Last week ended up being perhaps the biggest wins for Louisville baseball to date, this season. The Cards pulled out an 11-2 win at home against Northern Kentucky, then managed to sweep N.C. State on the road. The Cards pulled off a sweep against a Wolfpack team that ranked as high as second in the country, setting many offensive landmarks in the progress.
Today, Louisville carries their five-game winning streak into another road trip, heading to Lexington to face rival Kentucky in round two of their rivalry this season. The Cards also host Miami (FL) on Easter weekend, facing a Hurricanes team that leads the ACC in batting average.
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Louisville set a lot of offensive benchmarks this season in their games against Northern Kentucky and N.C. State. The Cardinals scored ten-plus runs in three straight games for the first time since February 2017 (11 against Northern Kentucky, 14 in Saturday’s doubleheader against N.C. State). They also had 28 combined runs in Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Wolfpack, the most by the Cardinals since 1991 (and the first time U of L had ten-plus in both games of a doubleheader since 2004).
The reasoning for that? None other than freshman Alex Binelas, whose performance earned him ACC Player of the Week honors yesterday. Binelas was phenomenal throughout last week, hitting .553 with four doubles, a homer and seven RBIs (The homer and five of those RBIs came in game one of the N.C. State series). Since March 19th, Binelas has arguably been the best batter for Louisville, hitting .367 with five doubles, four home runs, and 11 RBIs. He’s also raised his season batting average to .293, and is the only Louisville hitter above .500 in slugging (.560).
With the offense going off in several games this week, many Louisville players also had an exceptional run alongside Binelas. Drew Campbell (.500) and Tyler Fitzgerald (.400) both hit above .400 for the week, with Fitzgerald hitting a home run in Sunday’s win over N.C. State. Logan Wyatt was 5-for-16 with eight RBIs, two doubles, and a home run for the week.
In the series against N.C. State, Henry Davis batted 4-for-10 against N.C. State in the series, including 3-for-5 in game one. Jake Snider was 4-for-12 (three of those going for doubles) with two RBIs. Justin Lavey nearly hit over .500 against N.C. State, going 6-for-13 with three RBIs.
At the mound, Louisville is still leading the conference in ERA (3.14) and strikeouts (379). Both Reid Detmers and Nick Bennett threw eight strikeouts in their starts on Saturday, and both earned wins in the process. Detmers has thrown eight-plus strikeouts in all but one of his games so far, still among the top five in the country in that category with 94. Per Kelly Dickey, he is also the only pitcher with more than 74 strikeouts that has no wild pitches, and his 13 walks are the fewest among those with more than 76 strikeouts.
Kentucky enters today’s rematch against Louisville with a 20-16 record. But, they have won three of their last four games, including a series win of Ole Miss. Three of the final five mid-week games will be on the road for Louisville; the Cards travel to face Kentucky today, Cincinnati next week, and head up to Bloomington to face Indiana on May 14th. Also sandwiched in-between is a May 7th home tilt with Vanderbilt, who is a top-ten team in the majority of the polls.
Miami (FL) (25-12) hosts Florida-Gulf Coast today before traveling up to face Louisville Thursday-Saturday for Easter weekend. The Hurricanes enter this week as the only team in the ACC ranked in the top two in both batting average (.296, #1) and ERA (3.69, #2). Miami is ranked as high as #22 in Collegiate Baseball’s D-I poll.
Players to Watch (Kentucky)
T.J. Collett earned SEC Player of the Week honors yesterday for pulling Kentucky to a 3-1 record last week. Collett batted .462 on the week and delivered game-winning home runs in both games of Sunday’s doubleheader against Ole Miss, giving the Wildcats their first road series win against a top-ten opponent since 2015. Collett, along with Ryan Shinn (.303, 15 doubles, eight home runs, 20 RBI), are a terrific power-hitting tandem that will likely be key to getting Kentucky’s offense going.
Coltyn Kessler is coming off a good weekend against Ole Miss, going 4-for-11 at the plate with a double. Kessler currently leads Kentucky in batting average (.327), and is one of three batters alongside Shinn and Jaren Shelby currently over the .300 threshold.
Starting pitcher Dillon Marsh is coming off a solid outing against Lipscomb on Tuesday, allowing one earned run on 4.2 innings pitched with five strikeouts.
Players to Watch (Miami, FL)
Despite being top two in the conference in both batting average and ERA, the Hurricanes haven’t been able to pull away from the Coastal Division. Miami is currently one game back in the division race, and is only 2-7 against ranked competition (Florida, North Carolina, and N.C. State). They do, however, have a series win over Georgia Tech (who holds first place in the Coastal Division) and Florida State, so the Hurricanes could still be a challenge for Louisville if their offense comes to play.
And the Miami Hurricanes offense? They have plenty of young, capable players on their roster. The Hurricanes enter this week leading the conference in home runs, drilling 50 on the season. Alex Toral is currently tied for the conference lead with 14 home runs, averaging one every 2.64 games this season. However, Toral is 3-for-17 in his last six games, so him coming out of the slump to drive a few home runs would give them a huge boost on the road.
Raymond Gil is another power-hitting force at the plate, as he leads the team in batting (.372) and slugging (.651), also drilling nine doubles and nine home runs each. Adrian Del Castillo (.318, 13 doubles, five homers, 44 RBI), Freddy Zamora (.317, ten doubles, six home runs, 37 RBI), and Anthony Vilar (.317, ten doubles) are three guys in the lineup that have reached double-figures in doubles. Del Castillo has reached base in all but three games this season as a true freshman, certifiably making a case for freshman All-American honors (and perhaps All-ACC, as well). Zamora was named ACC Player of the Week on March 11th, hitting .533 with two doubles, two home runs, and four RBIs against Appalachian State and Georgia Tech.
At the mound, two names to watch will be Brian Van Belle and Evan McKendry. McKendry recently earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors on April 8th, striking out nine in a seven-inning shutout performance against Florida State. Both guys rank in the top 20 in the ACC in strikeouts (McKendry is third with 64 K’s, Van Belle is 14th with 53). Van Belle also leads the weekend starters with a 3.28 ERA.
How to Watch / Listen:
Louisville’s road game against Kentucky is set to start today at 6:30 p.m. EDT. The Cards versus the ‘Cats will be available on WatchESPN and on 93.9 The Ville.
Due to Easter being on Sunday, the Louisville vs. Miami (FL) series will go from Thursday to Saturday. The Cards and the ‘Canes begin the series on Thursday at 6 p.m., with Friday’s game also set for a 6 o’clock start. Saturday’s finale starts at 1 p.m. All three games are available on WatchESPN.