Around The Bases: Week Two

Louisville baseball started its season last weekend on a high note, sweeping the Bucknell Bison on scores of 7-1, 11-2, and 5-3. The Cardinals, ranked as high as fourth in the Baseball America poll, enter this week with a 3-0 record as they get set to host Xavier and Bowling Green.

Schedule Primer

Perhaps the highlight of Louisville’s schedule will take place next weekend in Houston, TX, as they will participate in the Shriners College Classic at Minute Maid Park. Louisville will play games against Texas A&M and TCU next Friday and Saturday. Both teams are currently ranked in the top ten in six of college baseball’s seven major polls. Their third and final opponent will be Michigan, a rematch of last season’s Regional Final classic.

The out-of-conference slate also features road trips at Cincinnati (March 28) and Indiana (April 18), with the annual rivalry game against Vanderbilt (May 9) and the home-and-home series against Kentucky (April 11 and April 25) also taking place.

Louisville’s schedule also features games against seven ranked opponents, including conference games against Wake Forest (April 14-16), Virginia (May 12-14), Miami (FL) (April 27-29), and NC State (March 31-April 2).

Louisville in the rankings

As head coach Dan McDonnell enters his 17th season at Louisville, the Cardinals are once again ranked in the polls. Louisville is currently ranked as high as fourth in Baseball America’s Top 25 poll, and are ranked in the top ten in six of the seven major polls.

Highlights of Opening Weekend

It was a well rounded performance from Louisville last weekend, as they hit .312 in the series against Bucknell and held the Bison to just .188 at the plate with a team ERA of 2.00.

Starting with offense, Eddie King Jr. made a very strong statement on opening weekend. He led the team with .571 batting and a 1.700 OPS. He had a double, triple, three RBIs, and three walks to boot. King was a popular choice for breakout player on this Cardinals team in 2023, and he certainly debuted in a big way for them.

Another breakout candidate this season is Ryan McCoy, who hit .417 with a 1.084 OPS and five RBIs last weekend. McCoy is a transfer from Wabash Valley College where he hit 17 home runs and stole 18 bases last season for the Warriors. McCoy has tremendous power and is stout at 6’5″, 220+ lbs., but showcasing his ability to steal bases and play defense could make him a very appealing draft prospect in the next couple seasons. Will Cook could also split time with him at first base. He had a good weekend as well with a slash of .333/.500/.333.

Louisville’s top two returning players, shortstop Christian Knapczyk and catcher Jack Payton, had a business-like weekend themselves. Knapczyk led the team with three stolen bases and hit .455 from the leadoff spot, while Payton hit .286 with three walks, one home run, and two RBIs.

Payton, along with McCoy, Isaac Humphrey (.222 batting, three RBIs), and Tyeler Hawkins (.500 batting, two RBIs) all had home runs on the weekend against Bucknell.

Meanwhile, on the mound…

The Cardinals did not get an appearance from Tate Kuehner last weekend, but the Louisville pitching staff had a great showing. Louisville finished with a team ERA of 2.00 and logged 39 strikeouts to 16 walks, allowing just .188 batting at the plate.

Ryan Hawks got the start on Friday and soared, allowing one earned run in 6.1 innings of work and striking out a career-high nine batters. Carson Liggett also had a solid start, allowing two earned runs through five whole innings on Sunday.

The bullpen guys also held the fort down on their end, allowing just two earned runs in the entire weekend. Will Koger earned the win on Saturday with 2.2 shutout innings in relief of starter Riley Phillips (3.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 K), striking out three batters. Evan Webster (1.2 IP, H, three K) and Tucker Biven (1.0 IP, H, BB, two K) both had shutout appearances on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Alex Galvan (Friday), Kaleb Corbett (Saturday), and Ben Wiegman (Sunday) all pitched shutout ninth innings in Louisville’s wins, the latter earning the first save of the 2023 season.

Greg Farone had an outstanding Louisville debut in the bullpen, allowing one earned run in three innings and striking out eight batters. Farone arrives at Louisville after a stint at Herkimer College, finishing with a career ERA of 1.83 and twirling 213 strikeouts (139 in 2022 alone, a single-season school record).

What’s next?

Louisville will look to push for a 4-0 start against Xavier today at 2:00 p.m. ET, airing on ACC Network Extra and 970 AM. The Musketeers enter Wednesday with an 0-3 record, coming off a sweep from Oregon.

The Cardinals then host Bowling Green (1-2) this weekend, also airing on ACC Network Extra and 970 AM. The Falcons are coming off a series loss to Tennessee Tech last weekend.

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