Around the Bases: ACC Championship (Pool B)

Louisville was able to get a big non-conference win on Tuesday, beating USC Upstate 8-6. However, the Cardinals were swept once again in a weekend series, dropping all three games to Miami (FL) to close out the regular season. The sweep was the third time this season the Cardinals went 0-3 on the weekend, and the second time since Jim Patterson Stadium opened in 2005 that Louisville dropped all three games in a series at home.

Now potentially on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament next week, Louisville may need a strong showing in the ACC Championship to secure a bid. Their run begins with pool play on Tuesday and Thursday, as the Cardinals will play Clemson and Gt respectively in Pool B.

(Click now for entire pool B breakdown)

Stats & Trends

(Author’s Note: the all-conference selections were announced on Monday, after Sunday’s original post)

Four Louisville players were selected for the All-ACC conference teams on Monday. Henry Davis was selected as a first-team player at catcher, while Cooper Bowman earned second-team honors at second base. Alex Binelas earned his second All-ACC honors in his Louisville career, being named to the third team (Binelas was previously an All-ACC Second Team selection in 2019). Shortshop Christian Knapczyk was also a third-team selection, as well as an all-freshman team selection.

While Louisville scored eight runs on Tuesday against USC Upstate, their offensive showing in the weekend series against Miami was not as fruitful. The Cardinals tallied three total runs in their series against the Hurricanes (one on Thursday, two on Saturday) and batted just .144 in the entire series (13-for-90).

Only Christian Knapczyk recorded a hit in each of the three games against Miami, going 1-for-3 in each contest. The true freshman ended up finishing the week 5-for-11 at the plate.

Luke Brown had a spectacular game against USC Upstate, hitting a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with three doubles and three RBIs. Brown went on to finish 6-for-16 hitting for the week, and is now second on the team with a .325 batting average.

The weekend also saw some drastic changes to the pitching rotation for Louisville. Luke Seed was bumped up to a game one starter for Thursday, but went just 3.2 innings before exiting the game with an injury.

Jared Poland and Tate Kuehner both made starts for Louisville this weekend as well. Poland pitched five complete innings with two earned runs and seven strikeouts on Friday, while Kuehner allowed three earned runs on 5.2 innings of work. Carter Lohman (4.0 IP, 4 K) and Adam Elliott (2.1 IP, 2 K) both had shutout performances from the bullpen on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Michael Kirian, who was the Friday starter for the majority of the season, returned to a bullpen role this week and had some solid results. The junior had a shutout ninth inning against USC Upstate to record his first save of the season, and a shutout ninth inning against Miami (FL) in game three of the series on Sunday. Without Seed for the ACC Championship, it is possible that Kirian could return to the mound as a starter this week. Poland or Kuehner could make starts again this week since they turned in respectable performances as starters, but Carter Lohman and perhaps Luke Smith might be called upon to start if Louisville finds itself in a semifinal or even finals of the ACC Championship.

The Opponents (Pool Play)

Louisville is in Pool B for the first part of the ACC Championship, paired with second-seed Georgia Tech and 11-seed Clemson. The Cardinals went 1-5 in the regular season against the Yellow Jackets and Tigers, their only win coming in game one of the series against Georgia Tech on March 5th. They lost all three games to Clemson on April 30th-May 2nd, including two games where the Cardinals allowed 10+ runs to the Tigers.

Georgia Tech Breakdown

The Yellow Jackets (28-21, 21-15 ACC) claimed the Coastal Division title by a half-game over the Miami Hurricanes, taking the final two games in the series against North Carolina to clinch it. While Georgia Tech has one of the better offenses in the ACC (.286 batting, second in ACC; ACC-leading 330 runs scored), they have the second-worst team ERA with a 5.63 ERA as a group.

Georgia Tech had six guys hit 10+ doubles on the season, including Justyn Henry-Malloy. Henry-Malloy averaged .307 in the regular season with 16 doubles, ten home runs, and a team-high 39 RBIs with 44 walks drawn to just 33 strikeouts this season. He will likely be a tough out for Louisville in their Thursday clash.

