The first trip to the ACC Baseball Championship didn't reflect the record-setting regular season that the Cardinals enjoyed during the last few months. After recording a league record 25 wins during the regular season, U of L arrived in Durham as the favorite to league's post season crown, but were eliminated from play after suffering back-to-back losses for just the second time this season.
As the regular season neared its end, the Cardinals were being projected as one of the nation's top seeds for the upcoming NCAA post season. Boasting of a healthy RPI and tested by the rigorous ACC slate, Louisville has met nearly every challenge it has faced this season. It won every ACC series, including five sweeps, and became the first team other than Florida State to win the Atlantic Division.
With an impressive resume that is certain to keep the Cardinals among the group of programs that will serve as a Regional host this coming weekend, the team had little to lose - or gain from a seeding standpoint – from their performance at the ACC Baseball Championships.
“We are a competitive bunch and there's no sitting back,” said McDonnell. “I don't read projections. I have no idea where we are at. We just want to keep getting better as a team. We knew it was going to be a challenge this week. We felt like all eight teams here are playing in the NCAAs, you've got to play good.”
If recent history is an indicator, Louisville's coming up short in Durham isn't a series of events that should have the coaches, players or fans overly concerned as the stakes become higher. The Cardinals haven't claimed a league tournament title since 2009, yet have still proven to one of the elite programs in the country by reaching the College World Series.
“The realization is I think our three trips to the College World Series, I think we lost in the conference tournament,” McDonnell said. “Believe me, we don't try to lose in this tournament, but whatever taste it leaves in our mouth, maybe it helps us refocus, rededicate ourselves for the new season up ahead.”
Upon their return home, the Cardinals will turn their attention to the practice as they prepare for the NCAA post season.
“The good news is you get to start fresh and we do have a week to regroup and get ready for the NCAAs, so at least we don't have to lose sleep tonight wondering if we're in or not and that's a credit to our guys,” he said. “They earned that right. How well they played this year and how consistent they were. Now we've just got to get ready for next week.”
The Cardinals will learn their post season fate over the next two days. The NCAA will announce Regional selections on Sunday and then the field of 64 will be announced during a one-hour broadcast on ESPNU on Monday at noon.
Louisville is expected to be chosen as a Regional host, marking the fifth time the program has done so since McDonnell arrived in 2007.
“I think it's one of the greatest accolades that our program could get,” he said. “300 Division I teams, a lot of parity. When the NCAA says you deserve to host a Regional, I mean going to Omaha is great, winning championships is great, I would argue hosting the regionals, I think, is one of the greatest accomplishments that we've had in our nine years at Louisville because that is a body of work.”
Stay tuned to Cardinal Authority for on the selections and as Louisville aims for a third straight trip to Omaha.