Welcome back to Around the Bases, where we look at the week ahead for Louisville baseball as they officially begin their march to their fourth College World Series appearance.
After ending the regular season on a nine-game winning streak against UNC, Vanderbilt, N.C. State, Indiana and Wake Forest, the Cards bowed out of the ACC Tournament with a 1-2 record in pool play. The Cardinals managed to get a 9-5 win over Wake Forest, pushing Kade McClure’s undefeated record to 12-0 this season, but followed it up with a 3-5 loss to eventual champion Clemson last Friday, and 2-7 to Virginia on Saturday.
Despite the setback, Louisville earned the #2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, drawing MAC Tournament champion Western Michigan, Horizon League champion Wright State, and Big Ten tournament champion Ohio State. Kyle Funkhouser will pitch on Friday night against Western Michigan, returning to his Friday spot after being the Sunday starter for most of the regular season.
The Batting Order
- McDonnell Signs Gigantic Extension: Perhaps the big news this week is Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell signing a new extension, securing him as the long-term architect for the baseball program. The extension not only ended preliminary rumors of Texas chasing him as their next head coach, but also makes McDonnell one of the highest paid coaches in college baseball. You can view the press conference from yesterday at GoCards.com..
- Possible Patterson Stadium Expansion?: In meeting with the media on Monday, AD Tom Jurich noted that he was interested in expanding Jim Patterson Stadium again. Built in 2005, Patterson Stadium has already seen one expansion in 2013. Jurich spoke about that and more on Monday, be sure to check it out here.
- Ray, McKay named Golden Spikes Semifinalists: Junior OF Corey Ray and two-way player Brendan McKay were named two of 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best college baseball player. You can vote for both players at GoldenSpikes.com before June 8th to give either a chance to advance to win this award.
- Four Cardinals named All-Americans by Louisville Slugger: P Drew Harrington (1st Team), OF Corey Ray (2nd), closer Zack Burdi (2nd), and utility player Brendan McKay (3rd) were just named All-Americans by Louisville Slugger. This marks the most Cardinals that have ever been named All-Americans in one season.
- Louisville hosts a Regional Again: As the #2 overall seed, this is the fourth straight season Louisville has hosted an NCAA Regional. This is also the Cardinals’ sixth year hosting a regional since 2009. Louisville holds a 19-6 all-time record when hosting an NCAA Regional or Super Regional.
- Highest National Seed Ever: As the #2 overall seed, this is the third time Louisville has been a top-8 overall seed, and the highest Louisville has ever earned in its history. Louisville was a 7-overall seed in 2010 and 3-overall last season.
- Meet the Teams in the Regionals: Western Michigan won the MAC Tournament as the 7-seed, and enters this weekend with a 22-32 record. Wright State won the Horizon League Tournament and enters with a 44-15 record, with Louisville beating the Raiders 9-1 on March 16th. Ohio State won the Big Ten tournament and enters with a 43-18-1, with the Buckeyes holding wins over Xavier, Coastal Carolina, and Minnesota.
- Players to Watch: OF Ronnie Dawson (Ohio St), OF Ryan Fucci (Wright St), P Keegan Akin (Western MI). Dawson was named a Third-Team All-American by Louisville Slugger and a First Team All Big-Ten player. The Buckeye averages .329 at the plate with 23 doubles, 13 HR and 47 RBI. Dawson is also 20-for-24 stealing bases, which if the Buckeyes meet Louisville, will provide a major test for Louisville catchers. Fucci was one of nine Wright State named to the All-Horizon League team (including three starting pitchers for the Raiders). Fucci averaged .329 at the plate as well with 10 doubles, 11 HR, 59 RBI and a .529 slugging percentage. Akin is the ace at the mound for the Broncos, and will get the start Friday against Louisville. Akin holds a 1.46 ERA with 129 strikeouts and has only allowed a .186 batting average, and the duel between him and Funkhouser tomorrow will be must-watch.
- How to Watch/Listen: The entire schedule is as follows:
Game 1: (2) Wright State v. (3) Ohio St, 2 p.m.
Game 2: (1) Louisville v. (4) Western Michigan, 6 p.m.
Game 3: Game 1 and Game 2 losers, noon
Game 4: Game 1 and Game 2 losers, 4 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 winner v. Game 4 loser, noon
Game 6: Game 4 winner v. Game 5 winner, noon
Game 7: Game 6 rematch, 4 p.m.
Tickets are $70 for all-sessions ($45 for students), with single-sessions available for $15 (chairbacks), $10 general admission, or $5 for students. All games will be aired on ESPN3.