LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After losing 11 of their last 16 games, the Louisville baseball team was excluded from this year's NCAA Tournament field.
The Cardinals did not hear their name called during ESPN2's Selection Monday show, marking the first time since 2011 that Louisville did not make the tournament. The NCAA Tournament did not take place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's very emotional: the sadness, frustration and disappointment," Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell said. "We don't want this to happen again. I don't want those kids to sit in that meeting room, be on the bubble and not get that call."
Louisville started the season as a consensus top-10 team that broke into the top five with stars like Alex Binelas and Henry Davis leading the way. UofL was picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, but finished 16-16 in conference play after Clemson, North Carolina and Miami all swept the Cardinals. They previously had never been swept in an ACC series since joining the conference.
"We had plenty of talent," McDonnell said. "We're going to pump out a couple first-rounders, a second or third, a fourth and a fifth. But we just had a lot of guys that play up to that level. As coaches, you always feel that's our job: to help these kids be their best."
The late-season collapse came after a series against Pittsburgh was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Louisville was 23-11 going into facing the Panthers and 5-11 after the two programs didn't play.
McDonnell openly admitted his team had "deficiencies" going into that series, like its pitching issues that had UofL tied for the fifth-highest team ERA in the ACC at 5.00, but had done enough to win in spite of them. While not making excuses though, he acknowledged the Cardinals were not the same team following that cancellation.
"It's amazing when you look at it on paper," McDonnell said. "They're winning their division and we're maybe a game or so out of our division, playing really good baseball. And I never would imagine when I got that call on a Wednesday afternoon, that that would send us into a tailspin."
The selection committee notably did not list the Cards as one of the first four teams out. This marks only the second time McDonnell has missed the NCAA Tournament since his hiring and he took responsibility for it.
"There's an obvious standard when you choose to come to Louisville," McDonnell said. "And this year wasn't the standard."
The veteran head coach also said he has had no contact with LSU regarding its head coaching job, since Paul Mainieri is retiring at the end of the season, calling Louisville a "destination job." As he looks forward for UofL and meets with players on what he wants them to work on, McDonnell said there is a high sense of urgency going into an earlier offseason than the program is used to.
"At the end of the day, if each kid is striving to be his best and we keep doing what we're doing, I have no doubt we'll bounce back," McDonnell said. "But it's just not given. It's not an automatic, but I like our process. I like our system. And I don't mind the challenge either. I've already had a chip on my shoulder to begin with. So, we welcome the doubters and we welcome those that are down on us."
No ACC teams were awarded the top eight seeds in the tournament, with Notre Dame being named the No. 10 national seed. The 64-team tournament starts Friday, June 4 with regionals. Super Regionals will begin Friday, June 11. The College World Series takes place June 19-29.