OMAHA, NE (WAVE) – When you’re on a rollercoaster, there’s that half second at the top of the first hill, where you’re no longer climbing, but the ride hasn’t yet taken off. Your heart is pounding, as you feel fear, anticipation, excitement, curiosity. You’re unsure what the ride holds in store, but there’s no turning back now. At the apex of that rollercoaster is where Louisville and Texas A&M will be at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.
The climb is over. Both teams worked up every link of the chain, pulling their respective teams all the way to the top of college baseball. The two teams had different paths to the apex, yet here they find themselves in the same position, waiting for the glory and the fall.
Louisville has been extremely successful this season. Posting a school record 52 wins, sweeping their Super Regional, the Cardinals' path to Omaha was relatively smooth. With Brendan McKay at the helm, and a stacked bullpen backed up by some stellar defense, the Cardinals look poised to make a strong run. Arguably the biggest cog in the defensive machine for UofL is shortshop Devin Hairston, who along with making several stellar plays currently has a total of just three errors on the year.
The Aggies didn’t have such a perfect season. They currently hold a 41-21 record, and had a tough opponent in the Cinderella story Davidson in a Super Regional that gained considerable national attention. Texas A&M survived the upset bid, but its climb up the hill is more analogous to one of those old wooden rollercoasters. The kind where as you’re going up the hill there’s a sputter or jerk that gives you pause.
UofL will stick with Mr. Reliable, McKay, to start its ride, while the Aggies are mixing up their rotation in a more strategic order. Texas A&M will start Corbin Martin, whom head coach Rob Childress said Friday had the hot hand.
"The last three weeks, he's probably been our hottest pitcher," Childress said. “We feel like he matches up really well."
If McKay can get a break from accepting any prestigious award up for grabs this season, he’ll get the start for UofL. And as anyone who’s watched him this season knows, the crowd could be in for some really special baseball. McKay currently boasts a 2.34 ERA and 10 wins on the season. He also snagged the school record for strikeouts in a season with 140.
McDonnell acknowledged getting past this Aggie team isn’t going to be an easy ride.
“They’ve got balance,” he said. “They can do a little big of everything. They’re going to sacrifice. They’re going to steal a base, hit and run. When I look at them, I look at a really complete offense that has the ability to do a little bit of everything.”
These teams have never faced each other, so when McDonnell talks to his team about a “faceless opponent,” as he often does, that is somewhat applicable in this case. But make no mistake, these teams have scouted each other, watched the film and looked from the ground up at the massive ride above them trying to predict each dip and turn.
We can prognosticate all we want. On paper, Louisville looks strong, and A&M looks full of surprises and poised after having to battle for every win on its path to the College World Series. But there’s truly no way of knowing.
Both teams will go over that drop, some with their hands in the air, some trying to catch their breath, some holding on for dear life. The silence of that second will be replaced with cheers and screams. And who knows what next. But one thing that’s for sure, it’s going to be an exciting ride.
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