On June 27, 2006, Dan McDonnell, one of the top young minds in college baseball, was named the 18th head coach of the University of Louisville baseball team. And on June 15, 2007, McDonnell and the Cardinals took the field at hallowed Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha for game one of the 2007 College World Series.
Not bad for 353 days on the job.
As the first rookie head coach to lead his team to Omaha in 27 years, McDonnell was named National Coach of the Year by Rivals.com after guiding the Cardinals to a then-school record 47 wins during that 2007 season. He followed that impressive debut season by leading Louisville to six more NCAA appearances during the next seven years, including back-to-back College World Series berths in 2013 and 2014, as well as five conference regular season titles and two conference tournament championships. Louisville also hosted six different rounds of NCAA postseason baseball in the last eight years with NCAA Super Regionals in 2007 and 2014 and four NCAA Regionals in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014.
The CWS appearances, NCAA berths and conference championships are the perfect payoff for University of Louisville director of athletics Tom Jurich, who has made it a priority to secure the Port Chester, N.Y., native and his assistant coaches with long-term contracts to maintain the consistency and foundation needed to keep the Cardinals among the nation's elite baseball programs.
"When we met him, he was the most prepared of any candidate that I have brought in on an interview in any sport," Jurich noted upon hiring McDonnell in the summer of 2006. "Recommendations for him came from across the country about his ability to recruit and handle student-athletes."
In McDonnell's eight seasons as head coach, Louisville ranks seventh nationally in wins with 359, including a school-record 51 wins in 2013. During the eight-year span, the Cardinals have produced 18 All-Americans, 61 all-conference selections, five conference Pitcher of the Year winners and three conference Player of the Year winners, while 40 Louisville players have signed professional contracts after being selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The Cardinals continued their upward trajectory in 2014 highlighted by the return to Omaha for the third time under McDonnell, another 50-win season, the inaugural American Conference regular season championship and a pair of successful NCAA postseason events at Jim Patterson Stadium. After being chosen as a host site for an NCAA Regional for the second straight year, Louisville swept through its NCAA Regional with wins over Kent State, Kansas and Kentucky before clinching the CWS berth with a Super Regional triumph over Kennesaw State in front of a school record crowd of 6,007.
Louisville ended 2014 ranked as highly as No. 6 in the final national rankings while also leaving its mark on the NCAA statistics. On the mound, the Cardinals ranked fifth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 8.4, 12th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.4), 19th nationally in shutouts with eight and 20th in ERA at 2.80. Offensively, Louisville was second in the nation in stolen bases for the second straight season with 133, fifth in stolen bases per game at 1.99, fifth in runs with 417, sixth in hit by pitch with 109 and 14th in sacrifice flies with 34.
Individually, the trio of senior outfielder Jeff Gardner, junior righty closer Nick Burdi and sophomore righty starter Kyle Funkhouser led the way earning All-American honors for the Cardinals in 2014. Gardner was named Second Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball newspaper and the NCBWA and Third Team All-America by the ABCA, while Burdi, the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, was named First Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, Perfect Game, the ABCA and the NCBWA. Funkhouser earned Second Team All-America honors from the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball newspaper and Third Team All-America accolades from Baseball America and Perfect Game.
Prior to the postseason, Gardner was named American Conference Player of the Year to lead a group of seven Cardinals earning All-American Conference honors. It marked the eighth time in the last eight seasons a member of the Cardinals has been selected as conference player or pitcher of the year and the first time a Cardinal was the player of the year since Chris Dominguez earned back-to-back Big East Player of the Year awards in 2008 and 2009. Joining Gardner as All-American Conference First Team selections were Burdi, third baseman Alex Chittenden and Funkhouser. Righty Jared Ruxer and outfielder/lefty pitcher Cole Sturgeon were All-American Conference Second Team honorees, while second baseman Zach Lucas was an All-American Conference Third Team pick.
Major League Baseball continued to take notice in the Louisville program as a total eight Cardinals were chosen in the 2014 MLB Draft with seven of those signing professional contracts. Burdi led the way becoming the highest draft pick in school history going 46th overall in the second round to the Minnesota Twins. He was followed by Gardner going in the eighth round to the Washington Nationals, Sturgeon going in the 10th round to the Boston Red Sox, righty Jared Ruxer going in the 12th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, lefty Joe Filomeno went in the 15th round to the Texas Rangers, infielder Grant Kay going in the 27th round to the Tampa Bay Rays, Lucas going in the 29th round to the Pittsburgh Pirates (did not sign pro contract) and lefty Kyle McGrath in the 36th round to the San Diego Padres.
