Dan McDonnell arrived in Louisville prior to the 2007 season and the University of Louisville Baseball program had appeared in just one NCAA Tournament…….EVER.
Milestone #1: 2002 1st NCAA Tournament Appearance
In ’02 the Cards were an at-large bid from Conference USA under the leadership of Lelo Prado for their 1st ever NCAA Tournament appearance. UofL was unable to win a game in the Georgia Tech Region in Atlanta, losing quickly to Georgia & Coastal Carolina by a combined score of 16-2. It was a milestone to MAKE the NCAA Tournament, and it was a time where the Cards were “happy to be here” and “playing with house money”.
Milestone #2: 2007 1st College World Series Appearance
Those two phrases “happy to be here” & “playing with house money” also applied to the 2007 team when the program achieved an incredible milestone under 1st Year Head Coach Dan McDonnell and got to the Omaha & The College World Series for the 1st time in program history. Louisville got into the field as an at-large out of the Big East Conference and HOSTED a Super Regional after the Cards advanced out of the Missouri Region by beating Miami (FL) TWICE and then beat Missouri twice in two days.
As the Super Regional Host the Cards won an EXCITING series on their way to Omaha over the OSU Cowboys. The Cards won the 1st game 9-0, then lost Game Two 3-2 in 12 innings, before BLASTING Oklahoma State 20-2 for the program’s 1st ever berth to the College World Series.
The city of Louisville had its 1st REAL taste of Tournament Baseball, the fans were learning how the NCAA Tournament & College World Series actually worked, and the Cards went down in a Boom Fest 15-10 to #2 Rice. The Cards were able to avoid elimination with a 12-4 victory over Mississippi State, but Louisville’s 1st ever run to Omaha ended quickly with a 3-1 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Milestone #3: 2010 1st National Seed in NCAA Tournament
The Cards played a lot of good baseball between the 2007 & 2010 seasons compared to its overall history. Louisville was handed a quick exit in the 2008 Tournament and then followed that season with a Regional Championship before a BEATDOWN in the 2009 Super Regional vs. Cal State Fullerton.
But in 2010 the Cards achieved their 1st EVER National Seed. A major sign of respect by the NCAA Committee after a 48-win season prior to the NCAA Tournament. As a National Seed UofL was the host for the opening Region of the NCAA Tournament. Louisville took out St. Louis & Vanderbilt in the first two games of the Regional, but then fell after the Commodores won two games in a row by bunting the Cardinals to death. It was a humiliating loss for a very talented team who had to win just 1 of 2 games to advance & host a Super Regional vs. Florida State. Still, the 2010 team was another step in the right direction for the program despite the disappointing end to the season.
Milestone #4: 2013 2nd College World Series Appearance
Louisville missed the 2011 NCAA Tournament and found themselves paired with the eventual National Champions in the 2012 Tournament, the Arizona Wildcats in Tuscon.
In 2013 Louisville WALTZED to Omaha playing brilliant baseball beating Bowling Green 8-3, Miami (FL) 6-4, and Oklahoma State 12-3. Then UofL traveled to Nashville to face a familiar opponent…..the Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy was arguably the best team in the Nation in 2013, but the Cards swept the ‘Dores off their feet in two games and Danced to Omaha.
Once in Omaha, however, the brilliance that brought Louisville to TD Ameritrade Park for the College World Series evaded the Cards. Louisville suffered an opening round loss (and the 3rd of the season) to the Indiana Hoosiers 2-0 as left-hander Joey DeNato was nearly untouchable for the Hoosiers. The bats for the Cardinals did come to life versus Oregon State, but the Cardinals made too many mental errors (and had help from the umpire crew) and were unable to steady the effort before falling 11-4 despite only allowing 4 earned runs. Louisville’s 4 errors doomed the Cards in an elimination game, which ended UofL’s 2nd Trip ever to the College World Series.
MILESTONE #5: UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Louisville is the only team in the 2014 College World Series who appeared in 2013. This isn’t a team that is ‘happy to be here’ or ‘playing with house money’. Those phrases are for programs who have yet to build a culture of success…..like the Cards in 2007. Since that time, University of Louisville Baseball has evolved. It is now dangerous. Omaha, Super Regionals are NOW the expectation. The 2013 team fell victim to being ‘awed’ by the environment. But this is Louisville’s 3rd CWS appearance in 8 years…..this isn’t new territory.
Dan McDonnell spoke after the Super Regional Championship over Kennesaw State about ‘envisioning success’. McDonnell said ‘You don’t win a National Championship once. You don’t go to Omaha once….you don’t do these things once. These things are already done in your brain.”
McDonnell went on, “You don’t do anything once. You don’t do anything GREAT once. You do it in your mind, and you live it in your mind. So when it happens, you’ve already experienced it. I’ve experienced walking across home plate, shaking the other coaches’ hand after winning a National Championship. I’ve done it…..many times. I’m ready for it to happen in real life.” (see video below)
It is TIME for the next step in the evolution of Louisville Baseball. Omaha isn’t new. Being Super Regional Champions is no longer new. This program has come a long way in a short period of time and has a leader in Dan McDonnell. The program isn’t just ‘Happy to Be Here” and it doesn’t view the College World Series as ‘Playing with House Money”.
The next phase in the evolutionary process for Louisville Baseball is to do some damage in Omaha. To make a run at a National Championship. To bring dreams to reality………
Now I guess there is only one thing left to do………
Go Cards. Beat Vandy. Beat EVERYBODY.