By Annie Moore
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Louisville Cardinals baseball team is reloaded and ready for the 2016 season, ranked No. 2 in every preseason poll. They return several standouts from last season, including first-round draft pick RHP Kyle Funkhouser.Head Coach Dan McDonnell says this team has high hopes for this season.
"The ultimate goal is to win the national championship," McDonnell said. "I think one of the decisions for [Funkhouser] to come back, was he felt like we could go to Omaha and win a national championship."
Omaha was agonizingly close for the Cards last season, who lost in extra innings to Cal State Fullerton in a Monday night heartbreaker that could have sent them to the College World Series.
A near miss that was surely on Funkhouser's mind as he made his decision to return this summer. He was picked 35th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, by the Los Angeles Dodgers and was looking at a million-dollar payday. But instead, Funkhouser returned for his senior season, the highest drafted player not to sign a professional contract. Funkhouser says this year's national title is in his sights.
"You know, winning a national championship is every college baseball player's goal," Funkhouser said. "I don't care what school you're at, that's the number one goal. Yes, playing professionally is the next goal in the future. But, as of here and now, it would just be incredible. Probably the best day of my life."
Other returning stars for Louisville include junior outfielder Corey Ray, and sophomore LHP Brendan McKay.Ray led the Cards last season in batting average, hitting .325, with 11 home runs and 56 RBI. McKay looks to be the number two man in Louisville's rotation, and had a 1.77 ERA.
The first step to Omaha is the Cards' season opener, Friday they start a three-game series against SIU-Edwardsville. Friday's game at Jim Patterson Stadium starts at 3:00 p.m.