It was a “coming down to Earth” moment for Louisville baseball last week. The Cardinals, who entered the week winning 17 of their last 20 games, ended up going 1-3 in the second-to-last week of the regular season, dropping the midweek contest to #2 Vanderbilt and two of three on the road against Virginia.
The college baseball regular season comes to a close this weekend. Louisville’s final four games are all against Power Five opponents, traveling to face Indiana today. The Cards then close out the regular season with a conference series against Florida State, looking to secure the ACC Atlantic Division and potentially the #1 overall seed in the conference tournament next weekend.
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NCAA Tournament Outlook
The 1-3 record by Louisville last week sets their projections back, even if only temporary. A win against Vanderbilt would have been their biggest of the season, and paired with a series win at Virginia, would have given them a huge chance to secure a top-eight overall seed for the NCAA Tournament. Even a 2-2 record (implying that U of L still loses to Vanderbilt, but pulls out a 2-1 series win over Virginia) would have at least kept them along the 5-6-7 overall seed line.
Louisville is still a good favorite to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament, but right now, they are right on the bubble as a top eight overall seed. This week could be redemption for the Cardinals, though. Both Indiana and Florida State are top 25 opponents, and wins over each of them would add another note in their resume for the Selection Show in a couple of weeks.
Notable News & Stats
Louisville’s pitching struggled heavily last week. The Cardinals managed to keep Vanderbilt’s offense at bay for most of the game, but late runs in the eighth and ninth innings allowed the Commodores to pull away with a late win.
In the Virginia series, even their only win saw Reid Detmers allow a season-high six earned runs. But Detmers still earned his tenth win of the season, making him the 13th different Louisville pitcher to reach the milestone.
The Cardinals later allowed 10+ runs in games two and three of the series, seeing both starters (Bobby Miller and Glenn Albanese) allow eight and seven runs, respectively (although one of Albanese’s seven runs was earned). It was the first time since 2016 that U of L allowed 10+ runs in multiple games of a conference weekend series.
Last weekend also saw Glenn Albanese start again, with Nick Bennett out of the lineup with an unspecified injury. It was a committee effort for Louisville’s pitching staff in both the midweek game and Sunday since Bennett has sat out; U of L used nine different pitchers in Tuesday’s loss to Vanderbilt, and five in the series finale against Virginia. As long as Bennett remains out of the lineup, I would expect that to continue. Albanese will likely stay as the Sunday starter in my opinion, but some guys that could be plugged into the starting rotation are Bryan Hoeing and Luke Smith, as both already have starting experience this season. I haven’t heard any timetable as to when Bennett will be back, but Louisville would obviously like to have him for the postseason to keep himself, Detmers, and Bobby Miller as their weekend starters.
Moving to offense, Alex Binelas hit yet another home run in Sunday’s 12-6 loss to Virginia. The solo shot in the third inning marked the tenth homer for Binelas, making him the first freshman since Chris Dominguez (2007) to reach 10+ home runs in a season. Tyler Fitzgerald, Logan Wyatt, and Justin Lavey also hit home runs during the series against the Cavaliers.
As conference play wraps up for Louisville, Justin Lavey has been nothing short of spectacular for Louisville. Entering the FSU series, Lavey leads all Louisville batters with a .349 batting average in conference play, and has seen his overall average rise to .280 entering the final week of the regular season. He ended up finishing the week 6-for-15 with a double, a home run, and four RBIs.
Danny Oriente had a solid week, batting 5-of-13 with two doubles and three RBIs. Jake Snider went 7-for-18 last week, driving in three RBIs with two doubles.
Louisville starts the final week of the regular season with a road game at Indiana. The Hoosiers (33-18) are ranked as high as 21st in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30, and have an 18-4 record at home this season. IU is coming off a road series win at Michigan, and has wins over Memphis, Iowa (three-game sweep), Maryland. The Hoosiers are led by first-year head coach Jeff Mercer, who previously led Wright State to the 2018 NCAA Tournament and Wright State’s first-ever appearance in the national rankings in 2017.
