taters over the wall — he also homered in the series opener — going 3/4 and drawing a walk. Logan Taylor had two hits, scored twice and knocked one across. Devin Hairston was also 3/4, with a BB and a run scored.
Which is to say: “McKay at the plate? McKay at the plate? We don’t need no stinkin’ McKay at the plate.”
Actually they do to make a splash in Nebraska, but my point here: The Cardinals were indeed ready. The Cardinals were not to be denied.
The Cardinals were intent on confirming the truth of reliever Lincoln Henzman’s statement after the squad whisked its way through the opening round.
“No way we lose three Super Regionals in a row at home.”
And so they did not.
* * * * *
The wags that pay way more attention to college baseball than myself consider U of L one of the three top contenders for the national crown, along with heavy fave Oregon State — the Beavers have lost only four games so far all season — and LSU.
OSU and the Bayou Bengals, neither of whom have actually advanced to Omaha as of this writing, are on the other side of the CWS bracket.
But Florida and and TCU, neither of whom has advanced yet either, are in Louisville’s path to the Championship Series, along with opening foe, Texas A&M.
What remains to be seen is whether this edition of the Cards can do what its predecessors could not. Make a statement in Omaha, actually compete for the title, even capture the crown.
U of L has but a single W to show for its three appearances in the CWS, and that came a decade ago during its first appearance in an elimination game against Mississippi State.
While the dogpiling aftermath of the win over Kentucky was an expression of relief for the Cardinals thwarted the last two seasons, it’s time for higher aspirations.
Getting to the Elite Eight is a worthy achievement, never to be discounted.
But, it’s time for more.
And, though I’m generally inclined to lean toward the negativitude, I’m somewhat optimistic about this group.
The Cards showed a lot of grit in the Regional. The win over Radford didn’t come easy. That over Oklahoma was far more difficult than the final score would indicate. And grit prevailed, as U of L came back thrice against Xavier in the clincher.
Kentucky’s vaunted bats were stifled. The Cardinals never trailed this weekend.
When one part of the order is flagging, another is flexing.
When a highlight reel play is needed in the field, cue Sportscenter’s Top Ten.
The U of L nine will spend mid June in Nebraska. Always an adventure to cherish.
— Seedy K