Around the Bases: Xavier and Western Michigan

Louisville stumbled in their home opener against Wright State last Wednesday, but managed to correct the course with a weekend sweep of Valparaiso. The Cards enter this week’s batch of games with a 4-3 record, hoping to continue to build momentum during their homestand.

This week, Louisville hosts Xavier and Western Michigan.

New pitchers in the mix for Louisville?

Louisville’s 2020 season has been defined so far by the injury bug. Not only are the Cardinals missing both their second and third basemen (Lucas Dunn and Alex Binelas), they are also without two of the top relievers on the roster (Jack Perkins and Garrett Schmeltz).

While Louisville has been able to sustain themselves with capable depth at second and third, the injuries — along with a high number of lefties in the rotation — have left Louisville needing some right-handers in their depth.

Enter Andrew Benefield and Levi Usher. Both got reps in the fall and spring on the mound as “emergency” pitchers, and Benefield got his first run as a pitcher on Sunday. Usher has yet to have an appearance on the mound, but the goal appears to be to have position players that can make spot appearances on the mound (like Jared Poland, and for earlier fans, Cole Sturgeon).

Notable Stats

Pitching was the story for Louisville baseball this past weekend. The Cardinals tied a single-series record with 45 strikeouts across their three games against Valparaiso, including a Jim Patterson Stadium record 22 in Friday’s win. Reid Detmers (14) and Bobby Miller (12) both reached 10+ strikeouts in their wins on Friday and Saturday, with Miller setting a new career-high in the process. Detmers, Miller, and Sunday starter Luke Smith were all credited with wins through the weekend.

With injuries to top relievers Jack Perkins and Garrett Schmeltz, a lot of young arms are getting to see playing time for Louisville. Evan Webster has been the most impressive of the bunch so far, holding a 0.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with .143 batting average in three appearances. If Webster can continue his hot streak, it’s entirely possible that he could see an expanded role as a key reliever down the stretch, and could potentially get some run as a midweek starter.

Glenn Albanese has also been stellar in his early 2020 campaign. The sophomore also holds a 0.00 ERA with 1.00 WHIP and striking out six of eight batters he has faced.

Another key reliever so far is Michael Kirian, who is 3-for-3 in save opportunities this season. In his three appearances, Kirian also has a 0.00 ERA with .65 WHIP and holding opponents to .167.

Through two weeks of the season, Henry Davis continues to lead the Cardinals in hitting. Davis rebounded from an 0-3 outing against Wright State to go 5-for-9 for the weekend against Valparaiso. The sophomore is averaging .450 through the first two weeks of the season, with five doubles and four RBIs.

Levi Usher tied the single-game stolen bases record with four bags in Saturday’s win over Valparaiso. Usher currently leads the team with five stolen bases on the year, and is second with a .368 batting average.

The Polls

Poll This Week Last Week 3 3
Perfect Game 2 1
Baseball America 7 6
NCBWA 8 8 (no poll as of 2/24/20)
Collegiate Baseball 7 4
USA Today 2 2 (no update for 2/17)

Last Week’s Results

Looking at Xavier

Much like Louisville’s last midweek opponent (Wright State), Xavier (2-4) is coming off losing a weekend on the road to a Mississippi-area team (Ole Miss). The Musketeers were on the losing end of a no-hitter in the opening game of the series, and only scored three runs on .094 batting (8-for-85) for the entire series.

But Xavier beat Louisville last season in ten innings, taking a 5-4 win at Jim Patterson Stadium. Louisville and Xavier have been frequent opponents in recent years, with the two schools playing each other 24 times since 2005 and every season since 2013.

Due to the rough series at Ole Miss, Xavier’s batting stats aren’t glamorous. The Musketeers are batting .151 for the season, with Kody Darcy (.222) leading the team in both hitting and slugging (.500). Natale Monastra was a Second Team All-Big East player last season, hitting .237 with five doubles, three triples, and four home runs in 2019. Monastra is currently hitting .217 with a double, a home run and two RBIs to his total this season.

Looking at Western Michigan

Western Michigan (5-2) lost their opening series to USC, but rebounded last weekend with a four-game sweep of Alabama A&M. In all four games against Alabama A&M, the Broncos were able to score 12+ runs (that includes scoring 32 and 21 in the final two games of the series).

The Broncos are currently batting .290 on the season, with four guys going over .350. Justin McIntyre leads the team with a .385 batting average, riding a hot streak with .600 (6-for-10) across his last three games. Ethan Hadjukovic (.379) leads WMU in slugging (.655) and OPS (1.110) among qualified hitters. Logan Hudson (.370), alongside Gavin Doyle and Sean O’Keefe, lead the team with ten RBIs already this year. Connor Charping (.350) leads the team with a .639 on-base percentage, in large part due to his 13 walks (only striking out twice). Charping also leads the team with a perfect 8-for-8 mark on stolen base attempts, which should be an interesting challenge for a Louisville team that just came off tying its single-series strikeouts record.

On the mound, Western Michigan’s biggest threat will be starter Easton Sikorski. The sophomore is 2-0 on the season with a .64 ERA, .79 WHIP, 12 strikeouts and holding opponents to just .152 at the plate. Will Mullen is a top reliever for the Broncos, holding a zero ERA with 2.67 WHIP. However, the Broncos are allowing .302 hitting and a 5.37 ERA. If Louisville’s offense can get going, this could potentially be a big weekend for their younger lineup.

How to Watch / Listen:

Tuesday’s game between Louisville and Xavier takes place at 3:00 p.m. ET, with coverage on ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN app) and 1450 AM.

The weekend series against Western Michigan starts at 3:00 p.m. ET on Friday, also with coverage on ACC Network Extra and 1450 AM. Both Saturday and Sunday’s games start at 1:00 p.m. ET, with coverage on 93.9 and also available on ACC Network Extra.

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