Around the Bases: Murray State and Boston College

After a 6-1 start to the season, and climbing to number one in the Perfect Game Top 25, Louisville baseball had its first setback. The Cardinals went 1-3 on the week, losing the midweek game to Morehead State 5-2. The loss snapped a 20-game winning streak that the Cardinals had over the Eagles, dating back to 2001.

Louisville then went 1-2 on the road against Georgia Tech. The Cardinals took the opening game of the series 13-6, but dropped the last two by final scores of 19-6 and 13-9. The outcomes on Saturday and Sunday marked the first time since May 2019 that Louisville allowed 10+ runs in back-to-back games.

Louisville looks to bounce back this week at home, as the Cardinals host Murray State and Boston College at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The Polls

As expected with a 1-3 week, Louisville took a major dip in all six college baseball polls. The Cardinals fell 10+ spots in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and Baseball America polls, dropping to 14th and 15th, respectively. Perfect Game still has the highest ranking for Louisville at ninth, while D1Baseball only had them falling five spots to tenth.

Entering this week, Louisville’s average ranking is 12.0 across all six major polls.

Player Stats & Trends

Despite four scoreless innings and seven strikeouts from starter Luke Seed, and 14 total from Louisville’s pitchers, Louisville wasn’t able to get a timely hit against Morehead State and continue their winning streak. Louisville left 19 runners on base against Morehead State last Tuesday, the most in a nine-inning game since records were kept in 2000.

19 was also an unlucky number for the Cardinals on Saturday, as they dropped game two of the series against Georgia Tech 19-6. The 19 runs allowed tied for the most in the Dan McDonnell era at Louisville, last occurring in May 2009 against St. John’s.

Two of Louisville’s newcomers had good weeks at the plate despite the setback. Cooper Bowman went 5-for-14 (.357) on the week, including a 4-for-6 showing on Sunday against Georgia Tech. Bowman started all four games for Louisville (two at second base, two at DH) and was the leadoff hitter for Louisville in all three games against Georgia Tech, hitting a leadoff home run on Sunday (the first for Louisville since 2016).

Christian Knapczyk started all three games at shortstop during the weekend, and recorded a hit in each of them. Knapczyk finished the weekend 5-for-10 (.500) at the plate with four RBIs and three doubles, and has a .500 batting average in five games played this season. If he can continue to show consistency at the plate, it could be enough for him to earn a starting spot at shortstop or second base later in the season. If Knapczyk starts at shortstop, that could allow Lucas Dunn to start at third base, second base or at center field, giving Louisville a great defensive lineup.

Also having a big week was Trey Leonard, who went 4-for-6 on the week and hit a home run in Friday’s win over Georgia Tech. Leonard is averaging .389 batting with 1.040 OPS in seven games played this season, adding one double, one home run, and five RBIs to his stat line.

After going 2-for-31 in the first eight games of the season, Alex Binelas found some consistency at the plate last weekend against Georgia Tech. Binelas had a hit in each game against the Yellow Jackets, going 4-for-15 on the weekend with three doubles and an RBI. He’s still averaging .130 at the plate entering this week, but this weekend could set the stage for Binelas to break out of his slump to open the season.

Henry Davis continues to be the most consistent player for Louisville at the plate, recording a hit in all 11 games this season. He holds a 13-game hitting streak dating back to March 2020, and is averaging .395 hitting with 1.204 OPS, three home runs, and 13 RBIs.

On the mound, Michael Kirian had another solid outing as the Friday starter. He earned his second win of the season against Georgia Tech, throwing six innings and allowing just one earned run on four hits. With a 0.82 ERA and matching WHIP, it could be enough for Kirian to be moved up to a weekend starter role.

Seamus Barrett and Kaleb Corbett have continued to become reliable hands out of the bullpen for Louisville. Barrett pitched 1.2 shutout innings against Morehead State with three strikeouts, and has a 2.84 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP in four appearances. Corbett closed out Friday’s win with two shutout innings of work, and still holds a 0.00 ERA with 0.72 WHIP through four appearances this season.

