Baseball completes Omaha Challenge

U of L baseball's Omaha Challenge, a physically and mentally challenging schedule of events, concluded on Tuesday afternoon. Cardinal Authority was there as the off-season event wrapped up.

It began on November 24 with a paintball outing and continued until a grueling relay on Tuesday afternoon capped off Louisville baseball's annual 'Omaha Challenge'.

Other events included a shuttle run, tire flip, tug-of-war, bike race and a two-mile big truck push which head coach Dan McDonnell described as "a grueling event."

"The Omaha Challenge has a little bit of everything," McDonnell said. "It's got the physical challenge. It's got the competitive side. I love putting kids in situations where they can compete and we get to compete everyday. It's got the teamwork. There are team events where your team can win.

"It's got the leadership challenge where guys are put into leadership roles and you have to help, especially these younger players through it. It's got the adverse situations where they are put into some uncomfortable situations that they have to be able to overcome. They are able to learn a lot from how physically and mentally tough are they, because it's a long baseball season."

Following a Tuesday morning race in the pool at the Ralph Wright Natatorium , the team moved to the Trager Indoor Facility to finish off the event with a difficult relay. The race included required pushing a sled 50 yards, sprint 25 yards to pick up a 100 pound bag, run with weight 50 yards, push another sled backwards for 50 yards, and then ending with a 100 yard sprint.

"You can really feel it and your body gets tired quick," said freshman outfielder Corey Ray. "When you get to the last leg you wonder how you're going to finish. You have your teammates in your ear and have the mentality of a Cardinal - keep going, keep pushing.

"It's all mental," he continued. "Your body thinks it can't go any farther, but your mind tells it that it can. One thing I've already learned in this program, everything is mental."

While seniors celebrated completing their final Omaha Challenge, the teams newcomers used it as an opportunity to prove their worth.

"Surprisingly, some of the freshmen do pretty good in this event," McDonnell said. "They have a lot to prove and they probably haven't had as much success on the field as they would have liked in the fall, so they want to go out on a high note."

Freshman pitcher Zach Burdi, the younger brother of reliever Nick Burdi, claimed the overall individual title, narrowly beating out infielder and fellow rookie Nick Solak. Freshman catcher/outfielder Ryan Summers also finished in the top 5.

During his final sprint, Burdi fell to the turf, but recovered in time to finish first.

"I had my brother and Sutton Whiting in my ear just telling to go, to push it," he told Cardinal Authority. "When I took that tumble, the only thing in my mind was to get back up and run. It literally feels like you just came out of a coma and someone forced you to run. It's a tough thing."

"All of the events are tough. It's something that you have to be trained for. It's mental and physical objectives that you have to face and you're banking on your teammates to be in your ear pushing you."

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