By Dalton Ray–
Baseball’s Kade McClure spent his sophomore season mainly throwing on weekdays behind Louisville’s first three starters of Drew Harrington, Kyle Funkhouser and Brendan McKay. With three future MLB players ahead of McClure, it’s easy to see how he got lost in the shuffle.
McClure gained recognition midway through the year as his undefeated record continued. By the end of 2016, McClure held a 12-0 record with a 2.54 ERA and 77 strikeouts.
Last season, the 6-foot-7 Ohio-native may have been the best fourth pitcher in the nation and easily would be a weekend starter at any other school. During the season, McClure didn’t look at the numbers.
“I just wanted to give my defense the best ability to win games and with the number of first rounders and top 100 picks around me, I knew it would be easier to let them make plays,” McClure said. “The only time I thought about being undefeated was when I was 9-0 going for my 10th (win). After I hit that benchmark, it was normal again.”
Because of the talent and coaching staff around McClure, he knew he was capable of performing at that level. Coming off a 12-0 year, McClure’s confidence was high, but playing college baseball wasn’t always on his radar.
“I didn’t even think about playing college baseball going up. I wanted to play basketball or football,” McClure said. “With my dad playing the in the NFL, I really wanted to play football. Then I turned out being 6-foot-7, so I thought I was going to play in the NBA but obviously, that wasn’t the case.”
Shifting to the team, McClure heard the noise around the program saying the team would be a rebuilding year.
“We had a lot of guys (this year) that didn’t have as much exposure last year and they’re stepping into roles and filling spots. A lot of pieces are coming into place very well. If we keep playing like this, I think the season will turn out just fine,” McClure said.
Many people didn’t expect the team to start a program-best 19-0 after losing so many key players from the 2016 team. McClure said being a part of history is an honor.
“I didn’t even know we broke the record until someone told me after the game,” McClure said. “In this program, we take it game-by-game instead of looking ahead to the weekend series. Before we knew it, we were 13-0, 14-0 and kept going. I don’t think anyone inside or out thought we would start off that hot but we just rolled with it.”
McClure understands to make a deep postseason run, the Cardinals will need their bullpen. McClure said that with the players in the infield and the coaches in the dugout, he feels like anyone could step in and have a 10-win season.
So far in 2017, McClure is 3-1 and the team is 7-1 when he starts. With a 3.3 ERA, McClure is second on the team with 51 strikeouts.
With the second half of the season approaching, McClure has two words for his team and fans: Be ready.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal