Around the Bases: Week 12

Louisville baseball turned in one of the most dominant stretches in the program’s history last week. On Tuesday, the Cardinals (35-9) traveled up to Cincinnati and shutout the Bearcats with a 12-0 victory at Marge Schott Stadium.

During the weekend, Louisville continued their stretch with a lopsided series against Alabama A&M. U of L took game one of the series against the Bulldogs 32-1 (yes, 32 freakin’ runs in a baseball game), then swept Alabama A&M with 15-3 and 14-3 wins on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

This week, Louisville gets another set of tune-up games before their big tilt on May 7th against Vanderbilt. The Cardinals have their final intrastate matchup of the regular season at Jim Patterson Stadium, taking on Western Kentucky. U of L then travels to South Bend for Derby weekend, taking on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

The Polls

Poll This Week Last Week 7 7
Perfect Game 7 10
Baseball America 7 7
Collegiate Baseball 4 7
USA Today 5 6

Notable News & Stats

As expected, the Cardinals were able to make a small climb in the polls after dominating Cincinnati and Alabama A&M. U of L re-entered the top five in three of the six major polls, and is ranked no lower than seventh in the country heading into the final month of the regular season. With a top-ten RPI (seventh) and notable games against Vanderbilt, Indiana, Virginia, and Florida State all coming up, the Cardinals stand in good shape for a hosting bid in the NCAA tournament, and possibly even a top eight overall seed.

You can’t talk about last weekend’s performances without mentioning the 32-run explosion that Louisville put up against Alabama A&M last Friday. Louisville set a lot of offensive records against the Bulldogs, including the following:

  • 32 runs, which is the second-most in U of L baseball history
  • 28 hits, 46 total bases, and 11 doubles, all of which are the most since at least 2000
  • 19 combined strikeouts for Louisville, a Jim Patterson Stadium record

Additionally, Louisville set a new school record for the most runs scored in a three-game series (61), and the largest combined margin of victory (54). The 32 runs on Friday would have also outscored the U of L football team in 11 of their 12 games this season, and surpasses U of L’s combined run totals in seven of the 11 weekends played this weekend.

Alex Binelas also had a historic game on Friday against Alabama A&M. The freshman became the sixth batter in Louisville history to go for the cycle, going 5-for-6 with two doubles, a triple, a home run, eight RBIs scored, and five runs tallied. Binelas would go on to win his second ACC Player of the Week award on Monday, going 9-for-13 with four doubles, three triples, a home run, 13 RBIs and ten runs scored during the week. He now leads the team in batting (.358), slugging (.698), and is one of six Louisville hitters in double figures with doubles (10).

A lot of Louisville hitters were able to have solid performances at the plate. Danny Oriente became the first Louisville batter with three doubles in a game since 2015, putting three up against Alabama A&M on Friday. He ended up finishing the Alabama A&M series batting 6-for-10 against the Bulldogs with five doubles and 11 RBIs.

Tyler Fitzgerald batted .533 with two doubles, a home run, and ten RBIs during the week, and will carry a 13-game hitting streak heading into today’s contest against Western Kentucky. He now has 50 RBIs on the season, which leads the Cardinals and is tied for fourth in the ACC.

Lucas Dunn also had a stellar outing against Alabama A&M, going 5-for-7 at the plate with a double and an RBI. He also had three stolen bases in the 32-1 win over the Bulldogs, and his 13 stolen bases on the year are part of Louisville’s ACC-leading 85 on the year (Justin Lavey leads all Louisville baserunners with 15).

Cameron Masterman went 3-for-8 over the week, and hit his first collegiate home run against Cincinnati on Tuesday. Zach Britton batted a nice 6-for-9 from the plate with two doubles and three RBIs during the week.

Jared Poland had a solid weekend as both a reliever and batter. The freshman threw a shutout inning against both Cincinnati and Alabama A&M, and at the plate, he finished 5-for-8 with a double, a triple, and eight RBIs.

As a result of their offense’s stout performance in recent weeks, the Cardinals now lead the ACC in batting average (.301), ERA (3.43), and opponents’ batting average (.206), while also being second in fielding (.980) and total runs scored (356).

