BOZICH | Louisville One Win From NCAA Tournament Bonus - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville One Win From NCAA Tournament Bonus

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Louisville freshman Corey Ray had three hits as the Cards beat Kansas. Louisville freshman Corey Ray had three hits as the Cards beat Kansas.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This is where the surging University of Louisville baseball team sits today:

The Cards’ toughest challenge has become not thinking about what could be their reward next weekend – more bonus home games in the NCAA Super Regional.

On Saturday Louisville beat Kansas (6-3) nearly as easily as the Cards beat Kent State (5-0) on Friday. The Cards have yet to trail in two games at Jim Patterson Stadium, outhitting their opponents, 18-11, without giving up an extra-base hit.

They have stolen five bases and made only a single error. Kyle Funkhouser and Anthony Kidston have saved the bullpen by pitching 15 quality innings.

Abner Doubleday, Tony LaRussa or U of L coach Dan McDonnell could not have asked for anything more – other than subtracting the rain delays from the Friday schedule.

“You get quality starts,” McDonnell said. “You take the lead on teams. Three of your bullpen guys get to run out there. You play good defense.

“I’m really pleased with where we are right now. I think if you try to script the regional, this is how you hope it’s going to go.”

Now at 4 p.m. on Sunday they’ll get the winner of an elimination game between Kansas and Kentucky that will be played at noon

Here’s the part the Cardinals don’t want to talk about – one more victory (either Sunday afternoon or Monday night) will not only secure the program’s fourth Regional title, it will enable Louisville to host a Super Regional next weekend because Florida State was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament Saturday.

Everybody in the press box talked about it. The folks on ESPN talked about it. College baseball fans Tweeted about it. Just don’t ask the Louisville players to talk about it – at least not in press conference situations.

“I think it just shows our focus right now,” McDonnell said. “Sometimes people think it’s cliché. But I didn’t say anything about it in the outfield (after the game).

“I realized Alabama was beating Florida State (6-5) earlier, but it really didn’t even register because again it’s all these if necessaries. Those teams have nothing to do with our situation. Right now it’s us, Kansas and Kentucky.”

True. But don’t forget the rest of the story: Either Kansas or Kentucky must win three games to win the regional. Louisville only needs to win once.

McDonnell said that Josh Rogers, his freshman left-hander, will start Sunday. Rogers has allowed three runs and 10 hits in his last 15 innings while averaging one strikeout per inning.

The Cards’ offense scored five runs in the first three innings Friday – and five more in the first four innings Saturday. Pitchers like that.

“I challenged the kids before the game let’s get one here, one there and one there and before you know it, that adds up to a crooked number,” McDonnell said.

Kansas coach Ritch Price said there is no mystery about why Louisville has won its first two games – excellent starting pitching, superb defense and some of the best base-running he has seen this season.

“I compliment their team speed – their team speed is absolutely phenomenal,” Price said. “It reminds me of playing Texas A&M on their last College World Series team.”

Price said the Cardinals made at least four “plus” defensive plays. He said the Cards forced the Jayhawks infielders into a pair of errors because they were rushing while reacting to Louisville’s speed.

Nobody is faster than Corey Ray, the Cards’ freshman right-fielder. The box score said Ray delivered a single and two doubles, but it was actually three singles that Ray ran into two doubles and a single. Ray exits the batters’ box convinced that his final destination is second base. He’s usually correct.

“I think as an offense, we’re really rolling,” Ray said.

“He’s a super talent,” McDonnell said. “It just took him time, took him time to get used to the college game. He’s handled it. He’s really matured.

“We spend a lot of time practicing our base-running. I take a lot of game notes during the year and probably 50 percent of those game notes have to do with base-running.”

Now the Cards have raced into Sunday, playing the first two days of this regional precisely the way they planned.

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