Around the Bases: NCAA Regional in Lubbock

 

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Last week, Louisville made a solid run in the ACC Baseball Tournament, making it to the ACC Finals against Florida State. Louisville (43-17) defeated Wake Forest, Duke and Pitt before falling short to the Seminoles 11-8 in ten innings. This was the first time that Louisville made it to the ACC semifinals and finals since joining the conference in 2014.

Up next, Louisville begins NCAA Tournament play in Lubbock, Tx on Friday. The Cards are paired with host Texas Tech, MAC champion Kent State and WAC champion New Mexico State this weekend (Friday-Monday), with Louisville looking to make their fourth College World Series appearance in six seasons.

Stats and Trends

The Cardinals enter the NCAA Tournament as winners of 23 of their last 29 games. This has been in large part due to increased performances from their hitters, especially Josh Stowers. Much like last season’s late charge, Stowers has excelled since taking over the fifth spot in the batting order. The junior is hitting .416 (47-for-113) with 41 RBIs in his 32 games as the fifth hitter in the lineup, and his 33 stolen bases rank him eighth in Division I baseball. Stowers has also reached base in 43 consecutive games, the longest streak for any U of L player since 2000.

Devin Mann has also seen his play rise in recent weeks. In the last two weeks, Mann has gone 13-for-30 (.433) with nine RBIs, four doubles, two triples and two home runs. He enters this weekend with a .299 batting average for the season, as well as 53 walks (second in the ACC behind teammate Logan Wyatt). Also of note is Drew Campbell batting .346 (18-for-52) in his last 19 games.

As a team, U of L had a .332 batting average during the month of May. While doing so, Louisville is also 14th in team ERA (3.26), and third in hits allowed per nine innings (7.19). If the Cards can continue their recent excellence at the plate, it would bode well in a regional that has two elite offensive teams (Texas Tech and New Mexico State), and a third that has a stellar pitching lineup (Kent State).

Louisville may also see closer Sam Bordner return to action this weekend. The junior has missed two months due to elbow inflammation, but head coach Dan McDonnell said he would pitch against live batters in practice this week. If all goes well there, Bordner could make a timely return to the mound. Bordner has a 3.37 ERA with ten saves this season, including one against Texas Tech.

Meet the Teams

Texas Tech Red Raiders: The Cardinals met with the Red Raiders earlier in the season, splitting their weekday series at 1-1. Since then, #9 Texas Tech (39-17) was consistently ranked in the top ten nationally, and finished tenth in the RPI. The Red Raiders had five players named to the All-Big XII First Team, including Golden Spikes Award semifinalist Josh Jung (.381 batting, .650 slugging, 73 RBI) and Big XII Freshman of the Year Gabe Holt (.339 batting, 27 stolen bases, 35 RBI). As a team, Texas Tech is eighth nationally in batting average (.309), 12th in home runs (73) and third in scoring (8.4 runs per game).

Kent State Golden Flashes: Kent State (39-16) earned their way into the NCAA Tournament by winning their 12th MAC Tournament last weekend, shutting out Miami (Ohio) 14-0. It’s the Golden Flashes’ first time in the NCAA Tournament since 2014, when they played in the Louisville Regional that season. Much like that season, Kent State brings stellar pitching to the table, with Golden Spikes semifinalist Joey Murray (9-1, 1.71 ERA, 139 strikeouts) and Eli Kraus (9-3, 4.06 ERA, 80 strikeouts) forming the MAC’s best 1-2 punch in the rotation. Kent State is second nationally in hits per nine innings (7.15), and 32nd in team ERA (3.56). Kraus is also coming off a complete game, two-hit shutout in the MAC Tournament finals against Miami (Ohio).

New Mexico State Aggies: The Aggies (40-20) are one of the most dangerous 4-seeds in the entire tournament. New Mexico State boasts an offense that is ranked fifth nationally in batting average (.313) and fourth in scoring (8.2 runs per game), not too far behind host Texas Tech. The WAC Tournament champions did play the Red Raiders earlier this season, losing by scores of 12-0 and 2-1. Jonathan Groff (11-2, 2.49 ERA) earned Pitcher of the Year honors in the WAC, while Nick Gonzalez (.349 batting, 17 doubles, nine home runs) was the Freshman of the Year. The Aggies also had four players on the All-WAC First Team, including Kyle Bradish (9-3, 2.79 ERA, 131 strikeouts).

How to Watch / Listen:

Louisville starts tournament play against Kent State at 7 p.m. EDT on Friday, following the conclusion of the Texas Tech / New Mexico State game.

Following that, the Cardinals will play Texas Tech or New Mexico State in either a “1-0” game or eliminator. The schedule is as follows:

  • Friday, game 1: (1) Texas Tech v. (4) New Mexico State, 2 p.m. EDT.
  • Friday, game 2: (2) Louisville v. (3) Kent State, 7 p.m. EDT.
  • Saturday, game 3 (first eliminator): Game 1 loser v. Game 2 loser, 3 p.m. EDT.
  • Saturday, game 4 (1-0 game): Game 1 winner v. Game 2 winner, 8 p.m. EDT.
  • Sunday, game 5 (second eliminator): Game 3 winner v. Game 4 loser, 3 p.m. EDT.
  • Sunday, game 6 (Regional Final): Game 5 winner v. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m. EDT.
  • Monday, game 7 (Regional Final, winner-take-all): Game 6 rematch, 7 p.m. EDT.

All games are available on the WatchESPN app and on 93.9 The Ville FM.

Posted on May 30, 2018, in Louisville Athletics, louisville baseball and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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