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Here is Josh Thomson’s story from the College World Series:
OMAHA, NEB. — In the six years since their last trip to Omaha, Dan McDonnell’s Louisville Cardinals became more than another fun June story. The program established itself as something it had never been — a perennial contender for the College World Series.
That reality made Monday’s elimination all the more disappointing. McDonnell’s Cardinals were bounced from the double-elimination tournament unceremoniously, losing 11-4 to Oregon State in a game they trailed 10-0 thanks to four early errors.
“It’s disappointing because you believe you had the talent to win the national championship,” said McDonnell, a 1988 graduate of Port Chester High School. “You can’t be afraid to put it on the line, and when you do that, it hurts. It is disappointing today not playing better here in Omaha.”
Louisville — the first team eliminated from the eight-team tournament — came unglued in the third inning. Starter Jeff Thompson, a Detroit Tigers third-round pick, was lifted as Oregon State rallied for seven runs on a series of miscues that included a hit by pitch, two errors, a bunt single and a blown call at first.
For the moment, the loss tarnishes the best season in program history. Louisville finished with a record 51 wins after winning the Big East to earn its sixth NCAA tournament berth in seven seasons under McDonnell, who, unlike in 2007, guided a team awash in preseason hype.
“It’s one thing to have a great year when nobody expects you to have a great year, but I was proud of this group because the bar was set very high from themselves and from the baseball community,” he said. “To a degree, we backed it up.”
McDonnell drew strength from supporters who traveled here for Louisville’s two games, including former Port Chester teammates Rich Dunn and Rocky Bellantoni, an assistant football coach at Villanova.
Deep in the Louisville cheering section was McDonnell’s older brother, Mike, who flew to Omaha with his daughter, Jillian, a Dobbs Ferry High School student. They attended chapel on Father’s Day with the Louisville team and shared memories of their father, Allan, a longtime Rye Brook resident who died in 2011 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Afterward, they went to a steakhouse and Mike met Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich.
“He said the kindest words about Dan,” said the former Sacred Heart boys basketball coach, who now has the same post at Putnam Valley. “He said he doesn’t care about what happens out here; he put Louisville baseball on the map.”
The younger McDonnell believes it, too. His team will join the ACC — perhaps college baseball’s best conference — in 2015, but his mission remains unshakeable.
“I told these guys: One day we will win a national championship at Louisville,” McDonnell said. “And you have to look back at this team for what they did.”