While I'm not sure if they have the sources on the selection committee that Joe Lunardi apparently does, both Rivals.com and Jeremy Mills of ESPN.com had Louisville listed as the second team left out in their NCAA Tournament projections last week. While the accuracy of these prognostications can be debated, the fact that the Cardinals are sitting as squarely on the bubble as any team in the country cannot.
They didn't do themselves any great favors over the weekend, dropping two of three to sixth-place West Virginia.
The Cards snuck into the big dance a year ago with a 40-20 record, and head coach Dan McDonnell has stressed that 40 is likely the magic number once again. With four regular season games (all at home) and the Big East Tournament remaining, U of L currently sits at 34-18.
Ball State (26-20, 11-9 MAC) will come to JPS on Tuesday night with little to play for outside of pride. The weekend series with Rutgers (22-27-1, 10-14 Big East), however, is a completely different story. The Scarlet Knights are five games below .500, but just one game behind South Florida and Villanova for the final spot in the eight-team conference tournament. If the Cards can take care of business on Tuesday and then somehow sweep a desperate RU squad, then a pair of wins in next week's double-elimination tournament in Clearwater would give them a very solid shot at earning a second straight NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
Of course, they could have made things a lot easier on themselves by taking the series in Morgantown over the weekend.
Louisville extended its season-long winning streak to 10 games by knocking off West Virginia 6-2 in game one of a Saturday double-header.
Sophomore Justin Marks (6-1) continued his push for Big East Pitcher of the Year honors by striking out seven and allowing just one earned run over six and-a-third.
Chris Dominguez got the scoring started in the second when he drilled his league-leading 15th home run over the left-field fence to put the Cards up 1-0. The massive third baseman then belted No. 16 in the bottom of the seventh to make the score 5-2. He finished the day 2-for-3 with three RBI.
First baseman Andrew Clark also went deep, and shortstop John Dao stayed red-hot with a 4-for-5 performance that included a pair of doubles. It was Dao's third game with four hits or more this season.
The Cards jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the opening frame of game two, but WVU touched starter Zack Pitts for five runs between innings 2-4 and evened the series with a 5-2 victory.
Matt Yurish (6-1) went the distance for the Mountaineers, allowing just seven hits (all singles) and one earned run while striking out nine.
Second baseman Justin McLanahan was the lone Cardinal with more than one hit.
West Virginia scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to stay alive, and then one more in the home half of the tenth to take the series with a 5-4 victory.
Cardinal closer B.J. Rosenberg took a 4-2 lead with him to the mound in the ninth, but a pinch hit double by Brent Lockhart and a clutch RBI single by Justin Parks sent the game to extras. Trinity High School product Tyler "Baby" Kuhn (kid's like 12-years-old) walked to open the tenth and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Cleanup hitter Vince Belnome then ended it with a sharp single to right center.
Freshman Bob Revesz worked five inning of scoreless ball for the Cards, but was forced to leave the game after 2:13 rain delay in the middle of the sixth. Gavin Logsdon came into the game, but quickly allowed three hits and two runs before being replaced by Rosenberg after retiring just two hitters.
Clark was the offensive star for Louisville - which, again, failed to notch an extra-base hit - going 4-for-5. Dao and left fielder Josh Richmond each had two hits and drove in two runs.
The loss of seven starters and a less-than-stellar first half both attenuated interest in this year's squad, but Dan McDonnell (who, if you hadn't heard, is all kinds of awesome) has now put this team and this program in a position to make the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time in its history. It's an enormous week for Louisville baseball, so be sure to try and get out to the park on either Tuesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.