LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Dan McDonnell knows he's got another good team, but he admits it's hard to tell just how good as they prepare with pre-season scrimmages against each other.His U of L baseball Cardinals will get the chance to find out more about themselves beginning Friday at the “Opening Weekend Challenge” in Sarasota, Florida.
Pre-season All-American Kyle Funkhouser will get the ball in the opener against Alabama State on Friday at 3:00 pm.That will be followed by a 6:00 pm game Saturday against the host school, South Florida.Sunday's finale will be at 11:00 am against Cal State Fullerton.
Expectations are again very high for Louisville.They are ranked between 7 and 12 in the preseason polls with strong returnees on the mound leading a bid for a third consecutive trip to Omaha and the College World Series.Which, amazingly was a goal or challenge issued by McDonnell to the current group of Juniors and Seniors a few years ago.
“I think it's setting the bar high,” said McDonnell.“How do you talk about going to Omaha three years in a arrow when you hadn't been since '07?You can't be afraid.You can't be afraid to challenge these kids.”
“Obviously it's every kid's dream to go there,” added Junior Pitcher Anthony Kidston.“You come into a program and a coach challenges you to go to Omaha three years in a row and you've only been one time in your history.Did we believe it?Yea, but at the same time, we knew it would take some luck and we've been fortunate so far.”
This is the ninth season under McDonnell.His previous eight seasons have produced three College World Series trips, seven NCAA regional bids, five regular season conference championships and 359 wins, the seventh most nationally during that time. This years Cardinals return 19 letterwinners from a team that went 50-17 a year ago.