OMAHA, Neb. — The Brendan McKay era at Louisville is over. But he made sure to give college baseball fans one parting gift in Omaha Thursday night.
That was unwrapped in the top of the fourth inning in an elimination game vs. TCU, when McKay showcased his smooth left-handed swing, jumping on Nick Lofodo’s first pitch of the frame and crushing a solo home run about 20 rows deep in the right field bleachers, to the left of the Louisville bullpen
That would be McKay’s final trot around the bases and his final hit in Cardinal red, as TCU held on to a 4-3 victory to send Louisville home from the College World Series.
“For me personally, it’s just another statistic,” McKay said at Thursday’s postgame press conference. “But to hit a home run in the College World Series is awesome, on national TV in front of 20-some thousand people in the stands, it’s pretty awesome.”
McKay finished 1-for-4 in Thursday’s finale, striking out in his last two at bats against Sean Wymer, who baffled Louisville over the final 4.1 innings.
In his only trip to Omaha, the No. 4 pick in the 2017 MLB draft hit a modest 4-for-13 in three games with one home run and three runs scored. Against Texas A&M last Sunday, the dual-threat earned the victory on the mound with five innings of four-run ball.
That final line closes out a historical career for the 2017 Dick Howser Award winner, who batted .341 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs to go along with a 2.56 ERA and an 11-3 record on the mound in 2017.
McKay is the only college baseball player to win the John Olerud Award, given to the top two-way player in the nation, more than once — he captured that honor thrice. He also etched his name into school history this past season by breaking the career and single season records for strikeouts.
His career offensive numbers include a .328/.431/.533 slash line with 28 home runs. On the mound, he finished 32-10 with a 2.23 ERA, one complete game and 391 strikeouts.
From a team standpoint, McKay was part of three teams that made super regionals during the program’s current five-year run. This season marked Louisville’s first trip back to the College World Series since 2014, one year before McKay arrived on campus.
“To me — I’ve been in [baseball] probably for over 40 years now; 26 [or] 27 as a coach,” Louisville pitching coach Roger Williams said. “I haven’t seen all the players throughout history, but in my time, I have to say Brendan McKay has got to be in the conversation to be one of the best college baseball players I’ve ever seen as a coach with what he’s done, as accomplished as he is.”
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle offered similar thoughts in his postgame opening statement.
“[It’s] just a treat to watch Brendan McKay play,” Schlossnagle said. “And they have other great players too, but certainly we’ll look up in a couple of years or in 20 years and probably say it was awesome to be on the same field with one of the premier players ever to play college baseball.”
Time will tell where McKay’s name fits into the annals of college baseball, but the legacy he leaves behind in Louisville already looms large.