After having 53-12 campaign in 2017, as well as ending the season in Omaha, Louisville Baseball head coach Dan McDonnell won Baseball America’s National Coach of the Year award. This is the second time that McDonnell has won the award.
Although U of L came up short being eliminated by TCU last Thursday, the Cardinals finished with a 53-12 record. The team set a school-record for wins, while also earning their fourth College World Series trip. Here are some pictures from my trip to Omaha. I hope you enjoy!
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Following the historic 2017 season for the Cardinal Nine, the program announced today the summer assignments for the remaining players who either did not graduate or did not sign major league deals.
The team ended with a mark of 53-12, as well as earned a berth to its fourth College World Series, and third in five years. The team was also ACC Atlantic Division champs for the third straight year in a row, and also saw Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year honors with Brendan McKay, Dan McDonnell and Devin Hairston respectively.
Louisville Cardinals Summer 2017 Assignments:
Another year, another brutal way for the Cardinal Nine’s season to end. After trailing 4-0 early, the Cardinals rally ended one run short, as TCU eliminated the Cardinals 4-3 on Thursday night in Omaha.
The loss eliminates Louisville (53-12) from the College World Series, matching their highest finish in the College World Series (5th/6th, 2007). TCU (49-17) will advance to face Florida tomorrow night, needing two wins against the Gators to advance to the Finals next week.
It was a game marred with a lot of controversy, with Louisville losing nearly every 50/50 call at the plate. The first came in a four-run second inning, where Stowers’ throw to home was not on time, allowing TCU to stay-alive with two outs and ultimately deliver the deciding runs.
The second thwarted U of L’s rally in the eighth inning. When Colby Fitch delivered a lead-off single in the inning, Ryan Summers came on to pinch-run. He was ruled out attempting to steal second base, but the replay almost seemingly confirmed he was safe. The call resulted in Brendan McKay striking out and ending the inning.
Head coach Dan McDonnell took exception to the call and was ejected for the first time since 2010. Despite the heated exchange, McDonnell was adamant that he won’t blame the umpires for the disputed calls.
“I fought for my guy,” McDonnell said. “Knowing the point in the game and how valuable that base was. But I’m never gonna stand behind the camera and blame an umpire. That’s not the reason we lost. I don’t know if I should have been thrown out, but that’s not my call to make … A lot of times you just read the body language of your guys, and you want to stick up for them.”
McDonnell’s sentiments were echoed through the players, as well. “Yeah, it’s obviously tough,” Brendan McKay said. “It’s the competitor in every athlete, you see a play that’s bang-bang and you obviously want it in your favor. I mean, there’s no robotic strike zone or sensors for the baseball and the glove and foot for touching the base or anything like that … you can’t fault anybody for that.”
Controversy aside, TCU rode a four-run second inning to victory. Nick Bennett, who earned his first start since the Regional round, had a perfect first inning and then got the first two batters out in the second.
After that, Bennett fell behind the count with two outs and never recovered. An RBI double from Connor Wanhanen gave TCU an early run, followed by a Ryan Merrill two-RBI double to push the lead to 3-0. Wanhanen narrowly made it home to beat the tag, but the subsequent review was unable to overturn the call. Austen Wade added an RBI single, but was tagged out trying to reach second to end the inning.
Wanhanen was the only TCU batter with multiple hits, while Ryan Merrill had the two-RBI that provided the deciding runs for the Horned Frogs. Austen Wade, Zach Humphreys, Cam Warner, Elliott Barzilli and Merrill were the only other TCU batters with hits.
Nick Lodolo, who made an appearance as a reliever in Sunday’s loss to Florida, got the nod as their starter. Lodolo finished with three earned runs on five hits, two of which came on lead-off home runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Sean Wymer was credited with the win, only allowing two hits while striking out five in the final 4.1 innings.
On Louisville’s end, Bennett’s day was over before the second inning ended. His loss marked the first in his brief career, allowing all four of TCU’s runs on three hits and two strikeouts. Despite the early deficit, Wolf, Sam Bordner and Lincoln Henzman combined for 6.1 shutout innings and only allowed four hits with two walks.
