The University of Louisville baseball began preparations for the 2014 season this week. The Cardinals began practicing as a team on Monday and the they welcomed the weekend with the first scrimmage of fall ball on Friday afternoon.
On a cool afternoon, with multiple professional scouts watching from the stands, the Cardinals played to a 2-2 tie at Patterson Stadium.
The scrimmage provided head coach Dan McDonnell an opportunity to see how the returning veterans have improved during the summer leagues and evaluate the many newcomers on the squad.
"I don't know if it was the scouts in the stands or if it was the older players realizing the competition, but the young guys seemed to just play today," McDonnell told Cardinal Authority.
Among the newcomers is Iowa Western Community College transfer Grant Kay. Expected to fill a key role with the Cardinals next spring, Kay was a perfect 3-for-3, with two doubles.
However, while the Cardinal will need some of the new additions to the team to play well in 2014, the returning members of the last season's College World Series squad will determine the teams eventual success.
"The older guys are going to have to step up," said McDonnell. "Some of those are going to have to be stars and some of those are going to have to be All-Americans. The younger guys aren't going to be able to do it for 56 games, it's going to have to start with the older guys."
A combination of seniors and juniors will fuel the 2014 baseball Cardinals. Almost immediately following the 2013 trip to Omaha, McDonnell named seniors Jeff Gardner and Cole Sturgeon team captains and he's relying on them and other veterans to direct the newer members of the team.
"You look at Gardner and Cole are two seniors that have played an awful lot during their career here," he said. "Just the bat speed and the physical maturity. They look primed ready to have monster years."
"There's a lot of older guys here. Whether they were in the field or in the dugout they have been apart of this program for two or three years and they put a lot of work into getting to Omaha last year, so the goal is to keep the momentum that we have and make sure those younger kids follow your lead."
Moving into the American Athletic Conference next season, the Cardinals will play in a league where baseball is more of a premium.
"Baseball-wise, we've got our work cut out for us this year," McDonnell said. "It's going to be a real challenge to see where we can stack up in this league, with obviously the goal of finishing at the top. We think this going to be a very good baseball league this year."
Fall ball will continue into October, capping off with the annual Pizza Bowl. The team will participate in the second scrimmage of the fall on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Fans are welcome.