A year after saying goodbye to 10 impact players from its 2013 College World Series team, Louisville reloaded its roster and returned to Omaha for the third time in eight seasons in 2014. The Cardinals reached the 50-win plateau for the third time in five seasons, won the program's third straight conference title and the fifth in six seasons, hosted its fourth NCAA Regional in six seasons and its second NCAA Super Regional in school history and produced a trio of All-Americans.
Louisville's run to the 2014 College World Series started at Jim Patterson Stadium where they swept through the NCAA Regional with wins against Kent State, Kansas and Kentucky. The final step in the return to Omaha was an NCAA Super Regional triumph over Kennesaw State as a school record crowd of 6,007 packed Patterson Stadium to share in the victory.
LOUISVILLE NOTES AND TRENDS
- Louisville was 43-0 this season when leading after the eighth inning and has won 98 straight games when entering the ninth with the lead going back to May 2012.
- The Cardinals were 38-3 this season when out-hitting their opponents and 10-12 when being out-hit.
- Louisville has won 55 straight games dating back to 2013 when scoring five runs or more including a 39-0 record this season.
- The Cardinals were 32-8 this season against righty starters and 18-9 against lefties.
- The Cardinals allowed two or fewer earned runs in 40 of 67 games this season, something they did in 36 of 65 in 2013.
- Having won 23 of the last 29 games of the season, the bullpen had a 2.16 ERA in 87.2 innings in that stretch. Overall, the pitching staff had a 2.41 ERA in the last 29 games with 248 strikeouts in 258.0 innings.
- Louisville closed the season ranked second in the nation in stolen bases with 133 and fifth in stolen bases per game at 1.99.
- The Cardinals were also sixth nationally in HBP (109), 5th in runs (417), 12th in hits (636) and 33rd in scoring (6.2 per game).
- The Louisville pitching staff ranked 5th in strikeouts per 9 IP (8.4), 12th nationally in hits allowed per 9 IP (7.40) and 20th in ERA (2.80).
- Kyle Funkhouser finished tied for the NCAA lead in wins with his school record total of 13.
CARDINALS IN SELECT COMPANY WITH ANOTHER 50-WIN SEASON
Following the College World Series, Louisville was one of only three programs to have three or more 50-win seasons over the last five years. Louisville (2010, 2013, 2014), Virginia (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) and Vanderbilt (2011, 2013, 2014) are the three schools with three or more 50-win seasons since 2010. Only five schools, including the Cardinals, have more than one 50-win season over that span (Louisville (3), Virginia (4), Vanderbilt (3), North Carolina (2), South Carolina (2).
LOUISVILLE IN A GROUP OF 16 SCHOOLS WITH FOUR OR MORE NCAA SUPER REGIONAL APPEARANCES IN LAST EIGHT SEASONS
Louisville is one of 16 Division I schools with four or more NCAA Super Regional appearances in the last eight seasons (since 2007). Joining the Cardinals on this impressive list is Florida State (7), Arizona State (5), Cal State Fullerton (5), North Carolina (5), South Carolina (5), Virginia (5), Florida (4), LSU (4), Rice (4), Stanford (4), Texas (4), TCU (4), UC Irvine (4) UCLA (4) and Vanderbilt (4).
CARDINALS AMONG 11 SCHOOLS TO HOST FOUR OR MORE NCAA REGIONALS IN LAST SIX YEARS
Louisville is one of just 11 Division I schools to have hosted four or more NCAA Regionals over the last six seasons (since 2009). That list includes seven schools serving as hosts for 2014 Regionals -- Florida (5), Florida State (5), Louisville (4), LSU (4), Rice (4), South Carolina (5), TCU (4) and Virginia (5). Also joining that group are Cal State Fullerton (4), North Carolina (4) and UCLA (4).
Nick Burdi was introduced as the 2014 recipient of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association's Stopper of the Year during a national media conference on June 14 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Burdi put together a tremendous junior season, in which he posted a 3-1 record with 18 saves and an 0.49 ERA. He became Louisville's single-season saves leader after recording the final three outs in a win over Kennesaw State that sent the Cardinals to the NCAA College World Series for the second year in a row. In 32 appearances this year, Burdi registered 37.0 innings of work, allowing just five runs, two earned, while opponents hit just .135 against the Cardinals' hard-throwing righty. Burdi posted 65 strikeouts to just 10 walks and allowed just one extra base hit all season.
BURDI, FUNKHOUSER AND GARDNER EARN MULTIPLE ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Nick Burdi, Kyle Funkhouser and Jeff Gardner hauled in numerous All-America honors in 2014 as the headline players for the Cardinals. Burdi earned First Team All-America accolades from Collegiate Baseball newspaper, NCBWA, Perfect Game and the ABCA. Funkhouser was tabbed as a First Team ABCA All-American, a Second Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball newspaper and the NCBWA and a Third Team All-American by Baseball America and Perfect Game. Gardner was chosen as a Second Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA and a Third Team ABCA All-American. In head coach Dan McDonnell's eight seasons, 14 different Louisville players have earned All-American honors from various organizations.
LOUISVILLE ENDS SEASON RANKED IN TOP 10 IN ALL FIVE MAJOR POLLS
After opening 2014 in the same position it ended the 2013 season with a top 10 national ranking, Louisville remained in the top 10 most of the 2014 season. Following the CWS, the Cardinals were ranked as highly as No. 6 in the Baseball America, NCBWA and USA Today coaches polls. Prior to the season, Louisville was tabbed at No. 8 in the Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll, 13th in the USA Today coaches' poll, 14th in the NCBWA preseason poll, 16th in the Perfect Game Top 25 and 20th in the Baseball America Top 25. Louisville has earned preseason top 25 rankings in seven straight seasons.
EIGHT CARDINALS CHOSEN IN 2014 MLB DRAFT, SEVEN SIGN CONTRACTS
The deadline for Major League Baseball teams to sign 2014 draft picks passed on July 18 and the Louisville baseball team received good news as infielder Zach Lucas chose to play for the Cardinals in 2015. Lucas was selected in the 29th round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates but will return to school for Louisville's inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Seven other Louisville players, including juniors Nick Burdi (2nd round, Minnesota Twins), Jared Ruxer (12th round, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Joe Filomeno (15th round, Texas Rangers), Grant Kay (27th round, Tampa Bay Rays) and Kyle McGrath (36th round, San Diego Padres were selected in the MLB Draft and chose to sign professional contracts. Seniors Jeff Gardner (8th round, Washington Nationals) and Cole Sturgeon (10th round, Boston Red Sox) were also selected in this year's MLB Draft.
Louisville outfielder Jeff Gardner was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and led a group of seven Cardinals earning All-American Conference honors during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 American Conference Championship on May 20. This year's honor for Gardner marks the eighth time in the last eight seasons a member of the Cardinals has been selected as conference player or pitcher of the year. Gardner is the first player of the year for the honoree for Louisville since Chris Dominguez earned back-to-back Big East Player of the Year awards in 2008 and 2009. Joining Gardner as All-American Conference First Team selections were closer Nick Burdi, third baseman Alex Chittenden and righthanded pitcher Kyle Funkhouser. Righty Jared Ruxer and outfielder/lefty pitcher Cole Sturgeon were All-American Conference Second Team honorees, while second baseman Zach Lucas was an All-American Conference Third Team pick.
With its 5-1 victory over Cincinnati on May 16, Louisville clinched the inaugural American Athletic Conference regular season championship and the top seed in last week's conference championship. The Cardinals have won three straight regular season conference championships and five in the last six seasons overall. Louisville won Big East regular season titles in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 prior to winning this year's American championship.