Louisville coach Dan McDonnell played in the College World Series as a Citadel second baseman in 1990, and has taken two of his own Cardinal teams to college baseball's ultimate stage in Omaha.
McDonnell knows what a postseason college baseball team looks like, and he thinks he saw one Saturday afternoon at Riley Park.
"The Citadel's got a nice club, a veteran, confident team with good starting pitching and good guys in the bullpen," McDonnell said after the Bulldogs knocked off his No. 20-ranked Cardinals, 5-3, before 1,122 fans. "It's a well-rounded team that could go a long way."
Citadel slugger Bo Thompson hit his first home run of the season and drove in three runs to back the pitching of Logan Cribb, Zach Sherrill and Skylar Hunter.
Coach Fred Jordan's 2-0 Bulldogs have displayed all the veteran strengths that have ramped up expectations during the first two days of the season. The Citadel scored a 6-2 win on Friday over Virginia Tech - an ACC team that won 40 games and made the NCAA Tournament last year - and backed that up with Saturday's win over a Louisville squad that won a school-record 51 games and played in the College World Series in 2013.
A win over West Virginia on Sunday on the final day of the Homewood Suites Tournament presented by the Charleston Crab House would give the Bulldogs their first 3-0 start since 1983. And the Dogs already have two selection committee-impressing wins should they need an at-large bid to the NCAA regionals in May.
"Our club has played pretty well so far," Jordan said. "But tomorrow is another day and West Virginia has a very good club. I was very impressed with Cribb today and the key was probably Zach Sherrill coming in and giving us some good pitches."
Cribb, who was the winning pitcher the last time The Citadel beat a top 10 team - a 2-0 win over No. 3 South Carolina in 2011 - acquitted himself well again, allowing three runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked only one.
Sherrill worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win, and Hunter struck out three over two innings for his first save.
"Being a senior this year, I just want to come out and pitch the same way every start," said the lefty Cribb, slated to be the Bulldogs' Friday night starter this season. "It doesn't really matter who we are playing."
Thompson's first homer of the season, a shot to left to lead off the sixth, cut the Cards' lead to 3-2. The Bulldogs tied it at 3-3 in the sixth when Tyler Griffin walked, Calvin Orth was hit by a pitch and Johnathan Stokes delivered a sacrifice fly to left.
The Bulldogs took the lead at 4-3 in the seventh when Mason Davis doubled to left, moved to third on a Hughston Armstrong bunt and scored on Thompson's chopper up the middle. The Citadel added an insurance run in the eighth on a walk, a single and an RBI infield single by freshman Austin Mapes.
It all left McDonnell, who spent 12 years at The Citadel as a player and assistant coach, impressed with his former squad.
"I've seen two good starters, two good bullpen arms already," he said. "They are really special at the top of the lineup; their one and two hitters (Davis and Armstrong) are as good as any in the country. And their 3-4-5 guys have some power and don't swing out of the zone and don't strike out a ton. They are pretty complete hitters, so I really like their first five hitters."
Saturday's loss marked the second time McDonnell has brought a Louisville team that made the CWS the year before to Charleston and lost to The Citadel. The Bulldogs beat the Cards, 1-0, in 10 innings in 2008.
"Fred hasn't been real nice to me," McDonnell joked. "I'm going stop coming down where if he treats me like this. But we love competing and we knew it'd be a hard-fought game."