CRAWFORD | All Cards on deck as Louisville wins CWS opener over - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | All Cards on deck as Louisville wins CWS opener over Texas A&M

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This is Louisville baseball when it is at its best. Everyone contributes.

Consensus college baseball player of the year Brendan McKay isn’t at his best, but holds off Texas A&M early and gives the Cardinals five-plus solid innings and nearly 100 pitches.

Everybody hits. The Cardinals got 11 hits from eight different players, 10 of them base hits. They go 5-14 with runners in scoring position. Three Cards get multiple hits, led by Colby Fitch who drove in four runs.

And the bullpen is untouchable. Sam Bordner and Lincoln Henzman face 12 batters in four innings and retire all 12.

That’s the anatomy of an 8-4 College World Series-opening victory for the Cardinals, and about as good a start as Dan McDonnell could have hoped for, given the number of different players who made big contributions on offense and defense. It’s Louisville’s second-ever CWS victory. The first was in 2007.

“We’re very happy to be 1-0,” McDonnell said. “It’s the first time in the history of our program even though it’s something we talk about often. . . . It wasn’t the best game of the year, but we understand now as we’ve seen two games on TV and played in one, these games aren’t always the cleanest. There’s too much competition. Everybody is playing too hard. It’s not supposed to be smooth and easy. You’ve just got to grind it out.”

The Cards sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs in the second inning.

“You put up a five-spot with McKay, you know some teams will fold,” McDonnell said. “They were not going to do that. They battled back.”

Texas A&M scored two runs in the fourth and two more in the sixth to chase McKay. But Bordner, as he did in the regional, came in and slammed the door. Taking over with two on and nobody out, he retired the side, and never gave up a base runner, handing the ball to Henzman in the ninth with a spotless sheet.

Offensively, the Cards answered Texas A&M’s two sixth inning runs with a pair of their own in the bottom of the inning to push their lead to 7-4, then manufactured one more in the eighth for insurance.

McKay, in his first game since being the No. 4 overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft, went five innings and gave up four earned runs on eight hits, striking out six and walking a pair.

“Early on my stuff was working well, but they had some good at-bats,” McKay said. “First hit of the game, 11 or 12 pitches and probably 90 or 95 percent of them were quality pitches, and he was just making good swings to keep moving the count to get a pitch he could handle, and he finally got one he could handle a little more and got on base. Outside of that I worked out of a lot of jams. It’s hard to pitch effectively when you’re in jams like that. But I think throughout your career you learn how to pitch and how to minimize, which worked today.”

McDonnell praised his bullpen. Henzman won the Stopper of the Year award earlier this week. Bordner has given up two earned runs in 22 appearances (41.2 innings) this season.

“I thought Lincoln spoke well when he earned the Stopper of the Year Award,” McDonnell said. “He congratulated the bullpen, because he recognizes how talented our bullpen is. And anytime you have a great closer, you have to have a bridge to get to him. . . . I think Sam’s been the X-factor, a little under the radar, though I think he just received a third-team All-American mention. But when you look at the numbers, they’re very impressive. And sometimes when you’re in that first out of the bullpen or middle-relief role, it’s just not as sexy, and you don’t get as much attention. But clearly Sam’s been hot all year. … We trust all those guys.”

McDonnell noted that it’s been 10 years since Louisville’s only other College World Series win, and for a moment he paused to think about Father’s Day.

“We’ve got two wins in Omaha, and both have been on Sunday, and they’ve both been on Father’s Day,” he said. “My dad was here in 2007 with my Uncle Rich. Even though he wasn’t in the best shape, he was here, and I’ve got great memories of that. So today in my back pocket I kept the funeral card from my dad. It’s an Irish blessing. My dad was a good Irishman and he loved life. I remember putting that in my back pocket and thinking my dad would love this today. So Father’s Day has been very good to the Cardinals.”

Louisville will be back in action on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against the winner of this afternoon’s game between Florida and TCU.

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