Around the Bases: Week Six

Last week was the best to date for the Cardinal Nine. Louisville went 5-0 during the week, notching a midweek series sweep of top-ten Ole Miss at Jim Patterson Stadium, then traveling to Durham and going 3-for-3 against Duke, who entered the week ranked as high as 24th in the country.

Up next, Louisville gets a rematch against EKU, this time in Richmond. Then Louisville will go back to conference play at Jim Patterson Stadium, hosting Georgia Tech.

The Polls

Poll This Week Last Week 4 7
Perfect Game 5 8
Baseball America 10 13
NCBWA 7 11
Collegiate Baseball 15 15
USA Today 7 7

Notable Stats and Feats

Zach Britton delivered a pinch-hitting walk-off in game one of the Ole Miss series, driving in an RBI single in the tenth inning to give the Cardinals a 4-3 win over the Rebels. Britton would go on to finish the week strong, batting .625 at the plate (5-for-8) with three RBIs. In addition to his walk-off, he also had a go-ahead RBI single in game two of the Duke series, giving the Cardinals a series-clinching 2-1 win over the Blue Devils.

But Jake Snider played a huge role in setting up the walk-off hit delivered by Britton. His triple in the tenth inning led to both Tyler Fitzgerald and Logan Wyatt being intentionally walked, loading the bases with one out and giving Britton the opportunity he needed. Snider parlayed that into a stellar week of his own, hitting .381 (8-for-21) with two doubles, a triple and one RBI.

Tyler Fitzgerald also averaged .381 during the five-game stretch, including a home run in Tuesday’s win over Ole Miss. He also went 3-for-4 in game two of the series with a double. Fitzgerald enters the week with a nine-game hitting streak, and has recorded a hit in 16 of 20 games this season.

The Cardinals got a couple of stellar games at the plate, tying a season-high with 13 hits on two separate occasions. Louisville turned 13 hits into ten runs — eight of which came in the first three innings — as they used the early barrage of runs to survive a late surge by Ole Miss, and come out with a 10-8 win. The Cards then got a 13-hit game against the Blue Devils, rolling to an 8-3 win in game one of the weekend series.

During the week, a lot of players managed to get on the board with home runs. Freshmen Alex Binelas (Wednesday), Henry Davis (Friday), and Jared Poland (Sunday) got the first of their careers during the week. Davis had a stellar weekend in the Duke series, hitting two home runs to go with his 4-for-10 line against the Blue Devils. Tyler Fitzgerald and Ethan Stringer also had homers over the five-game stretch.

Leading the way on the mound, as usual, was Reid Detmers during game one of the Duke series. Detmers turned in six innings of work, striking out nine and only allowing one run on six hits. The sophomore raised his total strikeouts to 50, and holds a .53 ERA and .60 WHIP after four Friday starts.

It was also business as usual for Nick Bennett on Saturday, as he advanced his record to 4-0. Bennett tossed seven innings, only allowing one earned run on six hits. Michael McAvene also recorded his first save of the season, pitching two shutout innings that allowed Louisville to secure the go-ahead run in the eighth.

20 games into the season, the single-season walks record for Louisville could be in jeopardy. Logan Wyatt already has 30 on the season, which leads the country. Averaging 1.5 walks per game, he is on pace for 84 free passes, which would break the single-season record of 69 set by Kevin Malone in 1980.

The Opponents

Today, Louisville gets a rematch against Eastern Kentucky, going on the road to face the Colonels. Since their 5-1 loss to Louisville on February 19th, the Colonels (11-8) have had a four-game sweep of Maryland-Eastern Shore (including a series-finale that saw EKU score 27 runs), and a three-game sweep of Oakland University. But the Colonels were swept last weekend by Morehead State, so they will be looking to recoup some momentum against a Louisville team who has won 15 of their last 17 games.

Georgia Tech (13-7) will host Mercer today before traveling to Louisville for their weekend series. The Yellow Jackets hold a couple of series wins against Northwestern and Virginia, as well as a two-game sweep of in-state foe Kennesaw State.

Players to Watch (Eastern Kentucky)

Nick Howie had an outstanding performance against Kentucky State last week, hitting three home runs and driving in a career-high eight RBIs in a 9-3 win. Howie is the most dangerous hitter in the Colonels lineup, averaging .394 at the plate and delivering a hit in 17 of his 19 games this year. However, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his last outing against Louisville.

Howie leads an EKU team that has emerged as a lineup with several quality power hitters. Freshman Christian Lucio has maintained a batting average of over .300 since February 16th, and leads the team with .707 slugging (compounded by one double, one triple, and four home runs so far). Will Johnson is another name to watch, as he leads EKU in walks (23) and is a perfect 15-for-15 on stolen bases. With a .299 batting average and five home runs, Johnson has the ability to impact the game and get on base in a variety of ways.

Louisville’s pitching depth versus the quality EKU batting lineup should be the feature matchup in this one, once again. The Colonels average .289 at the plate as a team, with guys like Brent Lovell (.319) and Ryland Kerr (.310) helping build that up. They will be going against a Louisville pitching lineup that, as a team, has thrown 211 strikeouts through 20 games (an average of just over ten K’s per game) and held opponents to under .200 at the plate.

Players to Watch (Georgia Tech)

Through one-third of the college baseball season, you won’t find many power hitters more efficient or devastating than catcher Kyle McCann. McCann is currently averaging an even .400 at the plate, leads the ACC in home runs (12), and second in the conference in RBIs (30). He also leads the conference in slugging (1.014), and is in a three-way tie for second with 24 walks (trailing only Louisville’s Logan Wyatt). He’s earned National Player of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks, winning Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s award on March 4th, and again on March 11th.

Michael Guldberg has been really consistent for the Yellow Jackets, averaging an eye-popping .516 at the plate through 19 games played. Over his last five games, Guldberg is hitting 15-for-22 (.682) with two RBIs, one double, and nine runs scored. Tristin English (.270 batting, six doubles, four home runs, 14 RBIs) might pose some problems as both a hitter and reliever. Luke Waddell (.277) is coming off a solid week against Virginia, going 6-for-14 with three RBIs.

At the mound, one guy to be on the lookout for is Brant Hurter. He’s usually made an appearance as Georgia Tech’s Sunday starter, and has turned in the most notable stat lines of anyone on their roster. Hurter threw seven shutout innings with 13 strikeouts against Northwestern two weeks ago. Last week, he ended up throwing seven innings again, striking out seven Virginia batters and allowed two earned runs. All three weekend starters (Hurter at 3.16, Connor Thomas at 3.62, Xzavion Curry at 3.95) are hovering around the 3.00-4.00 ERA range.

How to Watch / Listen:

Today’s game against Eastern Kentucky starts at 5:00 p.m. ET, with availability on 1450 AM and ESPN+.

Louisville returns home for a weekend series against Georgia Tech, starting on Friday at 6:00 ET. Saturday and Sunday’s games against the Yellow Jackets both have a 1 p.m. start, with all three games available on WatchESPN.

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