LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The U of L baseball team will begin its season at home for the first time since 2010. It will also begin the season with its highest-ever preseason ranking.
The number two-ranked Cardinals open a three-game series with SIU-Edwardsville Friday at 3:00 pm. And the goal as stated throughout Monday's media day is coming back with a title from Omaha.
"I love this team," said Junior Pitcher Zack Burdi. "In my opinion, this is a perfect, I'm not saying we're a perfect team but from the inside out, we have everything we need to accomplish our goal and win a National Championship and the only team that's going to beat us is ourselves. I wouldn't change anything. I'm excited for the season."
"All the talk is about a National Championship, that's the ultimate goal, but once the season starts our focus is on that particular moment," said Junior Infielder Nick Solak.
"Seven regulars who started at least 30 games return from a team that went 47-18 and won the ACC regular season championship, including the top three hitters. Two top starters return on the mound and 83 percent of the relief innings are back, including closer Zack Burdi.
All-American outfielder Corey Ray will move from the number three man in the batting order to the lead-off spot. For him, it's about avoiding a loss at the end of the season.
"I think the goal is to win the last game of the season," said the Junior from Chicago. "Hopefully that will be in the National Championship. I've lost in Omaha (2013) and it didn't feel any worse than losing in the Super Regional (2014).
In his 10th year as Louisville head coach, Dan McDonnell knows his players aspire to the ultimate goal and it led to him showing the team a video from UFC champ Connor McGregor about what he termed "the law of attraction"
"I let each player motivate the team over the Christmas break and what I found was that each player on the team was talking about winning a National Championship," said McDonnell. "So that's why when they got back from Christmas, I showed them that video clip because I said basically 'guys this is what you're doing'. The law of attraction. You're saying this is what you want to accomplish and you're putting it out that and that's OK but let's make sure we do our part to back it up."
Another reason for all the optimism was the return of starting right-hander Kyle Funkhouser. He turned down a signing bonus reportedly worth between $1.7 and $2 million after getting drafted 35th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers to return for his senior season.
"Obviously things didn't go his way with the Dodgers," said Junior Pitcher/1st Baseman Brendan McKay. "It worked out best for us and best for him. He gets to come back and finish his degree, graduate, be with all his buddies that he started his run with. It's fun to have him back. He's a great guy in the locker room, a great guy on the field. He teaches the young guys a lot. I love having him back."
Funkhouser will get the ball to start what the Cardinal hope is a special season Friday at 3:00 pm at Jim Patterson Stadium.