“I thought they (Wolf, Bordner, Henzman) were outstanding,” pitching coach Roger Williams said. “Those guys probably don’t get enough credit at times. And I guess we as coaches really appreciate that group’s probably been the backbone of a lot of success we’ve had this year.”
Louisville’s usually stout bullpen was one of the main reasons for their success. The bullpen finished 23-1 on the season, and closer Lincoln Henzman never blew a save in 2017.
McDonnell made dramatic changes in the batting lineup, moving Taylor from the 1-hole all the way to the eight spot and Mann from third to seventh. Josh Stowers, who started as the leadoff hitter for the first time since April 23rd, made the most of his opportunity. He landed a soft RBI single to left field in the third to get the Cardinals on the board.
Louisville’s next two innings would feature back-to-back leadoff home runs. McKay would lead off the fourth with his 18th home run of the season to right-center, while Logan Taylor blasted one to left field in the fifth. U of L was fired up after seeing the speedy senior launch his first home run of the season, but cooled off after Sean Wymer entered the game.
Wymer shut out the Cardinals in the final 4.1 innings, but U of L had opportunities to get the runs they desperately needed. Summers was ruled out in the eighth inning attempting to steal second, with the momentum parlaying into McKay’s strikeout that ended the inning. Devin Mann scored a two-out single in the ninth, but was for naught when Taylor grounded out to end the game.
Stowers lead all Cardinals with two hits, including a one-out double in the fifth. Devin Mann also had two hits on the day, while McKay and Taylor had U of L’s only two home runs.
For Louisville, it was a third straight season with an agonizing end to it. 2015 saw the Cardinals lose the series on a controversial home-run against Cal State Fullerton, while 2016 saw U of L lose the series on a walk-off grand slam.
“You try not to evaluate every pitch or play that happens, and you wanna recollect on the season and all the success and the joy these guys brought us,” McDonnell said. “I’ve had so much fun with this group, and I’m really proud of them.”
2017 may have been the latest brutal end to a successful season. But Dan McDonnell believes it was still a great season. After all, Louisville made their fourth trip to Omaha, earned their first number one ranking and won more games than any team in school history.
“We lost a few years (ago) on a controversial home run, and I never lost sleep blaming an umpire for that,” McDonnell said. “I still remember opportunities we missed that night like it was last night. So tonight, you just live with a couple of things you could have done better … I’m big on being accountable, and it starts with me. And if anything, it just motivates me to want to be a better coach, to work harder, and get ready for next year.”
Prior to tomorrow’s matchup against the #3 Florida Gators, the #7 Louisville Cardinals took to the practice field, where Defensive Player of the Year Devin Hairston was mic’d up.
Couldn’t make the trip up to Omaha? Check out this short video with the sights and sounds of Louisville’s thrilling 8-4 victory over Texas A&M, as well as some of the pageantry surrounding the College World Series.
Following their 8-4 victory over Texas A&M in game 1 of the College World Series, the Louisville Baseball team speaks to the media.
A big day for Colby Fitch, batting 2-for-4 with four RBI, was the difference as the slugger powered Louisville to an 8-4 victory over Texas A&M.
The win marks only the second in school history, their previous victory a 12-4 decision over Mississippi State in 2007. It is also McDonnell’s first win when opening pool play in the College World Series.
Even though the Cards don’t play their first game in the College World Series until tomorrow, play in Omaha began today, with Oregon State coming from behind to defeat Cal State Fullerton. Florida State and LSU will face off tonight in the Saturday nightcap.
However, the CWS can be confusing. Many look at the teams and think:
“Who plays who?”
“Who does UofL play?”
“This team lost, are they still in?”
Well I will break it down for you. The College World Series consists of two 4 team double-elimination brackets, with the winner of each bracket facing off in a best-of-three series to determine the champion. Basically, each bracket acts like how the Regionals round works, and the CWS Final acts like how the Super Regional round works.
