CRAWFORD | Full speed ahead: Burdi, Cards, look to write new Sup - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Full speed ahead: Burdi, Cards, look to write new Super Regional ending

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Louisville's Zack Burdi. GoCards.com photo by Mike DeZarn.) Louisville's Zack Burdi. GoCards.com photo by Mike DeZarn.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — University of Louisville closer Zack Burdi’s 100 mph fastball is impressive. So is his 2.20 earned-run average. So are his 11 saves and 42 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings pitched.

Also impressive — he’s now projected by some to be a top 10 pick in tomorrow’s Major League Draft, and there’s some talk that the Detroit Tigers may be looking to take him for the purposes of getting him ready for relief work this season.

“I think Zack has a great opportunity to be up this summer as a bullpen guy, then depending on the organization, to get a shot as a starter,” U of L coach Dan McDonnell said.

But if you really want to be impressed, ask him about the one pitch he’d probably like to forget. The pitch that effectively ended the University of Louisville baseball season a year ago. The 2-1 fastball, 96 mph, that David Olmedo-Barrera slashed down the left field line for what umpires ruled was a home run.

Let’s face it, with the University of California Santa Barbara coming for the NCAA Super Regional in Louisville this weekend, it’s the play that’s on everyone’s mind, at least at times, in Louisville.

If not for that ending, Louisville could be playing for its fourth consecutive College World Series appearance. And while it wasn't that pitch and hit alone that went into it, far from it, the loss was devastating for those Cardinals.

But these Cardinals, many of whom are the same guys? They’ve recovered.

“Everyone knows that that’s the driving force behind this team,” Burdi said, “and we’re not going to let that happen again.”

Third baseman Blake Tiberi said that experience in the Super Regional last year is with this team, “100 percent. We talked last week, we’re making the choice that we’re not going to lose here this year, not dealing with that pain, not watching another team celebrate on our field. I believe we’re going to come out ready, throw some punches and hopefully reach our goal, get to Omaha.”

What about Burdi? Would he like the pitch back?

“Of course I want it back,” Burdi said. “But I think that pitch, and that situation has made this program stronger. I just want it back for the Sutton Whitings and Mike Whites and Zack Lucases, of course. I would’ve loved to go to Omaha and play a couple more games with those dudes. But I have no regrets with that pitch. I put it right  I wanted to, and the kid put a nice swing on it. That’s just baseball.”

Was it fair or foul?

“We’ll never know,” he said. “That’s for the big man to decide.”

See? That’s impressive. Sure, there aren’t many guys who can throw it in triple digits. There are even fewer who can throw it in triple digits, and respond with that kind of maturity.

The 6-3 righthander sets up on the mound with an unorthodox stance. He points his left to in, almost back towards, himself. It looks awkward. It looks uncomfortable.

But for Burdi, it’s the equivalent of pushing back in a La-Z-Boy recliner. And it serves another purpose.

“It was something that I played with this summer and last year, of course,” Burdi said. “It’s just a way for me to stay focused and get to my checkpoints and feel comfortable on the mound. I’ve never seen anyone do it. But I’ve also seen weirder setups. It’s just a pitcher thing. Whatever works, works.”

Whatever Burdi is doing, it’s working.

I was sitting amid some Wright State fans at the end of Sunday’s regional championship game in Jim Patterson Stadium.

Burdi came out to start warming up, and hit 97 with his first pitch, then 96, then in the 80s for a few breaking pitches. He finished with heaters of 97, 100 and 100 mph.

“Maybe,” a woman behind me said, “he can’t get it over the plate.

The first pitch he threw was a called strike.

“So much for that,” her friend said.

For Burdi, it’s full speed ahead.

Two victories away from Omaha, Burdi and the Cardinals have no intention of easing up now — even with the MLB Draft taking place over the next two days.

“The draft is tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean anything right now,” Burdi said. “Our heads are set on regionals, and Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and getting ready for that. You can think about the draft as much as you want, but that doesn’t really change anything about it. Those guys from UC Santa Barbara are . . . on a mission, too, to get to Omaha, and we have to match that mentality.”

Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Mike DeZarn, GoCards.com.

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