OMAHA - If the Louisville Cardinals are going to win the College World Series, the road just got a lot tougher. After falling to Vanderbilt 5-3 Saturday night, the Cardinals know they have a tough road ahead.
"I feel good about where we're at as a club and how well we've played in the postseason, but, you're facing seven of the hottest teams in the country," Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. "So we've just got to play a little better, that's all."
Louisville's road to the College World Series championship series is a long one, and it starts Monday against one of the most successful programs in NCAA history - Texas. The Cardinals will be the home team in an elimination game against the Longhorns Monday at 3 p.m.
Texas has been the to the College World Series 35 times and has six national titles. McDonnell said that history should catch his team's attention.
"I can tell you there's not going to be anyone hanging their heads on our side," McDonnell said. "You get to play Texas in the College World Series."
If Louisville wins against Texas, the Cardinals will face the loser of the Vanderbilt-UC Irvine game Wednesday in another elimination game. If Louisville wins again Wednesday, UofL will advance to play the top team in the bracket Friday. The Cardinals would have to beat that team twice to advance to the Championship Series which starts on June 23.
"We just let it go," Louisville junior Sutton Whiting said. "It's over with, and we've got to bounce back. Come with a good practice tomorrow and get back to work and face a good team in Texas Monday. So just got to get better and get ready."
The Cardinals will start Anthony Kidston (9-0) on Monday against the Longhorns. Winning four games to make the Championship Series will be tough, but it is not impossible. That run has happened six times since 1979, a point not lost on Texas coach Augie Garrido said.
"Now it's been done six since '79," Garrido said. "So we've got a chance, we've got the right attitude, we've got the right group of guys. Irvine played a really good game, and our hats are off to them. But I have confidence that we'll come back with the fight that Mark is talking about, Collin is talking about and Nate (Thornhill) is talking about. This is a strong brotherhood. I think you'll see it. We have an opportunity now."
Is that a prediction?
"Let me see," Garrido said, rubbing his water bottle like a crystal ball. "I don't know. Call it whatever you want. You're going to anyway."
The Texas players were talking about their opportunity to fight back through the Loser's Bracket starting Monday.
"You know, this team has a lot of fight in it," Thornhill said. "We've seen that all year long, and you know, this is not the position we want to be in, but I don't think we're going to feel sorry for ourselves. We're going to try to find a way to dig out of it. We've got a lot of fight in us."
FUNK'S FUTURE FOCUS If Louisville can make it back to the group title game against either Vanderbilt or UC Irvine, the game would be played on Friday. That would be six days rest for Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser, meaning he could pitch again.
"I feel good about our club and where we're at," McDonnell said. "You know, Funk's great, and he's growing. He's still young, and he's competing and he's trying. What's made him great all year is getting out of those two-out jams. That's what great pitchers do. More times than not, they get out of those two-out Jams. Tonight he just had a little trouble doing that."
Funkhouser admitted to not having a good start Saturday night, but he could have a chance at redemption if Louisville can eliminate Texas Monday and keep alive in the double-elimination tournament.