Kevin Parada leads the team in batting (.328) and doubles (19), with six home runs and 34 RBIs to add. He is coming off last week where he went 6-for-18 with six RBIs and two doubles against Georgia and North Carolina. Luke Waddell (.322 batting, 11 doubles, six HR, 28 RBIs) also had a phenomenal week, batting .450 (9-for-20) with three RBIs and two doubles against the Bulldogs and Tar Heels. Andrew Jenkins (.290 batting, ten doubles, five HRs, 27 RBIs) went 7-for-19 on the week and should be another name to watch on Thursday.

With the game on Thursday, Georgia Tech might go ahead and have either Brant Hurter (5-4, 3.39 ERA) or Andy Archer (4-5, 5.37 ERA) start against Louisville. Archer did have a stellar outing against Louisville on March 6th, allowing just one earned run in six innings of work. Hurter, however, had the shortest outing of his 2021 season against the Cardinals, lasting just 1.2 innings and allowing seven earned runs. In Hurter’s last three starts, though, he has allowed no more than two earned runs, and thrown seven complete innings in each of them.

Bullpen wise, Josiah Siegel (1-0, 3.70 ERA, 14 appearances) and Zach Maxwell (2-2, 3.58 ERA, 20 appearances) are among the top performers for Georgia Tech. Maxwell is the only Georgia Tech pitcher currently holding opponents under the Mendoza line, allowing just .191 at the plate.

Clemson Breakdown

Despite sweeping Louisville, Clemson (24-26, 16-20 ACC) finished under .500 in the regular season. The Tigers lost seven of their final eight conference games, including being on the receiving end of sweeps from Georgia Tech and Duke. Clemson ranks among the worst in the ACC in batting (.255) and is tenth in runs scored (285), but holds a 4.91 team ERA (seventh in ACC).

Among qualifying hitters, James Parker and Caden Grice were the only Clemson players to average over .300, batting .317 and .316, respectively. Parker leads the team in doubles (12) with seven home runs and 34 RBIs, while Grice leads Clemson in home runs (13) and RBIs (49). However, Grice has struck out a whopping 70 times this season to just 27 walks. Grice had an unbelievable weekend against Louisville in their last encounter, hitting 9-for-13 with 12 RBIs, four home runs, and a double.

Bryar Hawkins (.315 batting, six doubles, 11 RBIs) batted .600 (6-for-10) against the Blue Devils last weekend and will be looking to continue that momentum this week. Adam Hackenberg (.234 batting, seven doubles, 11 RBIs) could slot into the starting lineup against Louisville, after hitting 4-for-9 against the Cardinals in two games played against them.

Clemson and Louisville will likely have a bullpen night for game one of their series. Carter Raffield (0-2, 5.68 ERA) started in the Tigers last midweek game against South Carolina, throwing three scoreless innings against the Gamecocks. Geoffrey Gilbert has a team-low 2.16 ERA in 27 appearances this season, but has a 3-6 record in 2021. Nick Hoffmann (4-1, 3.59 ERA) leads the team in saves (four) and has a complete game this season. Rasesh Pandya (0-0, 3.66 ERA), Rob Hughes (1-0, 4.24 ERA), and Nick Clayton (6-2, 4.30 ERA) are also frequent contributors from the Clemson bullpen, each having 15+ appearances this season.

How to Watch / Listen:

Louisville’s first game in the ACC Championship is on Tuesday at 11 a.m. against Clemson, and at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday against Georgia Tech. As the 7-seed, Louisville must defeat Clemson and Georgia Tech to advance into the semifinals. Both games, as well as all pool games, will air on local RSNs from Tuesday through Friday and on ACC Network Extra (via WatchESPN app).

If Louisville advances from pool play, they would play the winner of Pool A (Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech) on Saturday, with Sunday’s finals held at noon. Both the semifinals and the finals will air on ACC Network.

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