If last year's Louisville baseball team making it to the College World Series was Douglas over Tyson, then this year's squad - the one which started five freshmen and just one player off the '07 club in yesterday's Big East championship game - making it back to the NCAA Tournament has to be at least Rahman over Lewis.
U of L's 6-3 win over Cincinnati in Clearwater on Saturday means that in less than two seasons, Dan McDonnell has become the first Cardinal head coach to oversee an NCAA Tournament victory, a regional championship, a super regional championship, a College World Series victory, a conference tournament championship, and consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Six weeks ago, the latter two accomplishments seemed agonizingly out of reach.
Photo Courtesy of the Big East Conference
When Kentucky's Keenan Wiley went deep in the 12th inning of an April 9th rivalry game in Lexington, U of L's record dropped to 16-13 overall and 4-5 in the Big East. Considering that the greatest Cardinal team in history had to sneak into the big dance with a record of 40-20, baseball fans in the Derby City resigned themselves to the fact that this was a young team with a lot of talent that would be formidable in the years to come.
McDonnell thought otherwise. He restated his belief that all his team needed was a spark, and predicted that this hard-fought loss to a well-regarded rival was going to provide just that.
It turns out that guys who win National Coach of the Year awards in their maiden seasons are generally pretty reliable.
Since that loss to the Wildcats, Louisville has ripped off 25 wins in 31 games. They will now enter the NCAA Tournament with a better record (41-19) than they did a year ago.
The 2007 squad that was so lauded for its explosive offense scored 22 runs in four Big East Tournament games, and entered the big dance coming off of a 3-1 loss to Rutgers. McDonnell's second squad just erupted for 59 hits and 45 runs in the same number of games on their way to capturing the first conference tournament title in program history.
While it'd be foolish for any of us to expect this team to make another run to Omaha, it'd be equally imprudent to rule it out entirely.
Regardless of what happens in the succeeding weeks, this has been another extremely exciting team to follow, and one that has engineered what has to already be considered an overwhelmingly successful season.
Albert Pujols impersonator Chris Dominguez was named as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. The burly third baseman had two hits in each of U of L's four games and finished the week with seven runs scored, nine RBI and two mammoth home runs.
Dominguez was joined on the all-tournament team by second baseman Justin McClanahan, pitcher Justin Marks and left fielder Josh Richmond.
The host schools and sites for the regional portion of the NCAA Tournament will be announced tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. There is an extremely outside chance that Louisville could host a Regional, but it's more than likely that the Cards are going to be hitting the road.
If Louisville isn't announced as one of the 16 Regional hosts tonight, the Cards will find out where they're headed during the NCAA Tournament selection show tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN.
The first day of Regional action will be this Friday, May 30.