CRAWFORD | McKay K-O's Florida State to give Louisville ACC base - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | McKay K-O's Florida State to give Louisville ACC baseball title

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.
Louisville freshman Brendan McKay talks with reporters. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Louisville freshman Brendan McKay talks with reporters. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Freshman pitcher Brendan McKay is greeted by Louisville teammates after six scoreless innings. Freshman pitcher Brendan McKay is greeted by Louisville teammates after six scoreless innings.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Brendan McKay had just thrown 6 1/3 scoreless innings of no-hit baseball against the No. 7 team in the nation on Saturday, but by his calm demeanor you'd have thought he merely finished fixing a ham sandwich or saving a bundle on his car insurance.

If you're looking for displays of emotion, the University of Louisville's fantastic freshman is not the place to start. He descended on Florida State's batting order like a cold front.

One night after the Seminoles smoked the No. 2-ranked Cardinals 13-4, he shut down the NCAA's eighth-ranked scoring offense to spark a 7-0 Louisville victory at Jim Patterson Stadium.

On top of that, he helped his team clinch the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division championship and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. It gave the Cards (39-12, 22-4) a conference title for their third straight year — in their third different conference.

Not only that, but the victory snapped Florida State's run of eight straight Atlantic Division titles, a run that began when McKay was playing youth league ball in suburban Pittsburgh.

If all this was exciting to McKay, you couldn't tell it from his calm exterior. Maybe he was a dogpiling on the inside. Or maybe not. Several weeks back, someone asked U of L outfielder Corey Ray if McKay might really be a robot.

“He's human, I've checked,” Ray said. “But he just doesn't get up or down. He's in the same place every day, always focused. He's only a freshman, but I have to say I've learned a lot from him and the way he goes about things.”

The difference from Friday night to Saturday afternoon was, for the Cardinals, well, night and day.

McKay got ahead in counts. He threw strikes. He did walk four in six innings, but that was about all he did wrong. He retired 19 batters — six by strikeout, six by ground out, five by fly balls, and he threw a double-play ball.

And the Cards got on the board early. They touched Florida State right-hander Mike Compton for four runs in the second, keyed by freshman catcher Colby Fitch's two-run double.

The only time FSU got to McKay was a double to right in the top of the fifth -- but that was overturned when the Cards appealed that the hitter missed first base, and won.

Fitch shook his head when asked about McKay, who also is hitting .329 for the Cards with a .443 slugging percentage that is second-best on the team.

“He was phenomenal,” Fitch said. “He has unbelievable stuff. He's a great pitcher to catch. He makes it really easy. His ability to locate pitches and throw whatever he wants for a strike in whatever count keeps the batters off keel and he's a hard guy to hit. He had everything working.”

This is nothing new for McKay. He threw 72 1/3 scoreless innings to start his high school career at Beaver Falls (Pa.) Blackhawk High School, just outside Pittsburgh. Twice in high school he struck out 20 of the 21 batters he faced in games.

But this is a different stage.

“I didn't think there was any pressure on me,” McKay said. “They obviously can put the bat on the ball. They've done it all season. I just wanted to throw strikes and force them to get themselves out.”

When asked about the no-hitter, McKay was matter-of-fact.

“I realized it after the double that he missed first base on, I looked up and saw the ‘one' go up, and then it went away,” McKay said. “But I didn't really worry about it. I just threw strikes and moved on.”

U of L coach Dan McDonnell said he never considered leaving McKay in to finish it. He wound up throwing 109 pitches (67 strikes).

“Florida State has a great lineup; they make you establish the strike zone and they're tough to strike out,” McDonnell said. “They make you work. So that's impressive, what he did. . . . You notice (the no-hitter) as the game goes on, but once he got to 100, and this time of year, and he has to pitch one one day's shorter rest next week . . . we were going to go to (Lincoln) Henzman no matter what happened.”

McKay left the game to a standing ovation from the crowd of 3,054.

Henzman came in and gave up only one hit. It was the first time the Seminoles had been held to just one hit since a loss at Virginia in April of 2013.

“That was just a great job by McKay,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “He spotted his fastball beautifully and did a tremendous job against us. It is just one of those games that you give them all the credit.”

The teams will decide the series at 1 p.m. on Sunday. After his team hoisted the ACC trophy after the game, McDonnell said the win showed something about his program.

“It's just the landscape,” McDonnell said. “Louisville's used to bouncing, conference to conference, all the way to the ACC. And when you think of that, there's a lot of people you have to thank, a lot of people from athletic director Tom Jurich to president James Ramsey and all over who fought long and hard to get Louisville to where we are right now. So, you know, we're just honored to be a part of it. We just want to stay hungry and humble and we're very appreciative for everything that's happened, but we still have to come out tomorrow, keep our head down and keep playing.”

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