The Opponents

Louisville starts this week’s batch of games with a clash against in-state foe Murray State. This will be Louisville’s first game against the Racers since Dan McDonnell took over as head coach in 2007, but Louisville has won the last seven games against them. Murray State enters today with a 5-6 record, most recently coming off being swept on the road by top-ranked Arkansas. Prior to that, Murray State beat Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State, as well as 3-out-of-4 over IPFW.

Boston College has a mid-week game against Maine before heading to Louisville, but the Eagles enter this week 8-2. BC has won every weekend series up to this point, sweeping Charleston Southern and beating Duke and Auburn 2-1 in the other series. The Eagles took the Auburn series on a wild comeback on Sunday, winning 11-9 in ten innings after trailing 9-1 entering the ninth. Boston College is ranked in five of the six polls, as high as 13th on Baseball America.

Murray State Breakdown

Picked to finish third in the Ohio Valley Conference, Murray State had two preseason all-conference players that gives the Racers plenty of power in the lineup. Jordan Cozart (.302 batting, .967 OPS) and Brock Anderson (.220 batting) are both tied for the team lead in home runs with three, and Cozart was also a preseason Third-Team All-American selection by Collegiate Baseball News for his efforts in 2020 (.417 batting, five doubles, five HR, 19 RBIs).

Jake Slunder (.268) has been consistent with an eight-game hit streak, while Trey Woosley (.308) has a seven-game hit streak of his own. Murray State is averaging a respectable .253 batting so far, so this should give Louisville’s bullpen a steady test after a rough week.

If Murray State’s recent midweek games are any indicator, the starting job could go to either Cade Vernon or Jordyn Naranjo. Vernon pitched 3+ innings in his first two appearances against IPFW and Arkansas State, allowing just one run in each contest. Vernon currently has a 2.08 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP, and holding batters to .226 at the plate. Naranjo was credited with the win against MTSU on February 24th, and currently has a 5.68 ERA with a 2.53 WHIP. Jacob Pennington (1-1, 3.65 ERA, .73 WHIP) could also be one to watch, recently pitching 5.1 shutout innings out of the bullpen to earn a win against IPFW on February 27th.

Boston College Breakdown

Sal Frelick won ACC Player of the Week on Monday with a .571 batting average (8-for-14), two doubles, three home runs, and seven RBIs against Rhode Island and Auburn. So far, he’s also looking like an early contender for ACC Player of the Year. Frelick is averaging .476 with a staggering 1.388 OPS, and has a multi-hit game in 7-out-of-10 games played.

Luke Gold is also having an outstanding season, hitting .366 with a 1.215 OPS, five doubles, four home runs, and a team-high 16 RBIs. He’s also had a multi-hit game in seven out of ten appearances this season. Dante Baldelli (.270 batting) also adds some power to the lineup with four doubles and two home runs this season.

While Boston College is hitting .275 and has two legitimate all-conference contenders, their pitching might need to see some improvement as they continue with ACC play. The Eagles currently have a 4.85 ERA (tenth in the ACC), and have the worst opponent batting average with a .285. Against a Louisville team that is currently batting .291 (fourth in the ACC), that could be a mismatch.

Starting pitcher Emmet Sheehan (2-1, 6.43 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) had solid outings against Charleston Southern and Duke, pitching six innings with nine strikeouts in both contests. Mason Pelio (2-1, 3.68 ERA) had 5.2 shutout innings against Auburn on March 5th and should also start against Louisville this weekend. Joey Walsh (3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) made two appearances last weekend against Auburn, including two shutout innings to close out the comeback victory on Sunday in extra innings. John West and Charlie Coon have yet to record an earned run in three bullpen appearances.

How to Watch / Listen:

Today’s game against Murray State starts at 3 p.m. ET, available on 1450 AM and ACC Network Extra.

The series against Boston College starts Friday at 6 p.m. ET, with games on Saturday and Sunday both at 1 p.m. ET. Both Saturday and Sunday’s games are available on 93.9 The Ville, with radio for Friday’s game TBD.

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