If Louisville reaches a decisive game of the College World Series championship series, whoever the Cardinals play had better watch out. Dan McDonnell’s team always seems to come out of the gates with a vengeance in winner-take-all scenarios. Last week, the Cardinals erased all suspense from the Columbia (Mo.) regional championship game by putting up an eight-spot in the first inning against host Missouri. Today, Louisville ensured there would be no hangover from Saturday’s 12-inning loss to Oklahoma State by hanging six runs on the Cowboys over the first two innings. The Cardinals poured it on as the game progressed and finished with 20 runs on 21 hits. Louisville’s 20-2 win propelled it to Omaha in just its second NCAA tournament appearance.
The Cardinals always have a good chance to win when Zack Pitts (10-3, 2.23) or Justin Marks (8-2, 2.54) are on the mound, but the No. 3 starter spot has been a little less consistent. But Louisville proved it can win no matter who’s pitching, because its offense is very good. Eight Cardinals posted multiple-hit games today against Oklahoma State’s depleted pitching staff, led by right fielder Pete Rodriguez (4-for-4, HR, 3 RBI) and left fielder Isaiah Howes (3-for-6, HR, 6 RBI). That took some pressure off starter Colby Wark (3-3, 3.53), who allowed two runs over 3 1/3 innings of work, and three Louisville relievers held OSU scoreless on two hits the rest of the way.
This is shaping up to be a fascinating CWS. Half the field has been filled out, and so far we’ve got a traditional power making its first Omaha trip since 1998 (Mississippi State), a more recent superpower making its second straight Omaha trip (Rice), and two powers on the rise making their first CWS appearances (Louisville and UC Irvine). I think it’s great for college baseball to have such an intriguing blend of pedigree and fresh faces representing the game on its largest stage.