Around the Bases has returned for season five, giving you an opportunity to know everything that is going on with the Louisville baseball team. Head coach Dan McDonnell and the Cardinal Nine are once again aiming for another College World Series appearance (their sixth in program history), as well as earning their first title in program history.
But, what has been happening with the program since the 2020 season ended back in mid-March?
Where we are, heading into 2021
Louisville’s 2020 season ended with a 13-4 record, winning 12 of their final 13 games before the COVID-19 pandemic forced college baseball to come to a complete stop in mid-March. They finished the season ranked as high as second in the D1baseball.com poll, but aspirations of a potential first national title in program history were cut short by the pandemic.
The MLB also made changes in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting its draft to only five rounds. Reid Detmers and Bobby Miller were both selected in the first round by the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. Zach Britton was also taken in the fifth round by the Toronto Blue Jays, giving Louisville three selectees in the 2020 Draft. Justin Lavey and Danny Oriente signed free agent deals with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks after the five-round draft, respectively.
The Cardinals also had a couple players hit the transfer portal over the offseason. Andrew Benefield transferred to Dallas Baptist, and right-handed pitcher Shane Harris to Evansville.
Louisville begins the 2021 season ranked as high as second in the Perfect Game poll, and as low as 11th in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. The composite rank for Louisville is 6.2*.
*- composite rank is determined by adding the team’s ranking across all six major polls, and dividing by six. Ex: if a team is ranked 5/6/5/4/3/1, their total would be 24. Dividing 24 by 6 would give team an composite rank of 4.0.
|USA Today||Perfect Game||Collegiate Baseball||D1Baseball.com||Baseball America||NCBWA|
The 2021 schedule rundown
Louisville announced their 2021 schedule on January 20th, a 51-game slate for the Cardinals in 2021 (30 of them at home). The most notable change for Louisville will be their conference slate, which has the Cardinals playing 36 ACC games as opposed to the 30 in recent years.
The Cardinals open the season against Bellarmine with a weekend series from February 19-21. This will also be Bellarmine baseball’s first series since joining Division I back in July. Louisville also hosts Eastern Kentucky (February 23), Murray State (March 9), Western Kentucky (March 23), and Kentucky (April 6) as intrastate matchups.
Assuming that there are no postponements or cancellations, Louisville’s road slate will see the Cardinals travel 3,006.4 miles for the 2021 regular season. They do have intrastate roadtrips on March 16th and April 20th against Eastern Kentucky and UK, respectively. Louisville’s other out-of-conference matchups include a weekend series against Western Illinois (Feb 26-28) and on the road against Cincinnati (March 30).
Looking at some of the preseason rankings, Louisville has a lot of good ACC matchups ahead. Their first road series will be in Atlanta against 15th-ranked Georgia Tech (March 5-7), with another road series against 13th-ranked NC State (March 19-21) later on in March. Louisville also has a road series against 16th-ranked Virginia on April 14-16, with Louisville also traveling to Notre Dame (March 26-28), Clemson (April 30-May 2nd), and North Carolina (May 14-16).
Louisville hosts three ranked conference matchups, with games against 17th-ranked Wake Forest (April 2-4), 24th-ranked Florida State (April 9-11), and 21st-ranked Miami to close the regular season (May 20-22). Boston College (March 12-14), Pitt (April 23-25), and Duke (May 7-9) also make trips to Jim Patterson Stadium as part of Louisville’s conference schedule.
Perhaps the most notable game on the schedule will be the May 4th clash against rival Vanderbilt, the first time that these two schools play against each other since their 2019 College World Series encounter. Vanderbilt enters the season ranked as high as second by Collegiate Baseball, and with Louisville’s high ranking in the preseason, it could be a potential 2021 College World Series matchup.
(author’s note: all rankings listed are from from D1baseball.com’s initial preseason poll).
(Author’s note: The ACC preseason polls were released Thursday afternoon, after this article’s release) Louisville is once again tabbed as favorites to win the ACC in 2021. The Cardinals earned 11 out of 13 possible first-place votes to win the Atlantic Division, and was selected as the preseason conference favorite for the third straight season. Louisville enters 2021 having won four regular season conference titles since joining the ACC, but has not won a conference tournament since joining the conference.
Louisville announced its team captains on Wednesday, as Henry Davis, Lucas Dunn, Adam Elliott and Luke Smith were all named by coaches and players to lead the team. Elliott and Smith return after the NCAA voted last March to give all spring athletes an extra year of eligibility, due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down all sports.
Four Louisville players have also been earning Preseason All-American honors throughout various publications. Alex Binelas was named a First Team All-American by Baseball America, and earned Second Team honors with D1Baseball. Catcher Henry Davis was selected as a First Team All-American by D1Baseball, as well as Second Team honors with Baseball America. Outfielder Levi Usher was named Second Team All-American by both publications, with pitcher Jack Perkins tabbed as a Third Team All-American by Baseball America.
Also, Will Smith is a World Series champion. Smith had several big moments in the Dodgers postseason run, including setting the single-game record for hits (five) against the San Diego Padres in the NLDS, and the youngest player to do so. He also hit a home run in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, going yard against the pitcher also named Will Smith, and the Dodgers eventually came back from down 3-1 in the series to win the NL pennant.
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