Around the Bases: Kentucky and Pitt

Without a midweek game in their itinerary last week, Louisville went straight to the road to face Virginia in an ACC showdown on the weekend.

Despite coming up short in extra innings on Friday (final score of 7-8), the Cardinals rebounded to take the Saturday and Sunday contests (9-5 and 8-2, respectively), and subsequently the series, against the Cavaliers.

This week, Louisville caps off its rivalry series against Kentucky with a trip to Lexington on Tuesday. The Cardinals then return home for a conference showdown with Pitt.


Louisville rose to third in the Perfect Game Top 25 poll, but other than that, either didn’t make any movement or fell in the other five polls. The Cardinals fell out of the top ten in the NCBWA poll, sitting at 11th entering this week. They did fall two spots in Baseball America’s poll to fourth, putting the Cardinals in the top five in two of the six major college baseball polls.

Louisville’s average rank is 7.0 for this week.

Stats and Trends

Alex Binelas has been on a mission in recent weeks to smash every baseball on sight. In the last seven games, Binelas has hit six home runs (including a home run in every game of the Virginia series last weekend), and averaging .355 with three doubles and 17 RBIs. Heading into this week, Binelas now leads the team in home runs (ten) and RBIs (40) with the possibility of a 15 HR, 60 RBI season with a month left in the regular season (plus some postseason play on top of that).

Henry Davis, as always, has been consistent at the plate with a hit in all three games and went 6-for-11 against Virginia with two RBIs through the weekend. The superb weekend at the plate resulted in his averaging going back over .400 for the season, sitting at .403.

Also having a strong weekend at Virginia was Lucas Dunn, who went 6-for-15 with two doubles and an RBI against the Cavaliers. Dunn now leads the team in doubles (ten) and averages .298 batting with 20 RBIs heading into this week.

Despite beating Virginia on Saturday, the Cardinals did so without recording a strikeout on the mound. This marked the first time since 2011 that the Cardinals were not able to strikeout a batter in a game, regardless of a win or loss. Tate Kuehner earned his third win of the season from the bullpen, throwing 2.2 shutout innings in relief of starter Luke Seed.

Luke Smith had arguably his strongest performance of the 2021 season on Sunday, going seven innings and allowing just two earned runs with six strikeouts to boot.

The Opponents

Since beating Louisville at Jim Patterson Stadium on April 6th, Kentucky has gone 3-4 with series losses to LSU and Georgia, but did defeat Bellarmine 12-0. Both UK and U of L enter Tuesday’s game with identical 22-11 records.

Without a midweek game in their schedule this week, Pitt enters the Louisville series with a 20-11 record. The Panthers are coming off a series win against North Carolina, with a sweep of Miami (FL), Florida State, and a series win v. Georgia Tech also on its resume.

Kentucky Breakdown

Ryan Ritter had a phenomenal game against Louisville two weeks ago, so naturally he will be the biggest name to watch in the rematch. Ritter is one of four qualifying hitters on UK’s lineup averaging .300+ hitting and is a stellar defensive presence for the Wildcats. Coltyn Kessler has continued to play at an all-conference level, averaging .375 at the plate with seven doubles, two home runs, and 12 RBIs on the season.

T.J. Collett has ten home runs and 38 RBIs with his .311 batting average, and is coming off a 6-for-17 run against Bellarmine and Georgia last week. Oraj Anu (.287 batting) went 6-for-14 during that same span and went 2-for-3 against Louisville in their last game against the Cardinals.

For the rematch, expect the usual suspects from two weeks ago to return to the mound. Daniel Harper (2-0, 2.57 ERA) and Alex Degen (1-0, 3.24 ERA) combined for just one earned run in 4.1 innings out of the bullpen, with Sean Harney (2-0, 3.98 ERA) earning the win on 0.2 shutout innings of work. Austin Strickland could be a name to watch, as he has a .98 WHIP, 2.93 ERA, and holding opponents under the Mendoza line (.173 opponents’ batting average).

Pitt Breakdown

Pitt has been one of two big surprises in the ACC this year, the other being Notre Dame, and both Pitt and ND have suddenly become potential threats to win the conference.

The Panthers have a respectable .276 batting average as a club with a 4.45 ERA, and currently sitting one game behind Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title. This season, they achieved their highest ranking in program history, as high as 14th in Baseball America’s Top 25 poll last month.

Nick Popa and Ron Washington, Jr. are among the bigger names on the Panthers roster to watch. Popa leads the team in batting average (.351) and OPS (1.000), while Washington is averaging .323 with an .857 OPS and has 20 RBIs this season. Sky Duff has a team high 11 doubles to go with his .328 batting average. David Yanni (.241) adds some serious power to the lineup with eight doubles, nine homers, and 27 RBIs to his season totals.

On the mound, expect Matt Myers and Mitch Gilbertson to make starts this weekend. Myers and Gilbertson have 3.14 and 3.53 ERAs, respectively, with sub-1.2 WHIPs to boot. The third weekend starter could be Stephen Hansen (1-2, 6.16 ERA, 1.74 WHIP), who has made seven starts so far in 2021. But, he came out of the bullpen last week as Billy Corcoran (2-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) made the start. One of either Hansen or Corcoran likely start Sunday, barring any injuries.

From the bullpen, David Ferguson is absolutely the name to watch. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in eight appearances this season, and has allowed just .087 hitting so far. Jordan McCrum (1.96 ERA, 16 appearances) and Chase Smith (5.68 ERA, 18 appearances) have made frequent appearances as well, and could appear in multiple games this weekend.

How to Watch / Listen:

Louisville and UK are set to start at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, broadcasting on ESPNU and on 93.9 The Ville.

The Cardinals and the Panthers begin their series at 3 p.m. on Friday, and continue on Saturday and Sunday with games at 1 p.m. on both days. The Friday game will air live on ACC Network, with Saturday and Sunday’s games on ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN app). Saturday and Sunday’s games of the Pitt series will also air on 93.9 The Ville, with Friday’s available on 1450 AM.

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