After starting the season with a 14-0 record, the Cardinals have experienced significant growing pains against ranked competition. Louisville enters today having lost eight of their last 13 games, and are currently unranked on D1baseball.com after spending nearly five years as a mainstay in the polls.
The Cardinals will look to rebound against two ranked teams this week; Louisville travels to Lexington today for a big rivalry showdown with Kentucky, then hosts #8 NC State in a home series. It’s a big opportunity for a young Louisville team that has yet to get a ranked series win and is looking to reestablish some momentum.
Stats and Trends
Through 27 games, only two Louisville batters are still averaging above the .300 line; Logan Wyatt (.351) and Drew Campbell (.338). Wyatt is also leading the team in doubles (13), slugging percentage (.536) and on-base percentage (.500) while also holding an 11-game hit streak as of March 14th.
Entering today’s game against Kentucky, Louisville is currently tied for 11th nationally in stolen bases, led by efforts from Jake Snider (14-for-16), Tyler Fitzgerald (13-for-14) and Josh Stowers (13-for-15).
Since starting 14-0, the Cardinals have lost eight of their 13 games, primarily against ranked competition. In that stretch, Louisville has lost two of them in walkoff fashion (which has been a rare occasion since the 2016 Super Regional against Cal Santa-Barbara), and scored four or less runs in seven of those eight losses.
Louisville’s pitching has been a mixed bag during this stretch, as well. Sam Bordner still has eight saves in 2018, but blew one against Florida State on March 30th, his first of his career. His scoreless appearance streak also came to an end a week prior, allowing a run in their win at WKU on March 21st. Adam Wolf saw his ERA rise from 1.66 to 2.68 after allowing eight runs (five earned) at Florida State on March 29th, while Shay Smiddy has also seen his ERA rise from .61 to 3.80 from March 10th to March 30th.
However, Nick Bennett has turned two quality outings as a weekend option in recent weeks. The sophomore pitched five shutout innings against Clemson on March 25th, and allowed only one run in a career-high seven innings at Florida State on March 31st. With these outings and Riley Thompson set to start today at Kentucky, Bennett could see his way back into the weekend lineup, one that could use a boost in their current slump.
Meet Kentucky and NC State
#9* Kentucky enters today’s rivalry game with a 19-9 record, coming off a series loss to Alabama. The Wildcats have been a top ten team for most of the season, with notable series wins over #7 Texas Tech and #19 Auburn. Their offensive firepower will be one of the most formidable Louisville has faced all year, with the Wildcats ranking fourth nationally in batting (.322), third in home runs (48) and second in slugging percentage (.552).
Individually, Kentucky has eight batters in their everyday lineup averaging over .300, with their only exception (Trey Dawson, .265) also forcing 20 walks and having a .404 on-base percentage. Luke Heyer (.376, nine doubles, 11 home runs, 34 RBI) and Cole Kottam (.358, 12 home runs) are one of the best power hitting duos in the country. Kentucky also returns several veterans from last year’s group that made it to the Super Regional, including Tristan Pompey (.346), Troy Squires (.330), and Luke Becker (.317).
NC State is another top ten team that will give Louisville challenges, as they are another team with a lot of strong hitters in the lineup. Seven of their hitters average over .300 at the plate, with Brett Kinneman as one of the best players in the ACC this season. Kinneman leads the conference in home runs (12) and slugging percentage (.750), and is also third in RBIs (36). NC State also has one of the nation’s best baserunners in Brock Deatherage, with 14 stolen bases; Deatherage is also one of NC State’s most consistent hitters, batting .324 at the plate.
As a team, the Wolfpack are one of two teams ranked in the top 21 in both batting average (12th, .310) and ERA (21st, 2.98). The Wolfpack are led at the mound by Brian Brown (4-0, .41 ERA, .187 batting) and Johnny Piedmonte (4-0, 2.93 ERA, .174 batting), both whom will likely get starts this weekend. They also have a strong bullpen with guys like Kent Klyman (1.25 ERA), Reid Johnston (1.8 ERA), and Joe O’Donnell (.84 ERA, six saves) providing quality outings.
* - all rankings are noted from D1Baseball.com’s recent poll from April 2nd.
How to Watch / Listen:
Today’s game against Kentucky will start at 4 p.m., with coverage on SEC Network+ (available through ESPN3 or WatchESPN app).
The weekend series against NC State starts Friday at 6 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday’s games both set to start at 1 p.m. All three games will air on ESPN3 and on 93.9 The Ville FM, and tickets are available at GoCards.com.