By ASHLEY ANDERSON
The sky truly is the limit for the Louisville Cardinals, whose athletics program continues its incredible hot streak, with the menâ€™s baseball team headed to the College World Series.
After defeating rival Vanderbilt 2-1 on June 9, the eighth-ranked Cardinals captured the Nashville Super Regional, advancing to the College World Series for the second time in school history. â€œItâ€™s just a compliment to Coach (Dan) McDonnell and the wonderful staff that heâ€™s put together whoâ€™ve stayed with him ever since heâ€™s been here,â€ said Tom Jurich, the University of Louisvilleâ€™s director of athletics and vice president. â€œStability has meant so much to this program. The true reward for me as an athletic director is to see the smile on all those kidsâ€™ faces, the hard work that they put in, the toughness to go into that hostile environment (against Vanderbilt). And I donâ€™t want to say they dominated, because they didnâ€™t, but they certainly prevailed.â€
With the win against Vanderbilt, the Cards achieved a school record 51st win of the season and will return to Omaha for the first time since the 2007 run in the College World Series in McDonnellâ€™s first season at Louisville. â€œWeâ€™ve worked just as hard, if not harder, but I guess the main thing is weâ€™re a family,â€ said junior catcher Kyle Gibson of the difference-maker this season for the team. â€œWeâ€™ve come together. This is the closest group of guys Iâ€™ve ever been around.â€
Not only is the baseball team supportive of each member on the team, but other athletes on UofLâ€™s campus have shown their praise and encouragement, including this yearâ€™s Sugar Bowl championship football team and Coach Rick Pitinoâ€™s 2013 NCAA champion basketball squad. â€œThe basketball and football team show a lot of love on social media or when they see us, and (they) congratulate us,â€ said junior outfielder Coco Johnson. â€œItâ€™s a great year. Every sports program here, we all support each other, so thatâ€™s fun. You donâ€™t see that with a lot of schools. Everybody supports everybody (here).â€
On Saturday, opening day of the College World Series, Louisville will face a familiar foe in Indiana, who defeated the Cards twice earlier in the season and lost to Louisville in their most recent matchup on May 8. â€œWeâ€™re just trying to go play good baseball,â€ said first baseman Zak Wasserman. â€œWe know that IUâ€™s on a roll right now. Theyâ€™re on a hot streak. Theyâ€™re hitting very well, theyâ€™re pitching very well, so basically we have to do a lot of little things out there to compete and hopefully get the best of them.â€
First pitch for the Cardinals and Hoosiers is set for 8 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN. Follow Louisville baseball on Twitter at twitter.com/uoflbaseball and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ulbaseball.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at email@example.com, 502.498.2051.