Even with all of the success in the program since McDonnell's arrival, the 2013 season proved to be one of the best ever with the Cardinals return to the College World Series for the second time while also winning a record-setting 51 games. That victory total included a 16-game winning streak to close the regular season to clinch the fourth BIG EAST championship in five seasons. Louisville's march to Omaha started at home where the Cardinals' hosted an NCAA Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium for the third time. After earning wins over Bowling Green, Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma State, Louisville traveled to Nashville, Tenn., for an NCAA Super Regional showdown with No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt. In the latest chapter of a highly competitive rivalry, the Cardinals became the first team in 2013 to take a series from the Commodores winning back-to-back days at Hawkins Field to advance to the CWS.
The Cardinals closed the season ranked as highly as No. 8 in the final set of national rankings. Led by one of the nation's best pitching staffs, Louisville closed the season fifth in the NCAA in ERA at 2.52 and first in strikeouts per nine innings at 9.6. Offensively, the Cardinals were second in the nation in stolen bases with 150, just three shy of matching the school record of 153 set during the 2007 CWS season. Louisville also led the nation in hit-by-pitch with 129.
Individually, Burdi and righty pitcher Jeff Thompson earned All-America honors from multiple organizations to become the 14th and 15th players respectively at Louisville to be honored among the nation's best. Burdi garnered All-America honors from Perfect Game (First Team) and the NCBWA (Second Team), while Thompson was named Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America by College Baseball newspaper, Third Team All-America by Perfect Game and Third Team All-America by NCBWA. Two more righty pitchers, Funkhouser and Anthony Kidston, were named Louisville Slugger Freshman All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
Following the regular season, Thompson was honored as BIG EAST Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2013 becoming the fifth different Louisville player to earn the award as a school record-tying 10 Cardinals earned All-BIG EAST accolades. Joining Thompson as First Team All-BIG EAST selections were Gardner and Burdi. The Cardinals, who equaled last year's record-setting 10 All-BIG EAST selections, had four players named Second Team All-BIG EAST -- righthanded pitcher Chad Green, outfielder Coco Johnson, shortstop Sutton Whiting and junior third baseman Ty Young. Earning Third Team All-BIG EAST honors from Louisville were senior second baseman Nick Ratajczak and outfielders Adam Engel and Sturgeon.
Continuing another trend since McDonnell's arrival, Louisville was well represented in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in 2013 as seven Cardinals were selected during the three-day event. Righthander Dace Kime was taken 79th overall by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 40-round draft, Thompson was selected 94th overall in the third round by the Detroit Tigers and Young was taken in the seventh round by the Tampa Bay Rays to close day two. Johnson was taken in the 11th Round by the Miami Marlins, Green was selected in the 11th Round by the Detroit Tigers, lefty Cody Ege was taken in the 15th Round by the Texas Rangers and Engel was selected in the 19th Round by the Chicago White Sox.
The 2012 season was another successful one for Louisville as the Cardinals won another BIG EAST Conference regular season championship and advanced to the NCAA Regional in Tucson. Overall, Louisville finished with a 41-22 record while advancing to the NCAA Regional final before falling to eventual national champion Arizona. Along with the BIG EAST title, a school record 10 Louisville players earned All-BIG EAST honors led by BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year Justin Amlung, who was also a Louisville Slugger Third Team All-America selection. Louisville had five players named Second Team All-BIG EAST in 2012 - first baseman Stewart Ijames, Engel, Gardner, Sturgeon and Thompson. Ruxer became the second Louisville player ever to be named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and led a foursome of Cardinals to earn Third Team All-BIG EAST accolades. Joining Ruxer on the third team was righty reliever Derek Self, second Ratajczak and Young.
Following the season, Louisville had a trio of right-handed pitchers in Matt Koch, Self and Amlung selected during the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Koch was selected 107th overall by the New York Mets in the third round of the 40-round, three-day draft. He was followed by Self, who was taken 294th overall in the ninth round by the Washington Nationals, and Amlung, who was selected 374th overall in the 12th round by the Chicago Cubs.
In 2011, Louisville had four players earn All-BIG EAST honors - second baseman Ryan Wright (First Team), pitcher Justin Amlung (First Team), outfielder Stewart Ijames (Second Team) and pitcher Tony Zych (Third Team). Following the season, three Cardinals signed with professional teams after being selected in the 2011 MLB Draft as Zych was taken in the fourth round by the Chicago Cubs, Wright was selected in the fifth round by the Cincinnati Reds and catcher J.J. Ethel was taken in the 49th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Two other Cardinals, Amlung and pitcher Derek Self, elected to return to Louisville after being drafted.
