Last week, the Cardinals continued their momentum by taking three of four games, one against WKU at home and then two of three on the road against Virginia. The Cards currently sit at 24-3, with a five game homestretch coming up (including the anticipated rivalry game against Kentucky).
The Batting Order
1. Brief Recap of the Rivalry
Entering tonight’s game against their in-state rival, the Cards are 40-61-1 against the Wildcats, but U of L has won the last five games in the series. The last three games at Jim Patterson Stadium between UK and Louisville have included a 2014 NCAA Regional victory, as well as walk-off victories for the Cardinals in each of the last two seasons.
2. Cards a Consensus #2 in All Polls
U of L enters this week as the consensus #2 team in the country, only behind consensus #1 Oregon State in all six major polls. The Cardinals supplanted Texas Tech for the #2 spot in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, after the Red Raiders dropped two of three at Oklahoma last weekend.
3. Kade McClure Undefeated Streak Ends
Unfortunately, last week’s four-game stretch wasn’t without some minor stumbles for the Cardinals. U of L dropped the Saturday game 11-2 to Virginia, with Kade McClure suffering his first loss since May 2015 against Vanderbilt. McClure currently sits at 16-2 in his U of L career with a 2.98 ERA.
4. Cards on MLB Rosters
The MLB officially opened its season this weekend, and four Cardinals were featured on opening day rosters. Adam Duvall (Reds), Chad Green (Yankees), Matt Koch (Diamondbacks), and Tony Zych (Mariners) all made the list of U of L alumni to be in the majors. Former U of L pitcher Zack Burdi, along with Adam Engel, will be assigned to Charlotte (White Sox) for AAA games to start 2017.
5. Hairston Does It Again
In Sunday’s 4-3 over #16 Virginia, Hairston hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning. This marked the third time this season that Hairston has either hit a go-ahead or game-tying run, and Hairston also had the walk-off against Kentucky last season.
6. Fitch Goes the Distance Twice on Friday
Colby Fitch jacked two home runs in Friday’s win over Virginia, marking the first time a Cardinal batter had gone the distance twice in one game since June 2016. Fitch hit both with three RBI, while Brendan McKay added another, as the Cards pulled out a 5-2 win.
7. McKay Approaching Strikeouts Career Mark
With a presumed Friday start against the Demon Deacons, McKay needs only four strikeouts (currently at 302) to surpass Justin Marks for second all-time (305). Former teammate Kyle Funkhouser holds the U of L career record with 376. McKay’s next start will also move him into a tie with Jeff Thompson for eighth all-time with 37.
8. Louisville in an Elite Category
Entering this week, Louisville, along with St. John’s, are the only teams in Division I to rank in the top 21 in both ERA and batting average. The Cardinals also rank eighth in the country in WHIP, 13th in on-base percentage and 18th in scoring.
9. About Kentucky and Wake Forest:
Kentucky enters tonight’s game with a 21-8 record under new head coach Nick Mingione, having already swept ranked teams such as UC-Santa Barbara, Texas A&M and took two of three against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. However, this will be their first ranked road contest since being swept by North Carolina to open the season. UK has eight batters that are averaging over .300 among their major contributors, including Riley Mahan (.316, 14 doubles, 32 RBI) and Luke Becker (.357 BA, seven doubles, 20 RBI).
Wake Forest is a consensus top-25 team for the first time in over a decade, ranked as high as 17th in the Baseball America poll. Pitcher Connor Johnstone has already earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors twice, and currently holds a 4-0 record with a 2.68 ERA. Johnstone pitched a complete game shutout at Miami on Sunday, his second of the season. Gavin Sheets is second in the ACC with 43 RBI, while Jonathan Pryor (.405 BA, 13 doubles) is also one to watch at the plate.
How to Watch/Listen:
Tonight’s game against Kentucky starts at 6:00 p.m., with coverage on 93.9 and on WatchESPN. Tickets are still available at the stadium, with box offices opening two hours before first pitch.
All three games against the Demon Deacons will also air on WatchESPN and 93.9. First pitch for the weekend series are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday with free admission to the game.