Before McDonnell's arrival, the Louisville baseball program languished for decades in obscurity, reaching NCAA regional play just once (2002).
But McDonnell, a former Ole Miss assistant, has made Louisville baseball relevant on the national scale in short order. In just two seasons, he has guided Louisville to consecutive NCAA regional appearances – the first time that's happened in school history.
Last year, of course, the Cardinals won a school-record 47 games and advanced all the way to Omaha for the College World Series. McDonnell replaced Lelo Prado, who moved on to Tampa to coach Big East rival South Florida.
Louisville high-octane attack.
Now, Louisville (41-19) is looking to make some more noise as the No. 3-seed in the Athens Regional. The Cardinals will play No. 2-seed Georgia Tech Friday night at 7:06 in the opening round after sweeping through Clearwater last week en route to the program's first Big East Tournament title.
McDonnell's proven this season that he's one of the hottest coaches in America. After losing seven position starters from last year's College World Series team, the second year Louisville coach has molded a young team that boasts five freshman starters into an NCAA contender.
The Cardinals enter NCAA regional play tonight in red-hot fashion. Louisville has won 17 of its last 20 games and went undefeated in last week's Big East Tournament. In their last 31 ball games, the Cardinals have an impressive 25-6 record.
"We're really not talking about the College World Series or going to Omaha," McConnell told the Athens Banner-Herald. "It's so hard to get there. We're just preparing to play good baseball."
Led by sophomore All-American third baseman Chris Dominguez, the Cardinals are peeking at just the right time. The Big East Co-Player of the Year, Dominguez leads Louisville potent offensive attack after batting .369 with 67 runs, 13 doubles, 20 home runs and 74 RBI.
On the mound, Louisville has gotten strong performances this season from Justin Marks, last year's Big East Rookie of the Year. Marks is 9-1 with a 2.21 ERA this season (ranked 18th nationally) and has struck out 85 hitters in 85.2 innings. Opposing batters have hit just .215 against the left-handed Marks.
B.J. Rosenberg has been Louisville ace closer all year long. He has nine saves and 62 strikeouts in 53.0 innings. He has posted a 2.15 ERA in 20 bullpen appearances.
The Athens Regional will feature two games each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and if the championship is not decided on Sunday, the if-necessary title game will be played on Monday, June 2.
The Athens Regional winner is matched up with the Raleigh (N.C) Regional winner, a field that includes host N.C. State, South Carolina, Charlotte and James Madison. The NCAA Super Regionals are set for June 6-9 and those eight winners advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., from June 14-25.
All postseason games will be broadcast in Louisville by Insight Cable on ICN Channel 2. Games will also be carried live in Louisville on Sportsradio 1450 WAVG AM radio and all regional games can be heard free of charge on-line at UofLSports.com.