Oregon State vs. Cal St. Fullerton
Florida State vs. LSU
Louisville vs. Texas A&M
TCU vs. Florida
I’ll use bracket 1 for example. At the time of this post, Oregon State defeated Cal St. Fullerton and LSU defeated. Oregon State will go on to face LSU, and Cal St. Fullerton will face FSU. Since the loser of the Cal St. Fullerton vs FSU game will have two losses, that team will be eliminated. It is a de facto elimination game.
The winner of the elimantion game will then face the loser of the Oregon State vs. LSU game, in yet another elimination game. Once that game has concluded, there will only be two teams left in the bracket, with one team having one loss and the other having none. Those two teams play either one or two games until one of the teams is eliminated.
If that sounds too confusing, essentially, the teams in each bracket play until 3 of the 4 teams have two losses. Once a team reaches 2 losses, they are done in Omaha and will play no more baseball.
Once there has been winner declared in both brackets, those two teams will face off in a best-of-three series in the College World Series Championship.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the red-hot Louisville Cardinals baseball team (which you should have) this postseason, you’ve probably noticed that all of the players have suddenly dyed their hair blonde. This also includes head coach Dan McDonnell, as pictured above. Why is that? Well, relief pitcher Jake Sparger decided to go around the team and talk to them about the change in hairdos.
Following Brendan McKay and Lincoln Henzman winning the Dick Howser Trophy and Stopper Of The Year award respectively, both players speak to the media and are presented with their awards.
Prior to their game against Texas A&M tomorrow in the College World Series, UofL closing pitcher Lincoln Henzman was awarded the Stopper Of The Year award by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association this afternoon. Henzman is the second Cardinal to win the award (Nick Burdi, 2014), and his 16 saves rank #2 in all of Division I baseball.
While the University of Louisville baseball team was preparing for their fourth trip up to Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series, the program made a somewhat surprising, yet inevitable announcement.
Starting next season, the traditionally cost-free games at Jim Patterson Stadium will switch over to ticketed entry, and will no longer be free of charge. Chairback seating will start at $10, with season tickets starting at $150. Group pricing will also be an option, and University of Louisville students will get in free.
In the middle of yet another trip to the College World Series, the Louisville Baseball program announced today that beginning in 2018, games played Jim Patterson Stadium will no longer be free of charge and will start charging admission beginning with the 2018 season.
Season ticket packages will be begin as low as $150, with single game admission going as low as $10. However, University of Louisville students will get in free with their student ID. Group pricing will be available as well. More information regarding the change to ticketed entry to games will be released as the summer goes on.
Brendan McKay, Louisville two-way superstar and the newest member of the Tampa Bay Rays, was named a finalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award this afternoon. He joins Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker, North Carolina’s J.B. Bukauskas and Virginia’s Adam Haseley as the four finalists for the award.
The Golden Spikes Award is awarded to the best player in college baseball, and is viewed as the most highly sought after individual award in college baseball. Current MLB superstars Buster Posey, David Price, Kris Bryant, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are recipients of the award.
In 60 games played, Fitch is batting .256/.371/.467 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs. His 11 home runs are good for third on the team, trailing Brendan McKay and Drew Ellis’ 17 and 20 home runs respectively. Also known for his stellar defense, Fitch leads the team in fielding percentage with .996% (minimum 40 games played).
For the third consecutive year, LHP/1B Brendan McKay has won the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year award. As the name suggests, it is awarded to the top player who excels both at the plate and on the mound. According to our friend Kelly Dickey, McKay has won 37.5% of all the Olerud Player of the Year awards ever given.
In 58 games played, Taylor is batting .279/.399/.358 with no home runs and 40 RBIs. Known for his ability to get on base and swipe some extra bases, Taylor’s on base percentage of .399 ranks fourth in team, behind only McKay, Ellis and Stowers. He has also stolen 22 bases, tied for the team lead with Josh Stowers and good for #35 in all of Division 1 baseball.