Last year, Louisville rolled to a school record 19-0 start, which included the program’s first-ever #1 ranking in school history. It eventually led to their fourth College World Series appearance, going 53-12 and rolling through the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals.
While this team isn't 19-0 currently, they have some early momentum going. The Cardinals currently sit at 12-0 after Tuesday’s 16-10 win over Morehead State, one of six undefeated teams left in Division I baseball. They’ll be opening conference play today against North Carolina, currently 7-5 but ranked as high as 13th in Baseball America’s Top 25.
Notable Performers to Date
Devin Mann has improved his batting average dramatically from last year, and has lived up to his billing as a preseason All-American player. He is currently second on the team with a .390 batting average, with .659 slugging and a team-high 17 RBIs. With a team that had to replace a lot of upperclassmen from last year’s College World Series group, Mann’s performances have helped a young team reached an optimal start to 2018.
With the new faces in the starting lineup, there is opportunity for some first-timers to step up. Outfielder Drew Campbell has been one of them. The Jeffersonville High product leads Louisville in batting (.393), and hit 2-for-4 in Tuesday’s win over Morehead State. Head coach Dan McDonnell has had success finding talented prospects from southern Indiana like Jeffersonville’s Drew Ellis and New Albany’s Josh Rogers, and Campbell could be another coup for McDonnell in the area if he continues to impress as a first-year player.
Jake Snider is a player that’s made a big leap from year one to year two as Louisville’s two-hole hitter. Snider currently averages .325 at the plate, and is tied with a team high seven stolen bases so far. Combined with stellar base-running from Tyler Fitzgerald (7-for-8) and Josh Stowers (6-for-7), the Cardinals are currently tied for 12th nationally in stolen bases per game (2.17).
Three other Cardinals are currently batting above the .300 line; Zach Britton (.350), Pat Rumoro (.321), and Ethan Stringer (.300). Also worth mentioning is first baseman Logan Wyatt, who currently averages .298 at the plate and had a walk-off RBI single in last Friday’s win over Western Carolina.
On the mound, Louisville has had solid production from their pitching lineup. Adam Wolf remains undefeated as the Cardinals’ Friday starter, with a 3-0 record and a 2.00 ERA. Riley Thompson currently sits at 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA as their Saturday starter.
So far, Louisville has been rotating Sunday’s starts between JUCO transfer Liam Jenkins and true freshman Reid Detmers, with the other usually coming out of the bullpen. After a rough debut against George Mason, Jenkins had a scoreless inning against Youngstown State, and allowed one run with six strikeouts against Western Carolina. Detmers has shown a gift for striking out opposing batters as a true freshman lefty, recording seven each in wins against George Mason and Western Carolina. If Louisville can secure someone into the Sunday start permanently, it could go a long way in rubber match situations as the schedule gets tougher.
So far, Bryan Hoeing appears to have secured a spot as Louisville’s main weekday starter. He’s allowed a 6.23 ERA in four appearances this season, but struck out six against Xavier two weeks ago, and seven against Morehead State last week.
Sam Bordner continues to excel as Louisville’s top ace out of the bullpen. As the Cardinals’ new closer, Bordner already has four saves in 2018, and has not allowed a run in five appearances this season. Dating back to last season, Bordner hasn’t allowed a run in 27 of his last 28 showings.
Some other names to keep an eye on include freshman Bobby Miller and sophomore Nick Bennett. Miller has been one of Louisville’s best relievers so far, already with two wins and a 1.17 ERA. While Bennett has only made one appearance so far, he secured a win in it, and has experience as a weekend starter in Louisville’s lineup. Either one could work their way into the Sunday or weekday starter role, if needed.
Meet North Carolina
They’re 7-5, but don’t let the record fool you. Three of their losses have been to top-25 opponents like East Carolina and St. John’s, and they are currently 27th in the RPI. For frame of reference, Louisville’s highest ranked RPI win up to this point is Xavier (54th).
The Tar Heels return many veterans that were a top five ranked team for most of 2017, and was tabbed as one of the favorites in the ACC this year. Michael Busch (.386 batting, 20 RBIs) and Kyle Datres (.380 batting, four doubles, five RBIs) are two superb hitters that provide steady contact hitting, with Michael Mortarano (.265, four home runs, seven RBIs) adding some power to the lineup. Tyler Baum (2-0, 3.94 ERA, 25 K’s) is an excellent pitcher that could be an all-conference candidate, and will face off against Adam Wolf in today’s first game. Baum leads a Tar Heels group that is third nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (11.4), right above Louisville (11.1).
Starting today, Louisville will face five opponents currently ranked in the RPI top-25, including three in the top five (#1 Texas Tech, #2 Florida State and #5 Indiana). The schedule also features several more opponents from the RPI top-100 including Clemson (sixth), #Notre Dame (23rd), NC State (30th), Vanderbilt (37th) and Kentucky (74th).