Florida State (34-18) is another Top 25 team that Louisville will face this week, ranked 17th in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30. The Seminoles have recently earned series wins over Clemson, Virginia, and Wake Forest in conference play. Both teams will be playing with huge stakes in the ACC: Louisville can clinch the ACC Atlantic Division (and a share of the overall regular-season title) with just one win in the series, and can also clinch the #1 overall seed in the ACC Tournament with two wins over FSU. The Seminoles are 6-8 on the road this season, but considering this is head coach Mike Martin’s final season, this weekend will bring extra motivation for FSU.
Players to Watch (Indiana)
At this point, it seems like the Cardinals are due to face a tremendous power-hitting team at some point during the week. Last week it was Vanderbilt, and this week it’s Indiana, who leads the country in home runs with 84. They are one away from tying the single-season school record, and it’s due in large part to both Matt Lloyd and Cole Barr, who each have 15 homers. Lloyd leads the team in batting average among qualified hitters (.295), doubles (13), and RBIs (51).
The Hoosiers only average .255 as a team at the plate, but their ability to drive home runs is a definite game-changer. On top of Lloyd and Barr, the Hoosiers have five other batters who have hit at least seven home runs this year, including Matt Gorski (11). Lloyd, Barr, Gorski, and Drew Ashley (.271 batting) also have 10+ doubles on the year, part of Indiana’s 99 on the season. As a team, Indiana is 30th nationally in slugging (.462).
Indiana has freshman Gabe Bierman starting today on the mound, who is coming off a performance that earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors this week. Bierman threw 4.1 scoreless innings throughout the week, including three perfect innings against Michigan to earn his first career save. IU also enters the week leading the Big Ten in strikeouts (494) and strikeouts-to-walk ratio (2.94).
Players to Watch (Florida State)
Louisville baseball has been largely successful since joining the ACC in 2014, but the one team that has had their number up to this point is Florida State. The Seminoles have won three of the four series against the Cardinals since U of L joined the ACC, and have also eliminated Louisville in the conference tournament in 2015, 2017 and 2018 (winning the ACC Tournament Finals last year over Louisville).
Florida State’s teams have usually been consistent and well-rounded in Mike Martin’s illustrious 40-year career. This year is no different, as Martin has key veterans like Drew Mendoza and Mike Salvatore to lead them. Mendoza should be on his way to another all-conference selection, batting .313 with a team-high 14 home runs, 46 RBIs, and 58 walks. Mendoza earned ACC Player of the Week award honors on May 6th, batting .800 with five runs scored and six RBIs against Pitt.
Salvatore is an impressive player that should be considered for all-conference honors as well, hitting .319 with 18 doubles, six home runs, and 43 RBIs.
Another key upperclassmen is J.C. Flowers, who leads the team in RBIs (47) and is the only Seminoles hitter with 10+ doubles and 10+ home runs. Flowers is also a dynamic closer for FSU, leading the team with 11 saves, a 1.31 ERA and holding batters to under .200 at the plate.
In addition to Flowers, Florida State has a talented cast of pitchers. Both Conor Grady (8-4, 3.33 ERA) and Drew Parrish (7-4, 3.99 ERA) have earned ACC Pitcher of the Week awards in the last month. Parrish leads the team with 90 strikeouts and a near 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, allowing .208 hitting at the plate. C.J. Van Eyk (7-3, 4.01 ERA) also has 87 K’s on the year, as Florida State in second in the ACC with 527 strikeouts. Both Parrish and Van Eyk are second and third in the ACC in that category, respectively (Reid Detmers is first with 127).
Freshman Robby Martin is also one to watch at the plate. Martin leads the team in batting average (.341), and has drilled 15 doubles with 45 RBIs this season. He’s a probable shoe-in for freshman All-American honors and a cornerstone of the team in the post-Mike Martin era at Florida State.
How to Watch / Listen:
Today’s road game at Indiana starts at 7 p.m. EDT. 93.9 The Ville will have radio coverage of the game, ESPNU will air it on television.
The series opener against Florida State starts on Thursday at 6 p.m. EDT. Friday’s game is also slated for a 6 p.m. start, with Saturday’s series finale starting at 1 p.m. EDT. All three games will air on 93.9 The Ville and WatchESPN.