Yes, it’s happening. The Cardinals and Wildcats will settle the score in 2017 this weekend, with a trip to the College World Series on the line at the sold-out Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Cardinals are looking for their first College World Series since 2014, while Kentucky is seeking its first ever trip to Omaha. U of L went 3-0 in their stretch, while Kentucky rebounded from a loss against NC State to top the Hoosiers and Wolfpack (twice).
The Batting Order
1. Postseason History
Despite the Cardinals trailing in the overall series 41-62-1, they are 1-0 against the Wildcats in the postseason. The rivals met in the 2014 Louisville regional final, with U of L eliminating UK 4-1. The Cardinals would eventually reach the College World Series that season, beating Kennesaw State in the Super Regionals.
2. Another 50 Win Season
With the 3-0 stretch to open postseason play, head coach Dan McDonnell reached the 50-win mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons. The program has also won 15 straight games in the Regional round of the baseball tournament, dating back to their 2013 College World Series team.
3. Awards Roundup
Lincoln Henzman, Drew Ellis, Brendan McKay and Devin Hairston were all nominated for postseason awards. Hairston was named one of five finalists for the Brooks Wallace Award, given to the best shortstop in college baseball. Ellis and McKay were named semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, with the latter also looking to become the first three-time winner of the John Olerud Award.
Henzman would be nominated for the Gregg Olson Award, given to college baseball’s breakout star of the season. Henzman earned All-American accolades, while posting a 3-0 record, 1.30 ERA and 16 saves to boot.
4. Stowers Had a Hot Weekend
The MVP of Louisville’s run through the NCAA Regionals was undoubtedly Josh Stowers. The outfielder batted .600 during the weekend with seven RBI, four doubles and a home run.
5. McKay Reaches Historic Milestone
Now sitting at 376 career strikeouts after his win on Saturday, Brendan McKay tied Kyle Funkhouser’s record at Louisville. The junior also needs six to hold the single-season mark (136), set by Rod Biehl in 1991.
6. U of L’s Offensive Explosion
Last week’s weekend was defined by explosive hitting from the Cardinal Nine, at the plate. U of L scored 8+ runs in three straight games for the first time since early February, and has done so in four of their last five games.
7. McDonnell Post-Season Record
After last weekend’s 3-0 record, McDonnell is now 34-21 in the post-season all-time. Despite the .618 winning percentage, he is also 7-7 in the Super Regional round, advancing to the College World Series in three out of six attempts.
8. Pitching Matters (and Batting, too)
Of the 16 remaining teams in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament, 11 of them are in the top 50 in team ERA. This includes Louisville (third, 2.88) and Kentucky (50th, 3.81), but the Wildcats have the highest team batting average of any team remaining (.319). Kentucky is one of five teams remaining ranked in the top 50 in batting average.
Of the 16 teams remaining, Kentucky, Oregon State and LSU are the only teams ranked in the top 50 in both ERA and batting average.
9. About Kentucky:
For the first time in its program’s history, the Wildcats will play in a Super Regional in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Likewise, this is their first attempt to make it to the College World Series under first-year head coach Nick Mingione.
UK (43-21) has a plethora of elite hitters, namely Riley Mahan (.339, 15 HR, 67 RBI) and Tristan Pompey (.368, 18 2B, 10 HR, 44 RBI). Seven UK batters currently average over .300 at the plate, with the team also ranked seventh in the country in that category. Sean Hjelle (11-3, 3.75 ERA) also earned First Team All-SEC honors as pitcher, while Zach Thompson holds an impressive 8-2 record on the season.
How to Watch/Listen:
All three games at Jim Patterson Stadium this weekend are sold out, with secondary market tickets starting at $65 for Saturday for general admission.
All three games will also start at noon, with the series kicking off on Friday on ESPN2. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN, with Sunday’s game yet to be decided. For radio coverage, 93.9 FM will have all three games on the dial.