It began in mid-Febuary with a trip to Clearwater, Fla., and now 53 games later the Louisville baseball team is set to close out the regular season when it welcomes ACC rival Florida State for a three-game series beginning on Thursday.
"It seems like yesterday that we had our first game down in Florida," said junior catcher Colby Fitch. ""
The 2nd-ranked Cardinals have been one of the more dominant teams throughout the regular season, owning winning streaks of 19 and 15 games.
Following the home set against the Seminoles, the Cardinals are in control of how many games they'll play. Among the favorites to reach the College World Series next month, U of L will have a minimum of four games left following the end of the regular season. Win and the season will stretch out.
"As I told our kids on the bus last night, we are only guaranteed seven more games from here on out," U of L head coach Dan McDonnell said. "Three in the regular season, we're guaranteed two in the ACC tournament and two in the Regional, so it does go by quick."
Facing Florida State
The Seminoles enter the regular season finale at 33-20 overall and 12-14 in ACC play. They are unranked, but check in at No. 26 in the latest RPI and can boast of having the nation's fifth-toughest schedule.
One of the more tradition-rich programs in college baseball, FSU has participated in 21 College World Series. Head coach Mark Martin, now in his 38th season leading the program, is college baseball's all-time winningest coaches.
"They are talented kids with high expectations and a legendary coach," McDonnell said. "It's a great program. They got off to a slow start, but in the times that I've seen them they have played hard and looked like a post-season type team, a team that looks like that can do damage in the post-season."
Martin, who has been inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has won 1,931 games during his tenure in Tallahassee.
"That coach in the other dugout is arguably the best coach in the country," McDonnell said. "His resume and what he's done for so many years, so there's a reason that they are one of the best programs in the country. For myself, for my players and hopefully for our fans, its exciting that you get a chance to play a team like Florida State at this time of year."
Rebounding from loss at Indiana
Louisville had its 15-game winning streak snapped by Indiana on Tuesday night. Just the team's seventh loss of the season, the goal quickly becomes to learn from the loss and move on.
"We were fortunate to win 15 games in a row and put a good streak together, but you're not going to win every game in baseball," Fitch said. "You're going to have mishaps and missteps and you just have to realize that it happened and forget about it."
The Cardinals didn't look their usual self against the Hoosiers. Multiple fielding errors and hitters combining for 11 strikeouts limited U of L's opportunities to win a 16th straight.
"We work so hard, we enjoy winning and we hate losing," McDonnell said. "The streak was never really a factor. I never really knew how many games in a row that we won."
The defeat, especially aided by self-inflicted wounds, left the team stinging as they began practice on Wednesday.
"It leaves a bad taste in your mouth," McDonnell said.
The Louisville baseball team continued its impressive run in the Atlantic Coast Conference by clinching its third straight Atlantic Division championship in 2017. The Cardinals, who set a single season record for ACC wins in their debut season with a 25-5 mark in 2015, have compiled a 70-17 record in the conference during the last three seasons while only Miami (56 wins) and Virginia (50) have at least 50 wins during that span. Louisville has won 26 of its 29 ACC series and is 28-1 in its series finales during that span, including an 11-1 record in rubber games.
Louisville can claim the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament by winning at least two against Florida State this weekend.