If you've ever walked through the front gates at Jim Patterson Stadium, you've seen the sign. If not, it's still likely you've heard the phrase the greets visitors at the home of fourth-ranked Cardinals.
'The Road to Omaha goes through Louisville.'
This year the road through Louisville has been a difficult one, where the Cardinals dropped just one outing all season. While probable that U of L will have the opportunity to play at home throughout the NCAA post season, for a few short days, the road will make a pit stop in Durham, N.C., for the ACC Baseball Championship.
While the outcome at the ACC event will have little impact on NCAA seeding, winning a post season tournament is something that has eluded the current crop of Cardinals and they are focused on changing that not-so-kind statistic this week. It hasn't been just this current squad, it's been since 2008-09 when U of L won a conference tournament title, winning back-to-back Big East crowns.
“Talk about being hungry,” said junior outfielder Corey Ray. “We have a chip on our shoulder because we weren't the number one seed this year. We want to go down there, play good Louisville baseball and win the whole thing.”
Playing 'Louisville baseball' this year means a dominating offense that finds production throughout the lineup and a very stingy pitching staff.
Members of the Cardinals roster can be found near the top of numerous ACC and NCAA statistical rankings. As a team, they enter the post season with a .325 batting average, good enough for 5th nationally. On the mound, U of L's staff enters the week third nationally in ERA and is among the top 20 in 11 different categories. Louisville closed the regular season leading the ACC in batting average, ERA, slugging percentage, doubles, RBI and opponents’ batting average.
“I think that we'll be tough to beat if we play Louisville baseball at a consistent level,” said Ray.
Louisville claimed its second consecutive ACC Atlantic Division title, finishing 22-8 in league play this spring. Impressive as it is, displaying a consistent body of work against one of the nation's toughest leagues, the regular season title didn't have a similar result in the conference post season. U of L won it's opener, a come-back win over North Carolina, but then dropped two straight and was elimated during pool play.
“I think we'll be more comfortable,” said head coach Dan McDonnell, who repeated as ACC Coach of the Year.
Not winning the league tournament last spring, coupled with falling short of reaching Omaha, this team is aiming for both.
“These guys are hungry,” McDonnell continued. “As much as these guys have accomplished in this season, with the regular season championship, but they don't have a tournament championship.”
The Cardinals will face Wake Forest in its pool play opener on Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.