LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The excitement is in the air as the University of Louisville Baseball Cardinals are now one game away from Omaha. After making a comeback Friday against Kennesaw State and tying the game at three in the eighth inning, UofL pulled out a 5-3 win.
The program has come a long way from a time when the team played at the old Cardinal Stadium. The Cards have moved up in many ways. Fans from Kennesaw State were impressed with the state of the art facility that's home to the Cards and one of the finest in college baseball.
Also impressive? How far some local players have come.
A huge crowd of Louisville Cardinal Baseball fans made their way to Jim Patterson Stadium to see the Cards host the Owls and another Super Regional. Before head coach Dan McDonnell got to Louisville in 2007, the Cards weren't a factor in the NCAA tournament. Last season they were in the College World Series and now have a chance to get back there.
Parents of hometown players like Butler High grad Zach Lucas couldn't be more proud of how far the program has come.
His father, Doug, said, "When the kid was 12-years-old his dream was to come here and play UofL baseball and he wrote it on our wall, " he explained. "We moved a year ago and we cut that out (of the wall) because it's always been that kid's dream."
A college program that's now a dream destination for some of baseball's best and brightest.
That's something the Louisville family of left fielder Jeff Gardner understands. Tears, hugs and congratulations come as the family found out about an hour before Friday night's game that Gardner was selected in the 8th round of the draft by the Washington Nationals.
Gardner's mother, Jo Ann, made a B-line for her baby inside the stadium.
She said of watching the draft, "His name was there and it was the Nationals and I was like 'thank you Lord!'" She said of her emotions, "It's beyond words because he's waited all his life."
Gardner's father, Jeff, added, "It's a good feeling." He said of his son's next step, "It's been four great years here, but he wanted to play at the next level and now he has that opportunity with a great organization."
His sisters teared up too, remembering other people telling their brother when he was young not to go to the small Louisville Christian school of Whitefield Academy, saying he needed to attend a larger school. Friday night they smiled as they noticed Whitefield Academy's "W" emblem was the same as the "W" of the Nationals.
Gardner's nephew Christian watched the draft religiously via smartphone, "His name popped up and I was like 'oh my Gosh, mom there he is!"
Most thrilled? Gardner's aunt who came running into the stadium screaming for joy, but admitted she doesn't get it, "Last night, I sat up and watched the major league draft all night long and I didn't understand any of it!"
What she does get? The Cards have become one of the top programs in college baseball in recent years and her nephew is one of three Louisville players headed to the big leagues.
Outfielder and pitcher Cole Sturgeon was selected by the Boston Red Sox and closer Nick Burdi was taken in the second round by the Minnesota Twins.