The University of Louisville baseball team is making its 5th trip to Omaha for the College World Series. Louisville’s first game will be against nemesis, No. 2 Vanderbilt at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Cards would have to win at least three games in the next week to make it to the CWS finals (4 if coming from Losers bracket).
Louisville has never won it all but this team feels a little different so we decided to dive into some stats to see how this team measures up to the previous 4 CWS teams..
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The 2007 team, the first team to make it to the College World Series under Dan McDonnell, had by far the most superior power hitting team. Isaiah Howes and Logan Johnson both hit 20+ doubles and 15+ home runs, while Chris Dominguez nearly joined them with 19 doubles and 15 home runs that season. Among all the teams that have made it to Omaha under McDonnell, this team is the only one to average over .300 at the plate.
This team also had Boomer Whiting, a player who was able to average .368 and steal a staggering 73 bases, almost half of the team’s 153 on the season. This was a hyper aggressive team with strong power and baserunning.
The pitching staff had respectable numbers with a team 3.14 ERA and allowed .221 at the plate. Justin Marks (9-2, 2.67 ERA) and Zack Pitts (10-3, 2.52 ERA) helped set the foundation for what continues to be one of the top pitching staffs in the country.
Louisville would end up 1-2 in their first College World Series.
|Batting Average – .313||ERA – 3.14|
|Hits/Runs – 784/506||K’s – 514|
|Home Runs – 78|
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It would be six years before Louisville would return to Omaha. This team marked a shift from the power hitting of 2007, to more of a small ball, contact-hitting oriented group. Louisville averaged .289 at the plate with several +.330 hitters (Cole Sturgeon, Jeff Gardner, Ty Young). The 2013 team only got 29 home runs throughout the season, by far the least of any group.
But through retaining their strong baserunning and pitching, the team was able to upset Vanderbilt on the road in the Super Regional. To this day, this is the only team that has won a road Super Regional to secure their spot in Omaha. This team stole 150 bases, with Adam Engel taking 41 himself.
The 2.52 ERA marks the second lowest of the group, behind 2014’s group. Jeff Thompson (11-2, 2.19 ERA) and future Yankees pitcher Chad Green (10-4, 2.42 ERA) were a dynamic 1-2 punch, as usual under the guide of Roger Williams. The bullpen was absolutely devastating for Louisville, with several guys (Nick Burdi, Kyle Funkhouser, Cole Sturgeon, Cody Ege, etc.) sporting sub-2.5 ERAs.
But it wouldn’t be enough for UofL, as they went two-and-out in Omaha.
|Batting Average – .289||ERA – 2.52|
|Hits/Runs – 629/404||K’s – 629|
|Home Runs – 29|
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2014 is a team that is really underrated in the annals of Louisville baseball history. Their ERA is the lowest among all five teams, powered by freshman Kyle Funkhouser (who, as of this post, holds the single-season record for wins with 13) and closer Nick Burdi (who was one of the best in the country and threw 100+ mph regularly).
The experience of the group’s hitting corps was a big part of why the Cardinals made a return visit to the College World Series. Cole Sturgeon and Jeff Gardner returned as the team’s top hitters and eventual MLB Draft picks, both hitting over .300 themselves.
But they also had some occasional spot performances from younger talent such as Nick Solak, Corey Ray, and Colin Lyman built the foundation for wildly successful runs that Louisville had in 2015 and 2016. Solak and Ray both averaged over .300 as well in their freshman seasons.
But again, Louisville would go 0-for-2 in Omaha.
|Batting Average – .285||ERA – 2.08|
|Hits/Runs – 636/417||K’s – 564|
|Home Runs – 32|
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Unless Louisville gets a national championship in baseball (and we’re inclined to believe they will get one), this team will likely standout as the most well-rounded, and thus best team ever. They had power hitters, as Drew Ellis (20 home runs), Brendan McKay (18), and Colby Fitch (11) all reached double digit homers. They had great contact hitters, as Josh Stowers and Devin Hairston also hit over .300. And they had solid baserunning again, as the team had 98 stolen bases on the gear.
That’s before we get to their defense, which was particularly excellent in the outfield (Stowers, Colin Lyman, Logan Taylor, and Ryan Summers) and at shortstop (Devin Hairston).
And their pitching? Solid as usual. Brendan McKay ended up winning the Golden Spikes Award for his efforts at both the plate (.341, 15 doubles, 18 homers, 57 RBIs) and on the mound (11-3, 2.56 ERA, 146 strikeouts). Nick Bennett and Kade McClure rounded out a solid weekend rotation, with a 3.18 and 3.58 ERA, respectively.
This bullpen was great in their own right. Sam Bordner was arguably the top reliever in the country, carrying a staggering .41 ERA with three saves and holding opponents to under .112 batting. Adam Elliott, Adam Wolf were also top relievers for Louisville with sub-2.2 ERAs, and Lincoln Henzman had 16 saves that season.
Louisville ended up winning their first game in Omaha, but lost the next two to Florida and TCU.
|Batting Average – .288||ERA – 2.92|
|Hits/Runs – 633/464||K’s – 608|
|Home Runs – 72||WHIP – 1.15|
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2019’s story has yet to be finalized, but they have some promise. They do carry some experience from the 2017 team, with a now-junior Tyler Fitzgerald (3.24 ERA, 15 doubles, seven home runs, 64 RBIs) and Nick Bennett (7-3, 4.40 ERA) carrying some experience from Omaha.
We can’t talk about the 2019 group without mentioning Reid Detmers, who could be on his way to the greatest season by a Louisville pitcher in history. Detmers is 12-3 as of this post, throwing a school record 162 strikeouts and allowing a 2.85 ERA with a .178 batting average. Bobby Miller has a 3.91 ERA, with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and the potential to go 8+ innings any given game.
The bullpen remains a force, as Michael McAvene emerged as their top closer with a 2.67 ERA and allowing .170 batting. Michael Kirian, Shay Smiddy, and Adam Elliott also have been top relievers for Louisville all season. The team has a 3.56 ERA but has some high end talent to shutdown any opponent, like what they did to East Carolina and NC State on their road.
Louisville’s .295 batting average is the second highest of all five teams, with several hitters (Fitzgerald, Danny Oriente, Lucas Dunn, Alex Binelas) all averaging over .300 individually. The team has a healthy mix of power, as Alex Binelas (14 doubles and home runs each) and Logan Wyatt (12 doubles, nine home runs) can get some home runs when needed.
|Batting Average – .295||ERA – 3.56|
|Hits/Runs – 672/500||K’s – 674|
|Home Runs – 51||WHIP – 1.19|