Nov. 21, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With its demanding offseason strength and conditioning program in full swing, the Louisville baseball program kicked off the annual Omaha Challenge this week with the first three days of the five-day competition.
After opening the event with the paintball competition on Sunday, the Cardinals hosted the shuttle run event on Monday morning, the bench press, push-ups, pull-ups and tug-of-war events on Monday afternoon and the tire flip and bike race events on Tuesday. Following the Thanksgiving break, the competition will resume with the squat competition and swimming event on Monday before concluding with the medley on Tuesday.
Through the first three days of competition, junior outfielder and team captain for the Black squad Adam Engel leads the individual standings with 186.5 points, while sophomore infielder Sutton Whiting is second with 180.5 points. Sophomore pitcher Jared Ruxer is third with 179 points, while sophomore infielder Zach Lucas has 166 points and senior outfielder Matt Helms has 165 points to complete the top five.
In the team competition, the Black squad has 2,426.5 points to lead the Red squad's 2,315.5 points with two days of events remaining. Led by Engel, the Black squad is comprised of Jeff Thompson, Helms, Joe Ceja, Dace Kime, Ruxer, Lucas, Chad Green, Whiting, Jordan Simons, Adam Schemenauer, Kyle Gibson, Michael Bollmer, Kyle Funkhouser, Mike White, Alex Chittenden, Anthony Kidston, Kyle McGrath and Joe Filomeno. The Red squad, led by captain Jeff Gardner, is comprised of Jakson Deyer, Cody Ege, Cole Sturgeon, Zak Wasserman, Robert Strader, Nick Burdi, Shane Crain, Ty Young, Danny Rosenbaum, Jordan Striegel, Zack Soria, Coco Johnson, Jonah Philley, Nick Ratajczak, Aaron Gershenfeld, Brad Hedden and Brandon Alphin.
In Sunday's paintball event, the Black squad won two of three matches to clinch the first 50 points of the competition. On Monday morning, Ceja led the way in the shuttle run at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium with an event record time of 7:48, while Deyer was second with a time of 7:51 and Ruxer finished third at 7:53.
Monday afternoon featured a busy competition schedule with four different events. In the hitters' bench press event, Engel and Gibson tied for the win by pressing 354 pounds each, while Johnson and Whiting was tied for third at 308 pounds. In the pitchers' push-ups event, which had the athletes compete with a 40-pound chain on their lower back, Ruxer earned first-place honors finishing with 32 push-ups. Ege was second with 31, while Deyer was third at 29. In the pull-ups challenge, Sturgeon earned the victory with 22, while Ruxer and Whiting tied for second with 20 pull-ups each. In the final event of Monday, the Black squad earned 75 additional team points by winning the best-of-five tug-of-war series three games to two.
The third day of competition started with the tire flip on Tuesday morning where Lucas earned the individual win by flipping a 450-pound tire 20 yards and running 30 yards in a time of 27.21 seconds. Whiting was second with a time of 28.43, while Burdi was third at 30.78. In the final event of the day, the Red squad earned 100 team points by winning the bike race at the Marshall Center.
About the Omaha Challenge
The Cardinals' off-season training reaches another level each November with the annual Omaha Challenge. Prior to the event, two captains are selected by the Louisville coaches to draft and lead the Red and Black squads for the five-day series of events. The events test the athleticism of the teams and individuals and conclude with the crowning of both team and individual champions at the end of the competition. Sports performance coach Eric Hammer oversees the Omaha Challenge, while also motivating the Cardinals to extend themselves to their limits.
About Louisville Baseball
Louisville, which won its third BIG EAST regular season title in the last four seasons in 2012, is led in 2013 by the return of seven of its school record 10 All-BIG EAST performers from last season, including second team outfielders Adam Engel and Cole Sturgeon. Most of the Cardinals' pitching staff returns for 2013, led by BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-American right-hander Jared Ruxer.
Overall, Louisville returns 21 letterwinners from the 2012 team, which finished 41-22 and advanced to an NCAA Regional for the fifth time in six seasons.
Head coach Dan McDonnell enters his seventh season leading the Louisville baseball program. In his six previous seasons, McDonnell is 258-122 with three BIG EAST regular-season titles, two BIG EAST Tournament titles, five NCAA Regional berths, two NCAA Super Regional appearances and one College World Series berth.