If Louisville was looking to carry as much momentum as possible before facing Kentucky today, it certainly got that last week. The Cardinals finished 4-0 once again, beating Miami (OH) in the midweek game and sweeping Wake Forest.
Entering April, the Cardinals sit at 22-6, with a 9-3 conference record. Tied with Clemson for second place, Louisville sits one game behind division leader (and overall ACC leader) N.C. State.
As earlier stated, Louisville will face Kentucky today, then travel on the road for a big road series at Clemson.
Last Week’s Results and Polls
W — Miami (OH) (6-1), Wake Forest (6-1, 10-7, 5-4)
|Poll||This Week||Last Week|
Pitchers Shine in 4-0 Week for Louisville
Once again, Louisville’s pitchers had an all-around awesome weekend.
In the mid-week game against Miami (OH), Luke Smith had another quality outing. Smith threw 6.1 innings against the Redhawks, only allowing one run and five hits. As the primary mid-week starter, he’s been a consistent presence for Louisville on Tuesday evenings so far, posting a 3.66 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Luke Smith will get the start on the mound tonight against Kentucky.
Bobby Miller also turned in a really strong performance on Sunday. Making his second start of the season versus Wake Forest, he went seven whole innings without allowing a hit or a run. Miller also matched a season-high with eight strikeouts against the Deacons, and lowered his season ERA to 4.10.
Not to be left out of the fold, Reid Detmers was strong again on Friday afternoon against Wake Forest. Detmers struck out ten batters in the win, marking the fifth time that he reached double-digit strikeouts this season. He is still on pace to potentially break Brendan McKay’s single-season record of 146, as he is #2 in Division I with 76 K’s.
Michael McAvene recorded two saves for Louisville in their weekend series, closing out victories in games one and three against Wake Forest. McAvene has been one of many arms in Louisville’s bullpen that has also made their pitching staff one of the best in the conference. The Cards currently lead the ACC in both ERA (2.82) and WHIP (1.09).
Other Notable Performances
Going against a Wake Forest team that entered the weekend with the highest ERA and opposing batting average, many Louisville batters were able to get a quality weekend of performances at the plate.
Justin Lavey had a bounce back week, going 5-for-14 at the plate with three RBIs, including a home run in game two of the Wake Forest doubleheader. In his last six games, Lavey is averaging .429 at the plate, entering this week as one of Louisville’s strongest batters in recent weeks.
Another batter that has been hot in recent games is freshman Alex Binelas. Binelas has shown good power in his swing lately, hitting a homer and a double in Sunday’s win over Wake Forest. He’s currently in a three-way tie for the team lead in home runs (three), third in slugging, and has batted .357 in his last four games. If Louisville continues to get strong performances from guys like Lavey & Binelas, their offense will become more dangerous as the competition level gets tougher in the second half of the season, especially with how strong their pitching has been.
Logan Wyatt hit two homers last week against Wake Forest, and also went 4-for-8 with three RBIs, and a double in the final two games against the Demon Deacons. Wyatt is still on pace to reach 70 walks, one more than Louisville’s single-season record of 69.
One more notable performance this weekend comes from Danny Oriente, who was 2-for-4 in game one of the Wake Forest series. Both hits for Oriente went for doubles, and he currently leads the team in that category (seven). So far this season, Oriente is also second on the team in batting average (.294), and RBIs (20).
Meet the Opponents
Entering the next chapter of the UK / UofL baseball rivalry, Kentucky (16-12) has been on a slump recently. The Wildcats have lost eight of their last 11 games, but some of those have come against the strongest teams in the SEC like LSU and Georgia. The home team has won the last six games in the series (UK and UofL have split the regular season series each of the last two seasons, but U of L also holds a Super Regional win over UK in 2017).
After that, Louisville will travel to Clemson to face the Tigers in an important divisional matchup. Both teams are currently tied for second in the ACC Atlantic with a 9-3 conference record. Clemson (22-6) is ranked as high as 13th in the Collegiate Baseball poll, and has been consistently in the top 15 in most polls all season. The Tigers will host Georgia today in another top-15 clash before facing Louisville.
Players to Watch (Kentucky)
Kentucky is last in the SEC in ERA (4.71), but they do have two quality pitchers in their rotation: weekend ace Zack Thompson (who will almost assuredly not make an appearance), and today’s starter in Mason Hazelwood (1-1, 2.12 ERA). Hazelwood has already had a couple of solid outings as UK’s midweek starter, shutting out Northern Kentucky with 11 strikeouts thrown, and also limiting a high-powered Morehead State offense to just one hit with seven strikeouts. Hazelwood will start today against Louisville, and his performance will be key to whether or not Kentucky can get a win at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Offensively, Kentucky has a lot of power and some consistent batters. If Jaren Shelby’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the third member of his family to play baseball for the Wildcats. His brothers, John and Javon, were both All-SEC caliber players in their playing days, and Jaren may be just as good as them. Jaren Shelby is second on Kentucky’s lineup with a .320 batting average, and 23 RBIs. It’s tough to forecast whether or not he will follow his brothers as an All-SEC player this year, due to the immense amount of talent the conference has. But Jaren is a quality player for the ‘Cats, and his connection to both of his brothers makes him someone to watch almost by default.
Ryan Shinn has a monster hitting split with .311 hitting, .641 slugging, and 1.060 OPS. Shinn does lead the team in doubles (13), and is tied with T.J. Collett (.259/.528/.887) for the home runs lead with seven. Breydon Daniel (.250, six homers) is also a threat to take it out of the park at any moment, and also leads the team with 14 stolen bases. Kentucky’s offense only averages .258 at the plate, but has enough power to challenge Luke Smith and the Louisville defense today.
Players to Watch (Clemson)
On top of having one of the toughest venues in ACC baseball, Clemson has a lot of talent up and down the lineup. Whereas Louisville is the #1 team in the ACC in terms of ERA (2.82) and batting average (.201), Clemson is third in both categories (3.33, .233 respectively).
Davis Sharpe is one of the most valuable players not just for Clemson, but the entire ACC. Sharpe is a two-way player that is able to match his production on both ends, which makes him a tough matchup for coaches to prepare for. He is currently third on the team with a .320 batting average, and leads the weekend starters in ERA (1.59), strikeouts (50), and opposing batting average (.187). For a Louisville team that has averaged .260 at the plate this season (11th out of 14 ACC teams), they will need to have their best game to come out of this series with a win.
Clemson won’t have a single guy delivering amazing power hitting performances like Seth Beer used to, but Logan Davidson (.308, seven homers, seven doubles, 27 RBIs) and Bryce Teodosio (.255, eight homers, six doubles, 27 RBIs) account for almost half of the Tigers’ 33 home runs, fourth in the conference. Combined with Kentucky’s power hitters on Tuesday, you could make the argument that this week’s opponents have the most offensive potency of any Louisville has faced up to this point.
Sam Hall is another threat for Clemson at the plate, averaging .306 with nine doubles and leads the team with 19 stolen bases. The Tigers also have plus-.300 hitters like Bryar Hawkins (.338) and Grayson Byrd (.327) that will be ones to watch throughout the weekend.
How to Watch / Listen:
Round one of the rivalry series versus Kentucky starts today at 6 p.m. EST. This is one of the charged admission games, with tickets still available at GoCards.com. It will also be available on ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN).
The Clemson series starts on Friday at 6 p.m. EST. Saturday’s game is set to start at 5 p.m., with the Sunday finale beginning at noon. All three games will also be available on ACC Network Extra.