Dan McDonnell announced Friday that he will give the ball to near-consensus national Player of the Year Brendan McKay (10-3, 2.34 ERA) for Louisville’s College World Series opener against Texas A&M on Sunday.
McDonnell had gone with junior Kade McClure (8-3, 3.43 ERA) for U of L’s first game in both the regional and super regional round, but on the sport’s biggest stage, he’s going back to his No. 1 starter. The fact that three of the four Aggie hitters batting .300 or better are left-handed may have also factored into the decision.
With the early double elimination format (the same as the 4-team regional format at the start of the tournament), winning your first game in Omaha is pretty crucial to having a shot at winning the whole thing. Winning your first game in Omaha is also something Louisville has failed to do in its previous three trips to the CWS. Both of those things being true, it’s understandable why McDonnell would hand the ball to McKay for game one, even with the Cards squaring off against, statistically, the weakest of the eight teams in the field.
It’s also worth pointing out that the regional would take, at the most, four days, and the super regional would take three. If the Cardinals are planning on being in Omaha for the long haul, then they’d be there for nearly two weeks. If that’s your line of thinking, then you might as well throw your ace as early as possible to maximize the possibility of him getting at least one more start and potentially being able to use him in a third game.
Nothing is guaranteed in Omaha. We’ve certainly learned this three times before. I like the move.