The Louisville baseball team is set to begin its 101st season this weekend. Ranked as high as 13th in the Coaches Poll, the Cardinals will be looking to make their fourth College World Series appearance in six seasons. U of L is also coming off its fourth 50-win season in five years, and has also made five straight Super Regional appearances.
Here are some notes to get started for the 2018 season.
One of the most notable changes this season is that Louisville will begin charging admission to games this year. However, Louisville’s schedule will have a lot of quality opponents visiting Jim Patterson Stadium in 2018. The Cardinals will host top-ten teams like #3* Texas Tech, #6 North Carolina and #8 Kentucky, as well as #19 Virginia, #23 Indiana and Xavier (who lost to Louisville in last year’s Regional final). Single-game tickets, as well as flex plans for the home schedule, can be bought through GoCards.com.
U of L also has ranked road games against #5 Florida State, Kentucky and #14 Vanderbilt.
* – all rankings are from D1baseball.com.
The Lineup: Batting Order
After losing several veterans to graduation and the pros, the Cardinals will have to replace a lot at both ends. There are only three seniors on Louisville’s roster (one of which is Austin Conway, a grad transfer from Indiana State), but Louisville has a lot of experience in their junior class.
Josh Stowers returns as one of the top players in the ACC. He had an impressive stretch to close 2017, finishing with a .313 batting average, 15 doubles and a team-high 22 stolen bases. He’ll likely be Louisville’s leadoff hitter and sparkplug, both as a base-runner and on defense as an outfielder.
Devin Mann also returns as a three-year starter and captain of the team. Mann was selected as a preseason Second Team All-American by Baseball America, and will likely be a steady bat in the middle of the order.
Louisville will also return four players with starts in their career, including shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald (36) and DH Jake Snider (five). Some newcomers to watch include outfielders Ethan Stringer and JUCO transfer Drew Campbell.
The Lineup: Pitching
Louisville has to replace two starters in their weekend rotation and their closer, but the strong bullpen returns from last season. Adam Wolf (6-0, 2.18 ERA) has earned the Friday starter spot, with Riley Thompson (1-0, 4.02 ERA) and JUCO transfer Liam Jenkins starting on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Thompson was selected as a third-team All American by Baseball America, and a popular candidate for a breakout season in 2018.
Sam Bordner, who was Louisville’s top bullpen option last season, could take over as the closer with Lincoln Henzman also gone to the pros. Grad transfer Austin Conway could also serve in a closer role, giving McDonnell two options to finish games with. Conway finished his career at Indiana State with 20 saves, second in school history. He was also second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference as the Sycamores’ closer in 2017, finishing with 12 saves and a 2.97 ERA.
Once again, Louisville could have a strong bullpen. Nick Bennett, who served as the Cardinals’ Sunday starter for most of last season, could see a big role as a relief pitcher or work his way back into a starting role. Reid Detmers has a lot of potential as the next big lefty on Louisville’s roster; the freshman turned down a draft offer to come to Louisville, and was the third-ranked high school prospect in Illinois. McDonnell praised him for his command on breaking balls as a lefty, which could lead to early opportunities as a starter if he can get into the lineup. Bryan Hoeing and Shay Smiddy could also have big roles as top options out of Louisville’s bullpen.
As mentioned, the Cardinals will travel to Charleston, SC to open their season in the Charleston Crab House Challenge. This is the third time the Cardinals will play in the event, hosted by Dan McDonnell’s alma mater The Citadel. In their previous two trips, Louisville finished 2-1 both times, losing to The Citadel.
Meet the Opponents
- Richmond: The Spiders finished 17-36 in 2017, including a 7-18 record on away / neutral site games. Richmond was picked to finish ninth in the preseason Atlantic 10 standings, but they’ll be led by Vinny Capra (.355, 14 doubles, 19 RBI) and Daniel Brumbaugh (.332, 11 doubles, 37 RBI).
- The Citadel: Hosts this weekend’s tournament in Charleston, SC. There are some Louisville ties with the Citadel: in addition to McDonnell being a Citadel alum, former Louisville player Aaron Gershenfeld is currently on staff as Citadel’s recruiting coordinator and assistant coach. The Bulldogs finished 16-35 in 2017, led by third baseman Jonathan Sabo. The senior was second-team All-Southern Conference, batting .299 with 11 doubles and ten home runs (including a 5-for-8 showing with six runs in Citadel’s 34-8 win over Winthrop).
- George Mason: The Patriots were selected to finish fourth in the preseason Atlantic 10 standings, after finishing with a 26-33 record last season. Sophomore Logan Driscoll had a stellar freshman campaign (.323 batting, .479 slugging), and could be one of the names to watch in the Atlantic 10 this year. Frank Sturek returns as a veteran in the lineup, and a solid base runner (13-17 on stolen bases in 2017). The Patriots have five players with ten or more doubles from 2017, including Tyler Nelin (.296 batting, .405 on-base, .514 slugging).
How to Watch / Listen:
Friday’s opener against Richmond starts at noon ET. Saturday’s game against host Citadel starts at 3 p.m. ET, with the finale against George Mason set for 11:00 a.m on Sunday. All three games will be aired on 93.9 The Ville FM.