After starting the season 1-3, Louisville baseball has now rebounded to win ten of its last 11 games. The Cardinals were able to secure a midweek win over Morehead State last Tuesday, and took two-of-three in the weekend series at Wake Forest.
Up next, Louisville returns home for a five-game week at Jim Patterson Stadium, hosting Chicago State in a two-game midweek series, as well as Notre Dame this weekend.
Perhaps the most notable feat about Louisville’s hot streak is that their offense has been sensational during the stretch. In their last nine games, the Cardinals have averaged over .415 batting for five of them. They’ve also scored 8+ runs in those same five games, with four of them going for 14 or more. As a team, Louisville is now averaging .317 at the plate, with .401 on-base and .894 OPS.
With two doubles on Sunday, Zach Britton became the first Louisville player this year with ten on the season. For context as to how impressive that is, Danny Oriente led UofL last season with 17. Britton’s ten doubles puts him in a three-way tie for first in D-I baseball as of March 9th, currently sharing the top spot with Texas Tech’s Brian Klein, and Western Kentucky’s Jack Wilson. Louisville also has 48 doubles as a team, second in the country currently.
Britton is on a tear — as are most of Louisville’s hitters, for that matter — but Luke Brown could have the highest momentum currently. Brown has registered a hit in each of his last six games, going .375 (9-for-24) with two RBIs, one double, and five stolen bases.
While Brown currently holds a six game hit streak, Justin Lavey is at ten heading into this week. Lavey has recorded a hit in 13 of Louisville’s 15 games this year, and his ten-game hit streak is the second longest in his career (11 is the highest by the senior).
Levi Usher also had an outstanding week against Morehead State and Wake Forest, hitting .471 during the stretch with two doubles, one homer, and four RBIs. Usher is the only Louisville batter averaging over .400 entering this week, leading the team with .417 as well as on-base percentage (.491).
Around the Bases has seemingly carved out a spot for Reid Detmers on a weekly basis, and it only makes sense to bring up the junior lefty once again here. Detmers threw six shutout innings in Friday’s win over Wake Forest, twirling 15 strikeouts against the Deacons. It was going to be a bold prediction to say Detmers could surpass his 2019 totals, but he is still on pace to do so. Detmers is now 3-0 in 2020 with a 1.23 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and has 48 strikeouts to six walks (an 8:1 K/BB ratio).
It was business as usual for Adam Elliott and Michael Kirian once again this week. Elliott allowed just one earned run in three combined innings of work last week, striking out four batters. Kirian had a shutout ninth inning in Friday’s win over Wake Forest, which was also his sixth save of 2020. Kirian has six saves in six appearances this season, and currently averages 16.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Another reliever that had a solid week? Glenn Albanese. The junior righty got 3.2 innings of work against Morehead State and Wake Forest, tallying seven strikeouts and allowing one earned run. Albanese has quietly made a name for himself as arguably Louisville’s top right-handed reliever; in five appearances this season, he holds a 2.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and an 18/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio with .172 batting allowed.
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Last Week’s Results
Looking at Chicago State
When Louisville and Chicago State meet this week, it’ll be a matchup of teams on opposite ends in terms of momentum and analytics. Whereas Louisville has won ten of their last 11 heading into the contest, Chicago State is currently holding an eight game losing streak, and 2-14 overall (Louisville is 27th in RPI, Chicago State 266th).
Chicago State’s only two wins came on February 22nd and 23rd against Dartmouth and Indiana State. Other than that, the Cougars had three straight weekends where they played four games, and were swept in two of them (at Western Carolina on opening weekend, and went 0-4 in the Midwest Baseball Tourney also featuring Northern Illinois and Nebraska-Omaha). They are also coming off another sweep at the hands of Auburn, a series that saw the Cougars outscored 31-2 and went 12-for-87 at the plate (.138).
On the mound, Chicago State does hold a decent 5.82 ERA, led by Blake Kaplan (4.32 ERA, .179 batting) and Kyle Merkel (1.35 ERA in five appearances). But the Cougars are allowing .296 at the plate and 27 stolen bases, both which could be huge mismatches against a Louisville squad that now has .317 batting and 29 SBs heading into the week.
A .211 team batting average and 38 runs scored through 16 games (2.38 runs per game) has also kept Chicago State from taking winnable games. If Chicago State is going to push Louisville in this midweek series, expect Richard Paulino (.345 batting, two doubles, two HR, six RBI) to be the difference. Andy Gaytan (.262 batting, five doubles, one triple and HR, six RBI) should also be on the lookout with his power potential.
Looking at Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish will play Radford on Wednesday before heading to Louisville, but as of today, currently hold a six game winning streak.
Mik Aoki was replaced in the offseason by Link Jarrett, the former head coach at UNC Greensboro. Jarrett is hoping to revitalize the Notre Dame program like he did at UNCG, where he took the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament in 2017, and won the Southern Conference regular season title in 2018. In Jarrett’s final four seasons at UNCG, the Spartans finished over .500 in each of them, including a 34-20 mark in 2019.
Jarrett does inherit a Notre Dame program that has finished under .500 in each of the last three seasons, and hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2015. The Irish have also lost 19 straight games to the Cardinals, not having beat Louisville since 2011.
But the Irish are off to a great start this season, holding a 10-2 record heading into this week. Notre Dame is coming off a weekend sweep on the road at North Carolina, their first ACC road sweep since 2016 (and also the first time since 2015 that anyone swept the Tar Heels on their home field). They also have a six game winning streak as of March 9th, sweeping both UNC and Presbyterian in the last two weeks.
Notre Dame currently ranks fifth in the ACC as of March 9th with a .296 batting average, led by Spencer Myers (.423 batting, two doubles, seven RBI) and Eric Gilgenbach (.333 batting, two doubles, two HRs, nine RBIs). Myers already has 15 stolen bases this season, part of Notre Dame’s ACC-leading 34 currently.
Niko Kavadas was recently named National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball, hitting four home runs during Notre Dame’s weekend sweep of Presbyterian. Kavadas is only averaging .220 at the plate, but leads the team with six home runs and 15 RBIs. If Kavadas can mash out a few home runs like he did against Presbyterian, Notre Dame could steal a game or two against Louisville.
The potential Friday starter for Notre Dame is likely Tommy Sheehan, who already has one ACC Pitcher of the Week award to his total. Sheehan threw seven shutout innings in the Irish’s opening game victory over UAB, tallying a career-high nine strikeouts in the process. Sheehan’s season stats are very solid through the first four weeks of the season, holding a 3-0 record with a 2.70 ERA.
Tommy Vail is the top reliever in Notre Dame’s bullpen, and paired with Sheehan, makes one of the deadlier starter-reliever combos in the ACC. Vail is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in relief, twirling a team-high 24 strikeouts and holding batters to .093 at the plate (slightly lower than Michael Kirian’s .095 as of March 9th). Vail and Sheehan headline a Notre Dame pitching lineup that is currently holding batters to .179 at the plate, which leads the ACC.
How to Watch / Listen:
- Chicago State: Tuesday 3:00 ET, Wednesday noon ET. Both games will be available on 1450 AM / 96.1 FM, and on ACC Network Extra (available through WatchESPN).
- Notre Dame: Friday 6:00 ET, Saturday / Sunday 1:00 ET. All three games will be available on ACC Network Extra, with radio coverage on either 1450 AM / 96.1 FM or 93.9 The Ville (Sunday is the only for sure date with 93.9 as of now).