With a trio of trips to the College World Series under his belt, including two straight, University of Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell described his current squad as the most consistent that he's had during his impressive tenure.
All the Cardinals skipper did was lead the team to its highest ranking in program history, all while competing as a member of the baseball rich Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time. Louisville won all ten of its ACC series, including five sweeps. It became the first team other than Florida State to ever win the Atlantic Division and it was accomplished against the Seminoles with a week to spare. The Cardinals capped off their regular season by winning more conference games (25) than any other program in the history of the league.
While that's all nice, the team's focus remains where it has been all season, one game at a time with the ultimate prize being a trip to Omaha. As McDonnell called it on Monday morning, "it's a new season."
Leland to Start
McDonnell announced on Monday morning that freshman righty Sean Leland will get the start in the Cardinals first game of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday. Kyle Funkhouser is scheduled for Thursday, with Brendan McKay slated for Saturday. Should U of L advance to the title game, Josh Rogers would take the mound.
Leland made 17 appearances during the regular season, including three starts. He compiled 4-0 record with a 1.11 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting just .177 off the Illinois native.
McDonnell and pitching coach Roger Williams discussed the rotation for the ACC Tournament:
More good news for the Cardinals pitching staff as Drew Harrington could return to action this week. The sophomore made 15 appearances, starting one, before being sidelined with an injury. He is 3-1 with a 0.30 ERA and 42 strike outs in 30 innings of work.
"We're hoping to add Harrington back to the mix this week and what a boost that would be for our pitching staff," said McDonnell.
Top 25 / ACC Standings
End of regular season polls have Louisville remaining in the top five, with Miami also present in the top ten. Despite a rough weekend, Florida State remains among the top 15.
The final 2015 ACC standings. Louisville won the Atlantic Division, with Miami claiming the Coastal Division.
Here's the end of the regular season NCAA RPI ratings for the top teams in the ACC. With eight teams in the top 40 of the NCAA RPI is the most from any conference.
No.14 Florida State
No.27 Georgia Tech
No.28 North Carolina
No.35 Notre Dame
No.40 NC State
Louisville, which strength of schedule ranks 36th, has compiled a 17-8 record against RPI top 50 teams and 12-2 against teams ranked 51-100.
400 Game Jersey
McDonnell collected his 400th career victory when the Cardinals defeated N.C. State on Friday and as is the case in many times when records or milestones are reached, the coaches and players are often the last to find out. While the head coach claimed to have not been aware, the players were, so when he handed Friday's game jersey to Logan Taylor, the sophomore gave it right back.
"He gave the team shirt to Logan Taylor and he gave it right back to him and told him congrats on the 400th," junior ace Kyle Funkhouser told Cardinal Authority. "He's not big into records and all that kind of stuff. He said he wasn't aware, but even if it was in the back of his mind, he wasn't going to make a big deal of it."
However, McDonnell didn't hang on to the game shirt for long. Upon the team loading the bus after the game, McDonnell chose to pass it along to someone that has been with him for all 400 wins in pitching coach and associate head coach Roger Williams.
McDonnell credited the ACC wins accomplishment to the consistency that his team has shown all season long. Almost half of the teams wins were in come-from-behind fashion and the ability to win all ten conference series speaks volumes about the teams focus and preparation.
"Consistency," McDonnell explained. "I don't know if I've ever had a club as consistent as this one and it starts on the mound. Other than that first Miami weekend, we went Funkhouser, McKay and Rogers. I give Funkhouser a lot of credit because there is a lot of responsibility in being the Friday night starter. McKay, was McKay, what an unbelievable year. I think Rogers was the difference-maker. I said going into the season that Drew Harrington was kind of our x-factor and he was in the bullpen. I think Josh Rogers was the x-factor on the weekend rotation. I don't think many teams run out a guy with his ability and consistency every Sunday and that was the difference when you look at conference play and our success."
Once again, the team was unaware of the possible accomplishment until after the fact, something that Corey Ray is a credit to the team's success.
Scheduled for May 19-24 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C., the ACC Tournament will include the top 10 teams and will feature two games on May 19, followed by three games per day in a round-robin format from Wednesday through Saturday, May 20-23. The championship game between the two pool winners will be played on Sunday afternoon.
Full tournament passes are available for $150, which includes tickets to all 15 tournament games. New this year is a weekend package, which includes Friday night’s game, all three games on Saturday, and Sunday’s championship. It is available for $50. Call 919-956-BULL or visit http://theacc.co/BASE15tix to secure your seats today.
Click here for a printable bracket.