OMAHA, Neb. - The No. 8 ranked University of Louisville baseball team practiced for 50 minutes and met with reporters Thursday at Rosenblatt Stadium in preparation for the program's first ever appearance at the College World Series. U of L will face the No. 2 seeded Rice Owls in the 2007 College World Series opener Friday at 2 p.m. ET at historic Rosenblatt Stadium and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
The Cards opened Thursday morning with a 50-minute open practice session, the team's first opportunity to get familiar with the playing surface and the surroundings at Rosenblatt Stadium. Following the practice, the Cardinal players met with reporters and participated in an autograph session with the fans, while later in the afternoon, head coach Dan McDonnell met with reporters in the official pre-series press conference.
"We're definitely very excited to be here and it's been a very special year for the 25 players that are here, especially the 10 seniors," McDonnell said. "I really leaned on that group of seniors and I challenged them to lead our group. This is a great opportunity for the University of Louisville and we brag about the success we've had and that 17 of our 22 Division I sports have played in an NCAA post-season event this year. Our challenge to the kids in the fall was to get on board the train of success and for them to be apart of this university and this athletic department, they'd have to step it up."
Thursday evening's events at the College World Series include Fan Fest throughout the day outside Rosenblatt Stadium, the Road to Omaha Jam from 5 to 8:30 p.m. CT featuring country artist Rodney Atkins and the Opening Ceremonies at 9 p.m. CT, featuring an Olympic-style introduction of the eight qualifying teams. The Navy Leap Frogs parachute team will return this year accompanied by music and narration. Nine jumpers will leap out of an aircraft at an altitude of 12,500 feet. During free fall, jumpers reach speeds of 120 mph and can accelerate up to 180 mph by pulling their arms to their sides and straightening their legs into what is called a "track." The day's activities will conclude with a fireworks extravaganza.
Friday's opening day of action will conclude with No. 3 North Carolina and Mississippi State at 7 p.m. ET. The winners of Friday's game will meet on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2, while the losing teams on Friday will face off in an elimination game Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.
U of L (46-22) advanced to Omaha with last Sunday's impressive 20-2 victory over Oklahoma State in the third and decisive game of the Super Regional. Prior to that, the Cards advanced through the Columbia (Mo.) Regional with back-to-back wins over No. 1 seeded Missouri. Rice (54-12) returns to Omaha for the second consecutive year and the fourth time in the last six years after winning all five of its game in the 2007 NCAA tournament. The Owls won the 2003 College World Series championship, the school's first NCAA team title in any sport.