Cardinal Nine Advances to Sweet Sixteen

baseballAn afterthought on the local sports scene a decade ago, the Louisville Cardinal baseball squad is now the most consistently successful contingent around.

In the NCAA tourney once again, hosting a Regional once again, heading for a Super Regional again, where it will be hosting again, looking to advance to the College World Series for the third year in the last four, and fourth time in the decade.

More important, with Coach Dan McDonnell here for awhile under a new contract, the whole scene remains fresh and exciting.

The future’s so bright, etc, etc.

And it’s all far from ho hum, as yesterday’s 3-1 W over Wright State proved, completing completing an undefeated Regional weekend.

Drew Harrington, ACC Pitcher of the Year, settled in after a few nervous innings, surrendering no runs and but five hits in 7 1/3 innings on the mound.

Nick Solak — What slump is that now he was being questioned about before the tourney opener? — knocked in all of U of L’s output. His two run tater in the top of the 4th would have been enough, but he was also responsible for an insurance tally in the 5th.

The Cards, who were never able to put significant distance between themselves and steady Wright State, did what needed to be done. Professional is the word that comes to mind.

Survive and advance. It’s the singular mantra of every post-season.

Style points count for zilch. Sunday’s narrow edging of the Daytonians was just as significant as Saturday’s rout of that school down that Buckeye state highway, The Ohio State University.

Sunday’s win was not without its harrowing moments late. Zach Burdi, the warp speed of his offerings notwithstanding, can be a bit tweedly at times.

Like yesterday, when, with but a single out left to gather, he gave up a double, then a run scoring shot off the right field wall, that came within inches of clearing it. The final out was a fading liner to left.

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Baseball is a fickle pastime.

Louisville looks ready for a deep run at the national title . . . but you just never know.

One of the reasons for hope this season is depth.

While U of L’s three weekend starter/ winners — Harrington, Kyle Funkhouser, Brendon McKay — were stalwart, there was more than a small degree of comfort, knowing that the hurler with the best record on the squad, Kade McClure (12-0), never toed the rubber, spending his weekend, charting pitches on a clipboard.

Then there’s the Cardinals’ “best” player, leadoff hitter and HR leader, Corey Ray, who went ofer 4 with a couple of Ks. Not a problem when Solak, a week after lofting one over the Bull in Durham, and Will Smith, each scored a run and got three knocks.

Louisville will need Ray and Burdi mo’ betta down the road. It’s not an easy trip to and through Omaha.

Ask UVa, last year’s champ, and SEC power Ole Miss. They each hosted a regional. They each went on spring vacation without a tourney win. Vandy also went down quickly, but, sadly, the Commodores had a legit excuse for lack of focus.

— Seedy K

2 thoughts on “Cardinal Nine Advances to Sweet Sixteen

  1. Love me some Cardinal Baseball….While this weekends games may have lacked some drama, the pitching was superb. Since baseball is generally regarded as 80% pitching, we should be in pretty good shape. However, for some reason, the bats seem to go quiet at the most inopportune of times. Two games in a row with leaving the bases loaded in consecutive innings as we did on Friday night could spell defeat in any 2/3 series.

    But, that’s what makes baseball baseball. Line drives hit right at somebody; blown calls by the umps (eg last years final loss); poor base running—-all can lead to the best team losing a series they should otherwise win.

    Witness the two teams that beat us in the ACC tourney. Both Clemson and UVA–the defending national champs–gone.

    Hope to see you at the ball park this weekend!

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