The 2010 season included the Cardinals earning the program's first ever national seed (#7) for the NCAA Championships, a second straight NCAA Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium, a second straight BIG EAST regular season title and the new school record in wins. Four Cardinals - pitchers Neil Holland and Thomas Royse, second baseman Ryan Wright and third baseman Phil Wunderlich - earned All-American honors, while Royse was named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, the third different Louisville player to win the league honor in four years. Overall, eight Louisville players earned All-BIG EAST accolades as first baseman Andrew Clark, Holland and Wright joined Royse on the first team, while catcher Jeff Arnold, shortstop Adam Duvall, Ijames and Wunderlich earned second-team honors.
Following the completion of the 2010 season, Louisville had school-record 10 players selected in the 2010 MLB Draft, while Wright became the second Louisville player in two seasons to play for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. He was Team USA's top everyday hitter at .361 overall to go with 18 runs scored, a pair of home runs and 12 RBI. Wright made 17 starts in 19 games overall and was named the top designated hitter at the 2010 World University Baseball Championships.
The Cardinals, who earned 40 regular-season wins for the first time in school history in 2009, were led that season by All-American third baseman and BIG EAST Player of the Year Chris Dominguez, All-American left-handed pitcher and BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year Justin Marks and Wunderlich, an All-American utility player and an All-BIG EAST selection. Joining that trio as All-BIG EAST selections in 2009 were Royse (Second Team), Clark (Second Team) and Duvall (Third Team), while Clark also earned the Jack Kaiser Award as the Most Outstanding Player of the BIG EAST Championship.
Following the season, Louisville had three players from the 2009 team as well as five signees selected in the MLB Draft. Leading the way were Dominguez, who was selected in the third round by the San Francisco Giants, and Marks, a third-round selection by the Oakland A's.
The offseason was also a busy one for McDonnell, who served as an assistant coach for the 2009 USA National Baseball Team, which won the World Baseball Challenge and finished with an impressive 19-5 record overall. The Cards' head coach was joined on Team USA by Zych, who worked out of the US bullpen throughout the summer, as well as Cards' catcher Justin Haywood (bullpen catcher for Team USA) and former U of L strength and conditioning coach Eric Hammer (strength coach for Team USA).
The 2008 season featured the continued rise of Dominguez as one of the nation's top players as he was named to five All-America teams, earned BIG EAST Co-Player of the Year honors and was named MVP of the BIG EAST Tournament. Joining Dominguez with All-BIG EAST honors in 2008 were catcher Derrick Alfonso (First Team), Marks (First Team), Clark (Second Team), Ijames (Third Team), second baseman Justin McClanahan (Third Team) and B.J. Rosenberg (Third Team). Marks was named Third Team All-America by two publications in 2008.
Overall, the Cardinals won 41 games in 2008 to earn back-to-back 40-win seasons for the first time in school history and earn back-to-back NCAA Championship bids for the first time in the program's history. Following the season, the Cards also had five players from the 2008 squad and four signees selected in the MLB Draft. Leading the way was Dominguez, a fifth-round pick by the Colorado Rockies who elected to return to Louisville for his junior season.
The first season under McDonnell was more than just the first trip to Omaha in school history as five different players were named to All-America teams. A school-record nine players were named to the All-BIG EAST teams, including three first-team selections and five members of the second team. Senior Zack Pitts was named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year and Justin Marks was tabbed as BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. Overall, the Cardinals did not lose three straight games and only lost consecutive games five times in 2007.
U of L finished the 2007 season ranked 6th or 7th in all five major college baseball polls. The team set 20 individual career and single-season records as well as U of L team records for at bats, doubles, stolen bases, wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. Six players and four signees were tabbed in the 2007 MLB Draft, including Trystan Magnuson, who was selected 56th overall - the highest pick in school history. Seven players played pro ball following the `07 season.
In the 12 team categories ranked statistically by the NCAA, the Cards were in the top 62 in 11 of them, the top 50 in nine categories and the top 10 in two. Twenty-six individuals ranked in the top 100 nationally and 16 in the top 50. The Cards were second in the nation in steals and senior Boomer Whiting won the NCAA stolen base crown with his BIG EAST-record 73.
Winning is nothing new to McDonnell. In McDonnell's 24 seasons in NCAA baseball as a player and coach, teams he has been a part of have averaged 38 wins per season and have advanced to an NCAA Regional in 15 of those seasons, including 12 of the last 15.
