By Jody Demling - Cardinal Authority

Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell is going with Brendan McKay, Kade McClure and Michael McAvene on opening weekend

Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell is going with Brendan McKay, Kade McClure and Michael McAvene on opening weekend.

The first two starting pitchers the University of Louisville baseball staff will roll out on opening weekend were pretty easy to pinpoint.

Junior Brendan McKay, one of the frontrunners for national Player of the Year, will get the ball on Friday nights' this season for the Cardinals, while preseason All-American Kade McClure - who went 12-0 last season - will go on Saturday's.

"I think everybody knew those two guys would get the ball first," U of L coach Dan McDonnell said.

But not many outside of the locker room would have guessed the Sunday starter - true freshman Michael McAvene.

The right-hander from Indianapolis, Ind., Roncalli High School won the job to start the season as the third weekend starter because of his showing on the mound in preseason camp and not because his last name begins with 'Mc.'

"I didn't even realize that until you just pointed it out," McDonnell said of the last name familiarity. "But that is also the first two letters of my last name, so I think I like it."

McDonnell went on to talk about what the 6-foot-3, 210-pound McAvene did to win the job.

"Every time he took the mound, it was on," McDonnell said. "You could see that he was making a move the first weekend of the fall. He was just really competing and he was always working hard.

"He's probably doing a little better than I thought he would be at this point."

McAvene was originally committed to Purdue but backed off after a coaching change. He was ranked as the No. 6 player in the state of Indiana and No. 323 nationally and picked U of L over Vanderbilt in late June.

After missing his junior season with an elbow injury, McAvene went 8-4 with a 1.86 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 71 innings as a senior and led Roncalli to the Class 4-A state title.

McDonnell compared him "to a Kyle Funkhouser," a former U of L All-American and the school's all-time wins and strikeout leader.

McKay is 21-7 in two seasons on the mound with 245 strikeouts in 245.1 innings, while McClure was perfect last season and struck out 77 batters in 78 innings pitched.

"We have five or six quality guys who could start," McDonnell said. "McKay and McClure were pretty obvious but I just felt like this weekend that McAvene deserved the ball. We'll see how he does."

McKay called it "just weird" that all three weekend starters have names that begin with 'Mc' and McClure went a little farther, noting the three could "come out playing the bagpipes."

U of L opens the season on Friday in Clearwater, Fla., against Alabama State.


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