Today, the Louisville baseball team begins another season on the diamond, as they face UConn in a neutral site series down in Florida. The Cardinals are looking to get back into the mix as a national title contender, aiming for their fifth Super Regional appearance in six seasons, and fourth College World Series in the same timespan.
Before Louisville takes the field once again, here's a quick primer on the Cardinal Nine for 2019.
Pitching Remains a Core Strength of the Cardinals
As long as head coach Dan McDonnell and pitching coach Roger Williams have been at Louisville, the Cardinals have had strong pitchers in their rotation. This trend should continue in 2019, as the Cards have solid depth in their starting rotation as well as their bullpen.
Nick Bennett returns as Louisville's most experienced left-hander on the mound. The junior has earned preseason All-American honors for 2019, on top of All-ACC honors in 2017 (third-team as a freshman), and 2018 (second-team). Bennett finished 2018 with an 8-2 record, 2.84 ERA and 72 strikeouts. Bennett is also a projected first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, according to Jeff Ellis of 247sports.com.
Louisville also has two sophomore pitchers that should be difference makers in lefty Reid Detmers, and righty Bobby Miller. Detmers (4-2, 4.85 ERA, 69 strikeouts) showed flashes of his potential as a left-hander last year, with a knack for racking up strikeouts in relief duty, and occasionally as a mid-week starter. Another year under Williams should fine tune Detmers' command, and combined with his wide range of pitches, could make him a pitcher with the highest potential on Louisville's roster. That would also give Louisville two quality lefty pitchers as starters during the weekend, a recipe that worked out well for the Cards in 2017 when Brendan McKay and Bennett were lefties in a strong rotation of pitchers.
Miller (6-1, 2.97 ERA, 55 strikeouts) earned Freshman All-American honors last season. He won't have a start this weekend (Detmers on Friday, Bennett on Saturday, and senior Bryan Hoeing on Sunday), but could still find a place on the team as a top reliever, mid-week starter or even as a closer.
Bryan Hoeing also returns, foregoing an MLB contract with the San Francisco Giants to come back for his senior season. Hoeing brings formidable size as a 6'6", almost 230 lb. pitcher. He made most of his appearances last year as a mid-week starter and top reliever, finishing with a 7-2 record, 2.88 ERA and 51 strikeouts. However, Hoeing will get the start on Sunday against UConn.
Louisville will need to find a new closer once again, as both Sam Bordner and Austin Conway depart. As mentioned, Bobby Miller could be a prime candidate, as a sophomore with previous starting experience and good size. Shay Smiddy is also a viable candidate, as he has been a top reliever (and occasional closer) over the last two seasons.
Louisville also has a group of young freshmen that could breakthrough and take a spot as a starter, or be thrown into the mix for the closer role. Kerry Wright (ranked No. 72 in the country by Perfect Game), Carter Lohman (No. 122), and Jared Poland (No. 124) should get into the mix as some of Louisville's top freshmen this season.
Wyatt, Fitzgerald Lead Veteran Cast of Hitters
Louisville went through some growing pains as a younger team in 2018, having to replace a lot of veterans in their batting order.
That shouldn't be the case this year, as Louisville returns a majority of their production from 2018.
Any talk of Louisville's batting lineup begins and ends with first baseman Logan Wyatt. Wyatt emerged as Louisville's top hitter last season, averaging a team high .339 at the plate while also leading the team in doubles (22), walks (63), RBIs (69), and a .490 on-base percentage. He earned All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as a third-team selection in 2018, and was also selected as a preseason All-American in 2019 alongside Nick Bennett. He'll be an ideal hitter in the four-hole / clean-up spot.
Leading off the batting order, though, should be shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald and outfielder Jake Snider. Both are Louisville's top returning baserunners (Fitzgerald 23-24, Snider 24-28). A common trend for McDonnell's batting order in recent years is loading the front half of the lineup with guys that can get on base, steal second, and pressure opposing pitchers by getting into scoring position (ex: Logan Taylor, Sutton Whiting).
Snider is a returning Louisville batter that averaged .300 last year. Fitzgerald averaged .264 in 2018, but had a solid summer league and could take the next step as a .300 hitter in Louisville's lineup.
Louisville also has designated hitter Danny Oriente, and outfielder Drew Campbell returning as other .300 hitters from their lineup last year. Oriente had a torrid stretch in the later portions of 2018, and will be looking to continue that hot streak into 2019. With Josh Stowers being drafted this offseason, Campbell will take over at center field to start the season.
Another spot that Louisville will have to replace is at second base. Lucas Dunn has the inside track to take over as the starter, averaging .303 at the plate while making 11 starts. Much like the pitching staff though, Louisville also has a talented freshman class that could push for a starting role. Andrew Benefield (No. 178), Tim Borden (No. 146) are some of Louisville's top recruits as infielders, and could push for starting roles at some point this season or in 2020.