Inside Cardinal Baseball: Weekly notebook

Dan McDonnell

Cardinal Authority is extending our coverage into the sport of baseball at the University of Louisville. Besides prospect updates, we will bring you a weekly notebook looking inside the U of L baseball program. Our first edition:

ACC MOVE ‘HUGE' FOR BASEBALL PROGRAM

News of the University of Louisville's invitation into the Atlantic Coast Conference was big for sports all across the athletic department.

But one program that could benefit the most is baseball.

U of L and coach Dan McDonnell will now be competing in one of the elite baseball leagues in the country. The ACC ranked as the second-best conference last season and us typically one of the top two or three.

"I've been joking with people, I knew Tom Jurich was a baseball fan but this is over the top," McDonnell said with a chuckle. "It's extremely exciting for us. It's huge for our program and the future of Louisville baseball."

The ACC is loaded with top baseball programs.

Just last season, the ACC placed seven team in the NCAA Tournament field and a total of 15 ACC teams have reached the College World Series over the past seven seasons. Only six current Big East programs have ever made it into the World Series field with U of L's appearance in 2007 the latest for the league.

And the ACC also has depth. The 2012 season marked the ninth straight year that at least six ACC teams had been selected for NCAA postseason play and the 11th consecutive year that at least five conference teams were chosen.

"I have always said great programs win and not great conferences," McDonnell said. "But what great conferences do is give you a little security blanket and a boost in recruiting. One downfall is that nobody has ever come to play baseball in the Big East. On the positive side, kids came here to win championships, play in NCAA Tournaments and get a chance to go to Omaha.

"Now, we're hoping to get the kids that want those three things and now want to play against the so-called best players in the country."

McDonnell said the excitement around the recent announcement was "like we won the national championship."

"All the test messages and calls," McDonnell said. "It's not like we're now going to work harder. We still want to get to Omaha and win championships. But it's been an exciting time for our program."

MOVE ALREADY A BOOST FOR RECRUITING

McDonnell said it's not too early to tell the move to the ACC is going to be "really beneficial" for the Cardinals' on the recruiting front.

He said the staff has been making calls and talking to prospects, noting the reaction has been nothing but positive.

"It's been extremely positive from every kid we have signed, every commitment we have to the handful of kids out there we are one of a few schools in on.

"Now, we put the ACC above our head. It's really all about recruiting and all about the future."

LEADOFF DINNER SET FOR JAN. 18

The annual U of L Leadoff Dinner, sponsored by Republic Bank, will be held Friday, Jan. 18 with Cincinnati Red shortstop Zack Cozart and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher and former U of L player B.J. Rosenberg as the featured guests.

Cozart was an All-American at Mississippi where he was recruited by and played for McDonnell. He played in 138 games last season for the Reds in his first full season as the team's shortstop.

Rosenberg is from Vine Grove, Ky., and was a third-team All-Conference performer in 2008. He was a 13th round MLB Draft selection by the Phillies and made his major league debut on June 9. He played in 22 games.

The event is a big fundraiser for the baseball program and will he at the Hyatt Regency in downtown beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 apiece.

For information call (502) 852-0706.

THREE TEAM CAPTAIN SELECTED

U of L released on Wednesday a release that noted senior first baseman Zak Wasserman, junior outfielder Adam Engel and junior outfielder Jeff Gardner had been named team captains for the 2013 season.

The current players and coaches selected the captains.

Wasserman started 45 of 60 games as a junior and hit .297 with six home runs and 27 RBIs, while Engel was a second-team All-Big East performer after hitting .308 and stealing 37 bases in 38 attempts. Gardner was also a second-team All-Conference player after hitting .299 with 34 RBIs and 35 runs scored.

SEASON OPENS ON FEB. 15 IN Florida

The new season will open with a three-game swing in Florida for the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.

U of L will play Indiana on Feb. 15 in Dunedin, Fla., followed by South Florida on Feb. 16 in Clearwater and Purdue on Feb. 17 in St. Petersburg.

The Cardinals will then play 24 of the next 26 games at Jim Patterson Stadium with the home opener on Wednesday, Feb. 20 against Eastern Kentucky.

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