Whether they were following the games on their computers or sneaking away in the middle of the workday to find a TV, University of Louisville fans were stricken with March Madness—in June!
It wasn’t the basketball team making an NCAA postseason charge. It was the baseball team capturing the imagination of Cardinal fans everywhere by advancing to the College World Series (CWS) in Omaha for the first time in school history.
"This team will go down in history as one of the greatest baseball teams in Louisville history," says baseball coach Dan McDonnell, who after his first season with the Cardinals was named Rivals.com National Coach of the Year. "What a special season we have had. I told them that the season is going to end and you want it to end in Omaha."
McDonnell, who became the first head coach since 1980 to lead his team to Omaha in his first season, guided the 2007 Cards to a school record 47 wins and a host of other milestones including:
- playing in only its second NCAA tournament
- notching its first postseason win
- winning its first regional
- winning its first super regional
- featuring a record nine All-Conference honorees and a record six picks in the Major League Baseball draft
- ranking in the Top 10 in three different end-of-the-season polls
After finishing third in the Big East regular season and being eliminated in the conference tournament semifinals, the Cards barely made the NCAA postseason, receiving an at-large bid to the Columbia Regional in Missouri.
UofL immediately showed that they belonged, defeating perennial college baseball power University of Miami (Fla.) 13–7 in the regional opener. But after losing to host University of Missouri in the second game 7–5, the Cardinals had to play Miami again in an elimination game. Louisville prevailed 8–7.
But their work was far from over. To advance to the super regional, the team faced the daunting task of defeating 11th-ranked Mizzou in two straight games on their home field.
No problem. UofL won the first game 4–3 and then thumped the Tigers in the deciding game 16–6.
On the bus ride home, the team learned that their super regional match-up against baseball power Oklahoma State would be at home in the beautiful—and still rather new—Patterson Stadium.
In front of three overflowing, record crowds, UofL won the weekend series, taking two out of three from OSU while putting on an offensive clinic that would have made the football and basketball teams proud. Louisville outscored the Cowboys 32–4 over the three days, winning the third and decisive game 20–2 to advance to the CWS.
On June 15, the UofL baseball team took the field at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, the long-time home of the CWS, for the first time. Their opponent was the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, Rice.
In their typical aggressive form, the Cardinals came out swinging and, by the fifth inning, were beating the Owls 10–4. But Rice scored the next 11 runs as Louisville gave up a season-high 19 hits and 15 runs while dropping their series opener 15–10.
"I am not going to lie. I felt good about the game early on," says Boomer Whiting, UofL’s speedy lead-off hitter who led the nation in stolen bases. "But we were in Omaha and we are playing some of the top teams in the country. It is never enough against Rice."
But UofL had more than enough two days later. The Cards staved off elimination in confident style, belting 18 hits with three doubles and four homers (two by freshman sensation Chris Dominguez) to knock out Mississippi State 12–4.
The Cardinals established themselves as sluggers in the CWS when they became just the fifth team ever to score in double digits in their first two outings in the series.
But UofL's magical postseason run—along with its offensive juggernaut—was quieted two days later against eventual CWS runner-up North Carolina. Tarheel starter Luke Putkonen silenced the rowdy Louisville bats, giving up just three hits and striking out seven to hand UofL a season-ending 3–1 loss.
McDonnell said his team had the talent and work ethic to make a run.
"They worked so hard all year long," he said. "They did everything we asked them to. This is a group of achievers. It wouldn't shock me if a few of them continue to play ball for a long time."
And it wouldn’t shock UofL fans to see June Lunacy become an annual thing.