Louisville junior Drew Ellis entered the Super Regional on a bit of a slump at the plate. After roaring through the regular season that saw him rank among the ACC leaders in batting average, home runs, RBI's and slugging percentage, the Jeffersonville, Ind., native struggled during the final games of the regular season and the first two weekends of the postseason.
Recently selected as an All-American, Ellis was hitting just .133 (4-for-30) since the Cardinals completed a series sweep at No. 7 Clemson on May 16. Including U of L's brief stay in the ACC tournament at Slugger Field and it's NCAA Regional Sweep, the team's leader at the plate managed just seven RBI during that three week stretch.
Living up to that All-American label and the hope to be a hometown hero was having an effect on Ellis. With Kentucky arriving at Jim Patterson Stadium for a Super Regional series, Ellis returned his focus to having patience at the plate.
"In the Regionals I was trying to do way too much," he said. "Being a hometown kid, I wanted to hit the home runs, to get the RBIs, to be this Player of the Game, etc., but I came into this weekend just laying it all out there. I got to be better. I got to bring energy. I got to bring edge, and I’ve got to keep the intensity up in the dugout and on the field. There was definitely a conscious effort to stay simple, and just do simple better."
Going simple worked.
Ellis found his swing again. In game one of the series he connected for a three-run home run that proved to much for the visiting Wildcats to overcome.
"To his credit when his team need him the most he got the big hit and it was the difference in the game," UK head coach Nick Mingione said following the first game loss.
Ellis followed up his game one performance with an even better outing to spark the Cardinals to a Super Regional sweep.
A second-inning solo home run gave the Cardinals an early lead and a leadoff home run in the sixth ignited a two-run inning that would prove to be the game-winning runs. He finished 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored in the second game victory.
"I wasn’t trying to do too much," he said. "I was just trying to get on base and be patient and put good swings on the ball, and I did that. I hit a couple balls hard. [Sean] Hjelle is an extremely good pitcher and he’s going to something special down the road. I said it before, he’s 6’11 and he throws straight down. He’s tall and he’s tough to pick up. I was trying to stay simple and trying not to do too much. I got a fastball and I got a slider, so I just put a good swing on it."
U of L head coach Dan McDonnell shut down the thought of one of his key sluggers working out of a slump, explaining it was just a result of the difficulty of the game.
"We try not to evaluate ten at bats," McDonnell said. "Baseball is such a tough game. It’s human nature for kids to try a little hard."
His Super Regional performance was clutch for the Cardinals and McDonnell admitted that "what Drew Ellis did was impressive, obviously."
Among the many accolades and future professional accomplishments that will be associated with Ellis' career, his success against rival Kentucky will rank among the best memories for the Cardinals faithful.
Ellis was nearly unstoppable in six games against the Wildcats. He was 10-for-21 (.476) at the plate, including four home runs, with 16 RBI and six runs scored during his career against UK, helping U of L to a 5-1 record against the in-state rivals.
"I guess I like playing against them," he said. "It’s definitely a big rivalry, you know Coach McDonnell says that its more for the fans than it is for us. We play, it’s just another game but I kind of put it in my back pocket that we’re playing UK, let’s do this, and I don’t try to do too much and it showed."