As the top assistant and recruiting coordinator for Mike Bianco at the University of Mississippi for six seasons prior to taking over as head coach at Louisville, McDonnell and the Rebels had four top-20 recruiting classes and three groups that ranked in the top 10 nationally. The first full recruiting class for the Rebels under McDonnell's direction was ranked No. 6 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball. In each of his last two seasons with the Rebels, Ole Miss was one win away from advancing to Omaha.
His recruiting classes produced three first-team Freshman All-Americans, one second-team Freshman All-American and two honorable mention Freshman All-Americans. Former Rebel outfielder Seth Smith, who played for the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 MLB World Series, was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2002 and first baseman/left-handed pitcher Stephen Head earned the honor in 2003. Head was also selected as one of four National Freshmen of the Year by Collegiate Baseball in 2003.
As the Rebels' infield coach, McDonnell helped coach Head to All-America honors in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to become the first three-time All-American in school history. Head also earned SEC Co-Player of the Year honors in 2004 and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, the most prestigious in college baseball.
A pair of Ole Miss infielders signed and coached by McDonnell, Zack Cozart and Justin Henry were tabbed in the 2007 MLB Draft (second and ninth rounds, respectively). Four of McDonnell's signees and players in his final two seasons at Ole Miss competed in the USA Baseball trials, including Cozart, who was the everyday shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds in 2012.
In the five seasons that preceded McDonnell's arrival at Ole Miss, the team averaged just 28 wins per season and finished no higher than fifth in the SEC Western Division. In his six seasons in Oxford, the team averaged just over 40 wins per season and finished in the top three on four occasions, winning the 2006 SEC Tournament and sharing the 2005 regular season title.
Infielders Josh Christian, Cooper Osteen, Brian Pettway, Jon Swearingen, Matt Tolbert and Head have all advanced to play professional baseball following their tutelage under McDonnell. Head and Pettway were both First Team All-America selections in 2005, while Head was joined by Smith on the US National Team that took home the silver medal in the 2003 Pan American Games.
In the 2005 MLB Draft, Ole Miss was the only team in the nation with four players selected in the top 100. A total of 21 Mississippi players were drafted during McDonnell's final three seasons in Oxford, including six Rebels in the 2006 Draft.
Before his arrival in Oxford, Miss., McDonnell was an assistant and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, The Citadel, for eight seasons. The Bulldogs advanced to four NCAA Regionals and won five Southern Conference titles during that span. He was the top assistant from 1995-2000.
Primarily working with the Bulldog infielders and hitters, McDonnell also worked with the baserunners, establishing a conference record for steals in a single season in 2000 with 198 in 240 attempts over 59 games. The Citadel was paced by junior outfielder Chris Morris, who led the nation with 84 bags.
During his playing days for the Bulldogs, McDonnell earned four letters, helping The Citadel to the 1990 College World Series, marking the first time a military school has made the trip to Omaha. He was a member of the All-Atlantic Regional team in Miami that same season.
As a second baseman, he was named first-team All-Southern Conference as a junior. He finished his career as the league's all-time leader in stolen bases with 99, a total that now places him fourth in school history. He is the school's all-time leader in walks, picking up 185 bases on balls, and is ninth in runs scored in Bulldog history with 165.
McDonnell graduated from The Citadel in 1992 and later completed his master's degree in business administration in 1995. He is married to the former Julie Anne Underwood of Charlotte, N.C. The couple has two sons, Jake and Justin.
McDonnell Year-by-Year Year Record PostseasonThe Citadel - Player
1989 30-20 SoCon Tournament
1990* 46-14 College World Series - Omaha, Nebraska
1991* 34-19-1 SoCon Tournament
1992 35-20 SoCon Tournament
The Citadel - Assistant Coach
1993 32-25 SoCon Tournament
1994* 32-34 NCAA East Regional
1995* 39-21 NCAA Mideast Regional
1996 33-26 SoCon Tournament
1997 37-21 SoCon Tournament
1998* 37-24 NCAA East Regional
1999* 41-20 NCAA Tallahassee Regional
2000* 39-20 SoCon Tournament
Mississippi - Assistant Coach
2001 38-21-1 NCAA Regional
2002 37-19 None
2003 35-27 NCAA Regional
2004 39-21 NCAA Regional
2005 48-20 Super Regional Final
2006 44-22 Super Regional Final
Louisville - Head Coach (359-159 record in 8 seasons)
2007 47-24 College World Series
2008 41-21 NCAA Regional
2009 47-18 NCAA Super Regional
2010 50-14 NCAA Regional
2011 32-29 BIG EAST Tournament
2012 41-22 NCAA Regional
2013 51-14 College World Series
2014 50-17 College World Series