On the mound, Reid Detmers was his usual self on Friday, throwing 12 strikeouts in five shutout innings on 65 pitches (roughly translating to a strikeout for every 5.42 pitches thrown). Detmers now has 113 strikeouts on the season, and has thrown at least seven K’s in all but one game this year (in the season-opener against Connecticut).

Bobby Miller earned a win on Sunday to improve his record to 3-0, throwing a career-high ten strikeouts with just five hits allowed.

The Opponents

The Hilltoppers (20-21-1) are coming off a conference road series at Texas-San Antonio this past weekend, taking two of three against the Roadrunners. WKU has notable wins over Northern Kentucky (three times), UAB (three times), Florida International (twice), Eastern Kentucky, and Belmont. They also lost to Vanderbilt 5-4 in ten innings, so they have shown they can play against some of the best teams in the country.

After that, the Cardinals will make a trip up north to South Bend, facing Notre Dame for Derby weekend. The Fighting Irish (19-23) host Illinois-Chicago before facing the Cardinals this weekend. Notre Dame is coming off a home series upset of #14 N.C. State last weekend, and hold series wins over Wake Forest and Clemson (which came on the road). Notre Dame enters this week ranked #97 in the RPI, despite their sub-.500 record.

Players to Watch (Western Kentucky)

The Cardinals have faced their share of great power hitters in college baseball, having already taking on the ACC’s best in Alex Toral (Miami, FL) and Kyle McCann (Georgia Tech). Both are undeniably great, but WKU may have the best in the country in Jake Sanford. The junior from Nova Scotia is averaging a staggering .419 at the plate this season, which is fifth in Division I baseball. Additionally, his 19 home runs tie him for third in the country, which, along with his team-high 15 doubles, has him leading the country in slugging (.874). Sanford has earned Conference USA Player of the Week honors on multiple occasions, and is on the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list. He is a spectacular player, and almost certainly will continue his torrid pace to the end of the season.

Sanford’s unbelievable season is in large part why the Hilltoppers average .288 as a team, and they have a couple nice complementary pieces around him. Jack Wilson (.333) and Jackson Swiney (.264) join Sanford as the only three WKU hitters with 10+ doubles on the season. Wilson is coming off a great weekend against UTSA where he went 7-for-11 at the plate. Matt Phipps (.292) also had a stellar weekend, hitting 7-for-16 with five RBIs and a triple.

WKU’s offense is certainly very potent, having scored 8+ runs in 15 games this year. But their pitching leaves a lot to be desired, as they have a 6.42 ERA and .297 opponents’ batting average, both of which are last in Conference USA. Against a Louisville team that is now averaging over .300 at the plate and leading the ACC in that category, the Hilltoppers’ pitching staff will need to have their A-game to upset the Cardinals.

Players to Watch (Notre Dame)

In addition to facing WKU’s All-American candidate Jake Sanford, the Cardinals will also get a look at another quality power hitter in the ACC. Niko Kavadas has ten doubles and ten home runs to go with his .258 batting average. U of L has occasionally been prone to giving up a homer here and there, as shown in the Miami series. If Notre Dame expects to pull off another weekend upset, Kavadas should be the big performer for the Irish.

They will need to get better production from the rest of their batting lineup, though. The Irish rank last in the ACC with a .248 batting average, and none of their qualifying hitters average over .300. Against a Louisville team that is first in ERA, that is a huge mismatch on paper.

Spencer Myers (.294) is coming off a solid week though, averaging .429 at the plate against Valparaiso and N.C. State. Daniel Jung went 4-for-11 against the Wolfpack last weekend with three doubles. David LaManna (.278) had a stellar weekend against N.C. State, going 5-for-8 with a double and two RBIs.

At the mound, Notre Dame has allowed a .257 batting average, but a 5.19 ERA ranks them 12th out of 14 ACC schools. Cameron Brown is definitely one to watch at the mound for Notre Dame. His ERA sits at a 5.87 and has allowed .298 hitting, but ranks fifth in the ACC with 72 strikeouts. If he can retire batters and be consistent, the Irish would have a good chance to steal one game in the series.

How to Watch / Listen:

Today’s home game against the Hilltoppers starts at 6 p.m. EDT, with free admission and also available on 93.9 The Ville and ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN).

The Derby weekend series against the Fighting Irish starts on Friday at 6 p.m. EDT. Saturday and Sunday’s games are set to begin at 2:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m., respectively. All three games are also available on WatchESPN.

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