After dropping their final three games to close the 2017 regular season, the Cardinals are looking to rebound in the ACC Tournament. Despite the three-game skid, U of L earned the number one seed after a rain-out cancelled the Saturday series finale against Florida State.
The Cardinals will host Florida State and Notre Dame in their pod tomorrow and Friday. Should the Cardinals advance, they will face the winner of Pool D between Virginia and Duke.
The Batting Order
1. Pool Play Explained
All three teams in Louisville’s pod will play one another in a round-robin format. The fastest way Louisville can ensure a spot in this weekend’s final four is if Notre Dame can beat the Seminoles today, followed by a Louisville victory tomorrow. As the #1 overall seed, a three-way tie or 2-0 mark through the first two games would advance the Cardinals to the semifinals.
The other three pods are North Carolina/Boston College/NC State, Wake Forest/Miami/Georgia Tech, and Virginia/Duke/Clemson. As of today, Clemson, Boston College and Georgia Tech have been eliminated.
2. Postseason Accolades for U of L
Another year, another stellar showing for U of L in the postseason awards category. Brendan McKay became the first U of L player to win Player of the Year, while Dan McDonnell became the first ACC head coach to earn a threepeat for Coach of the Year. Shortstop Devin Hairston also earned the first ever Defensive Player of the Year award.
Additionally, McKay, Lincoln Henzman and Drew Ellis all earned ACC First Team honors. Colby Fitch landed an ACC Second Team spot, while Hairston, Kade McClure and Nick Bennett also earned Third Team recognition. Bennett, who finished the regular season undefeated, also earned a spot on the All-Freshman team.
3. Stumbling into Tournament Play
Despite the accolades and remaining a top five team in the rankings, the Cardinals had some stumbling blocks. The three-game losing streak is a season high for U of L, while the 13 errors in the last four games are also concerning.
U of L is also going for its first conference tournament championship since 2009, and has yet to advance to the semifinals since joining the ACC.
4. Another Conference Championship for U of L
The regular-season conference championship for U of L is the first overall since joining the conference. The Cardinals have also won the Atlantic Division championship in its first three years in the conference, and have the most conference wins of any school since 2014 with 70.
5. McKay, Henzman Nearing Historic Milestones
With 116 strikeouts on the season, Brendan McKay needs only 20 more to tie the single-season record, set by Rod Biehl in 1991 (136). The junior also needs 15 more to match the career record held by Kyle Funkhouser (376).
Meanwhile, Lincoln Henzman needs only two saves this season to tie Nick Burdi’s record of 18, set in 2014. Henzman needs one more to tie Zack Burdi for second all-time in career saves.
6. Final NCAA Tournament Projections
For those that are wanting the NCAA Tournament to begin, the brackets will be announced on Monday. Despite the 0-3 finish to the regular season, it’s expected that the Cardinals will once again be a top eight national seed. D1baseball.com has the Cardinals projected as the fifth national seed, with Kentucky as the regional host paired with it.
Since 2013, Louisville is just one of four schools that have hosted a regional in the NCAA tournament each of the last four seasons.
7. MLB Draft Projections
With only three weeks until the 2017 MLB Draft, two-way star Brendan McKay has earned intrigue as a potential number one overall pick. It has mostly been a discussion between him and high school pitcher Hunter Greene, along with Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright. McKay has been discussed as the potential first overall pick to the Minnesota Twins, but MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo projected McKay second overall to the Reds.
If McKay were selected first overall, U of L would join UCLA, North Carolina and LSU as the only schools with a #1 MLB and NBA draft pick. Louisville would also join the Bruins and Tar Heels as the only schools with a #1 overall pick in MLB, NBA and MLS.
8. Another 50 win season for U of L?
With four more wins this season, Louisville could attain its fourth 50-win season in the last five seasons. U of L had a chance to surpass the record of 46 wins in the regular season, but could not after an 0-3 weekend at Indiana and at home v. Florida State.
9. Meet FSU and Notre Dame:
U of L has already swept Notre Dame, while Florida State accomplished a two-game sweep after the Saturday game was rained out. McKay will get the start tomorrow against Notre Dame at 7 p.m., while Friday’s starter has not been listed yet.
Florida State finished the regular season with a 35-20 record, but surprisingly did not jump into the top 25 in most polls this weekend. The Irish finished with a 26-30 record, and were swept last weekend by Boston College. But as mentioned, an Irish win over FSU, followed by a Louisville win over Notre Dame would clinch a spot in the semifinals for the Cardinals.
How to Watch/Listen:
The tournament opener for Louisville starts tentatively at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, with the Friday game against the Seminoles at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are still available for the ACC Tournament, starting at $12 (available on theacc.com).
Should Louisville advance to the semifinals, the final four will have games at 1 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. on Saturday, with the title game set on Sunday at noon on ESPN2.