By Beau Kilpatrick—
The No. 7 Louisville Cardinals finished the regular season on a downward spiral. They lost their final series of the regular season at home to Florida State. It was the first series loss by the Cards in over 14 prior series.
The Cardinals dropped from No. 2 in the country to No. 4 after the regular season. Coach Dan McDonnell, the fans, and the players were left wondering how they would handle the recent tailspin.
The ACC tournament began with Louisville and North Carolina being the favorites. Louisville battled Notre Dame in their first game at Louisville Slugger Field. The Cardinals were dominant. They pounded the Irish 10-3 and looked to be back to true form. However, Florida State was ready for the rematch with the Cards in game two. Once again, Florida State provided the kryptonite to the high-powered Cardinals, beating U of L 6-2.
After another heartbreaking loss to FSU in their home city, the Cardinals’ rank fell once more. Louisville fell from No.4 to the No. 7 team in the country. However, being No. 7 is good enough to host a regional bracket in the NCAA tournament. The Cards have not lost a game since the NCAA postseason has begun.
No. 7 Louisville has averaged 8.2 runs per game during the postseason. The Cards beat Radford 11-6 to open the regional round at Jim Patterson Stadium. They went on to demolish Oklahoma 11-1. Finally, they finished out the regional by squeezing out the win against Xavier 8-7.
After Louisville swept the visitors on their home field, they awaited the winner of NC State and the University of Kentucky. Kentucky prevailed over the Wolfpack and the stage was set for the Super Regional round.
The Cardinals remained a national seed and welcomed their in-state rival to Louisville’s campus. The two faced each other during the regular season, splitting the wins with one a piece. Louisville beat U of K in April 5-3 when the Cats were ranked No. 8. Kentucky returned the favor two weeks later after falling to No. 10 in the country. They beat the Cardinals 11-7 in Lexington.
The 2017 Super Regional between the Cards and Cats was slated as the “Dream Series.” However, it was more of a nightmare for the boys in blue. Louisville swept the Wildcats in two games, negating the need for a game three. The Cardinals won the first game 5-2 and the second 6-2.
Infielder, Drew Ellis, was the rope that hung the fate of the Wildcats just out of reach. Ellis hit three homeruns in two days, earning five RBIs off of his homers. He is atop the ACC leaderboard with 20 HRs so far this season. Drew recently had his name called in the second round of the MLB draft, going 44th overall, he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Outfielders Josh Stowers and Logan Taylor have been clutch during the tournament as well. Taylor collected six RBIs on seven hits and Stowers recorded eight RBIs on seven hits.
The big story right now is how college baseball history is being re-written by Louisville’s Brendan McKay. McKay is one of the few players that pitches, plays first base, and bats. But unlike the others, McKay is phenomenal at all three. He is the only college player to ever win the John Olrud Award three times. This award goes to two-way players. He is also the ACC Player of the Year and Baseball America has awarded him the 2017 National Player of the Year.
McKay is Louisville’s ace on the mound. He has struck out more batters than any other Cardinal in Louisville history with 385 Ks. Brendan adds a 2.15 ERA which makes him one of the best pitchers in the country. However, that’s only one part of his game. McKay has a .328 career batting average with 27 homeruns and 131 RBIs.
McKay set a new Louisville record by being the highest draft pick in Cardinal history. He declined the offer by the Minnesota Twins to go first overall in the MLB draft and accepted the offer made by the Tampa Bay Rays to go fourth overall in the draft. The Rays are offering him the opportunity to remain a two-way player when other organizations were trying to make him conform into a single position.
The No. 7 Louisville Cardinals are on their way to Omaha, Nebraska for their fourth appearance in the College World Series. In a bracketed “elite eight” system where the loser of a game is forced into an elimination game, the Cardinals will begin their run against Texas A&M this Sunday at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
The rest of the teams in the CWS are: No. 4 LSU, Cal. State Fullerton, No. 1 Oregon State, No. 3 Florida, No. 6 TCU—and Louisville’s nemesis—the Florida State Seminoles. The Cardinals will face either TCU or Florida in game two of the College World Series.
As always, GO CARDS!! L1C4!