CRAWFORD | Louisville making its own momentum during busy baseball week
The University of Louisville baseball team won its fourth straight game Saturday with a gritty pitching effort by Drew Harrington before a crowd of 4,950 at Jim Patterson Stadium.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Momentum is one of the most powerful yet fragile things in sports -- and in many other areas of life.
The University of Louisville baseball team easily could have lost it last weekend at Florida State. The Cardinals had won six in a row, including two against No. 9 ranked Virginia to take that series, when they let a game slip away on a Friday night in Tallahassee.
The Cards came back to win the Saturday game in the series, before getting pounded 16-5 on Sunday in a highly uncharacteristic loss.
But there was no panic, even though they faced a five-games-in-six-days stretch this week. They came home and hammered Western Kentucky 14-2. They went to No. 9 Kentucky and won 9-6. And on Saturday, in front of their biggest crowd of the year, they won their second straight over No. 16-ranked Clemson, 7-2, before a Jim Patterson Stadium crowd of 4,950.
The Cards improved to 28-7 on the season, 22-1 in Jim Patterson Stadium and 8-7 against nationally ranked teams, (4-1 home, 4-6 road).
U of L coach Dan McDonnell praised his players' even-keel approach.
"It just shows their professionalism," he said. "You can't get too high or too low. At Florida State, we had a chance to win the Friday game and it slipped away, then we played pretty well and won the Saturday game, so it was really a pretty good weekend other than Sunday afternoon. But you know, we had two in-state rivals this week and another Top 25 team, so you've just got to keep moving on. I heard one of the players out there yell, 'Turn the page,' as I was running away. They're probably teasing me because I say that so often, but that's what you've got to do in baseball."
It helps when you have guys like Drew Harrington helping to turn those pages. A day after Brendan McKay gave up just two runs and struck out eight in a 15-2 rout, Harrington, a junior lefthander, gave up just two runs in 6 1/3, despite having some hard luck on balls that found their way into the outfield. He gave up 11 hits, but worked out of multiple jams. He was keeping the ball down, getting ground balls, and was aided by four double plays.
"It shows his growth as a pitcher," McDonnell said. "Earlier in his career the little chop ball that becomes a hit or the ball that falls and becomes a hit, he used to let that get to him. I always say that to be a starter, you've got to pitch your way out of jams, and he pitched his way out of several today. I'm really proud of him."
It was the Cards' fourth quality start in a row, with Kyle Funkhouser heading back to the mound for the first time since his rough outing at Florida State last Sunday. He'll want to bounce back strong, but the entire team made a commitment to avoid any kind of slide this week. On Saturday, the Cards scored twice in the third, fifth and seventh to erase an early 1-0 deficit.
"We had a meeting earlier this week and addressed some stuff, and one of those things was focus of the team, just take it to a higher level, and that's what we're doing," said catcher Will Smith, who hit his third home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth for the Cards' final run. "It's just kind of a long season, and it's tough. Guys struggle, guys play well. It's a long grind, and it just takes all of us picking each other up and making sure we all focus every day."
The overflow crowd in Jim Patterson Stadium Saturday didn't hurt.
"I told radio announcer Sean (Moth) it's my favorite day of the year," McDonnell said. "You knew that football crowd was going to funnel over here. You love seeing people standing around, the seats were all filled. So great weather, and we really appreciate it. We hope tomorrow they come out again."
First pitch on Sunday is at 1 p.m. Admission is free.
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