Success, struggles has baseball looking to 07

The 2006 Louisville Cardinal baseball squad had it's share of adversity this season, but despite the many obstables that crossed it's path, the team remained focused in time to mount a run at the Big East Conference tournament title. InsideTheVille.com recently visited with U of L skipper Lelo Prado to discuss the just completed season and get an early look at 2007.

The 2006 University of Louisville Cardinal baseball season resembled the many roller coasters located at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom found just a couple miles from the team's home field at Jim Patterson Stadium. A lopsided loss at nationally-ranked Miami in the season-opener, was followed by injuries, illnesses and countless variations of a starting lineup that would have meant disaster for most program's, but U of L head coach Lelo Prado kept his team focused through the adversity and guided them to a 31-29 record and a spot in the Big East Conference championship game against Notre Dame.

"We never had a set lineup and we were always moving guys around - we were always trying something to get a set lineup in, but the kids never gave up," the 11-year Cardinal skipper explained. "We're happy with where we are at and where we are going."

The Cardinals capped off the '06 campaign playing like many had expected prior to the beginning of the year. The team won 12 straight to finish the season, which began by taking the final two games of a three-game set at No. 8 Notre Dame in early May.


Prado was all smiles at
this year's Leadoff Dinner

"It would have been a great run going into the (NCAA) tournament," said Prado, who became U of L's all-time winningest coach this season. "It was just one of those runs - we knew this team could play like that if something would just happen for us and it did when we won the series at Notre Dame. We started doing all the things that I thought we could right. It was a lot of fun for the last three weeks."

With a strong core of the lineup returning, coupled with a strong recruiting class, Prado and his squad have already put their sights on the 2007 season.

"The guys are already excited about next year," he said, adding that the injuries allowed for experience that will benefit his team next season. "That let us play some guys that wouldn't have had a chance to play and when they come back, with the recruits that we have coming in, I think we should be ready to go."

However, with baseball there is always the concern of the upcoming MLB draft, which selects it's share college underclassmen and high school seniors annually and it's possible that a few of the incoming athletes could receive a call from a pro team before making their way to campus.

Among the U of L signee's that are MLB Draft possibilities are pitcher's Nathan Adock of Elizabethtown (Ky.) High School, Nick Holmes of Campbellsville (Ky.) High School and Owensboro (Ky.) High School's Justin Marks.

"We hope we don't lose those guys to the draft," said Prado. "Adcock has become a lot better, so we're just hoping that he wants to go through three years of college. Holmes is a kid that I think his best years are ahead of him and I think Marks made the biggest jump this year."

In addition to the in-state signee's, which also includes Louisville Male catcher Jeff Arnold, Prado looked to the Sunshine State for additional immediate help.

"We have some kids from Miami coming in," said Prado, referring to newcomers Danny Jordan, Jeff Lara and Chris Pelaez. "These are guys that we can count on early in their careers to help us win championships."

The nearly 14-month old and state-of-the-art Jim Patterson Stadium, along with the new baseball practice facilities that include additional batting/pitching cages, a weight room and computer lab, have given the Cardinal program an advantage over many around the country.

"That's the biggest plus for us," Prado explained. "It's a different level when you have something to sell (like Jim Patterson Stadium). We have a great university and now we have a great facility to go along with it. It's an easy sell for me - I don't have to say much."

While the Cardinals fell just short in their attempt to overcome the early season struggles, Prado believes that the impressive turn-around is just an indication of what can be expected of his squad in 2007.

"Next year we'll give you a lot to write about."

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NOTES:

  • Vine Grove, Kentucky native B.J. Rosenberg will have minor off season surgery. The 6'2 starting pitcher appeared in 16 games and posted a 6-5 mark on the 2006 season. His 42 career starts ranks fourth in school history.
  • The California Golden Bears will make an appearance on the Cardinals home schedule next spring when they visit Patterson Stadium for an early season tournament.
  • The Cardinals will begin work on the '07 season in August.

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