As we move towards the end of the season, many of the host seeds are still up for grabs, and Louisville (31-12, 14-7 ACC) has inserted themselves right in the thick of the conversation. The Cards took care of business this weekend, picking up three more Q1 wins, improving their RPI by 17(!!) spots, up to 23.
The Tigers entered the series with just a 6-11 ACC record, but the computers have loved Clemson all season long, ranked 35th in the RPI before the week began.
On Friday night, Jared Poland (W, 3-2) looked like your typical Louisville ace, completely shutting the Tigers offense down. Poland tossed 8 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 0 runs, while striking out 13 batters. It won’t be announced until tomorrow morning, but I can’t imagine he won’t be announced as the ACC Pitcher of the Week.
Coach McDonnell has been looking for someone to step up in the Friday night role all season and I think we might have found our guy. It took a lot of pressure off the bullpen for the rest of the weekend, allowing other arms to rest.
At the plate, Louisville pounded out 10 hits (yet again) as they were led by Ben Metzinger, who seemed to get back in the swing of things this weekend. Metzinger chipped in with three hits while Logan Beard led the team with 3 RBI, on the way to a 7-2 victory.
The game on Saturday was a different story. The Tigers took a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning, but Louisville answered with two of their own.
Clemson clawed back with another run in the second and Louisville responded, yet again, with four runs in the second inning to take a 6-3 lead. The Tigers continued to deliver blow after blow, but the Cards always had an answer, like this offense has done time and time again.
On the base paths, Louisville gave Clemson hell all weekend, stealing five bases on Saturday alone. As potent as this offense is, they don’t need any help, but any Dan McDonnell coached team is going to put loads of pressure on the opposition. Exhibit A:
Metzinger and Dalton Rushing paced the Cards with two hits while Jack Payton, Cam Masterman, and Logan Beard added two RBI apiece as Louisville was able to hang on 10-8.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this play by Levi Usher, saving a two-run home run that would have tied the game in the 7th inning. It was the #1 play on Sports Center Saturday night. Big Spiderman vibes.
The bullpen made this one interesting, yet again, giving up two runs in the top of the 9th inning. Michael Prosecky came in to close things out, giving up a two-run home run before striking out the side.
On Sunday, the Cards had a huge opportunity to send Clemson back to South Carolina with three losses and they put on a clinic... until the 9th inning.
Louisville won the game 18-15, but gave up 6 runs in the top of the 9th, as Coach McDonnell was forced to bring in Prosecky to get the final three outs. It was a huge win, but at this point in the season, the staff should not have to use three pitchers to get three outs in an 18-9 ball game.
On the plus side, a huge shoutout to Garett Schmeltz (W, 1-0) for picking up his first career victory after tossing 1.2 scoreless innings. Schmeltz is from right here in Louisville, playing high school baseball at PRP.
It was a hit parade for the Cards at the plate, with Beard staying hot again on Sunday. He led the offense with 4 hits, 4 RBI, and one home run.
Usher was all over the field on Sunday, making another ridiculous play in the top of the first inning. He also chipped in with 3 hits and 4 RBI. You could say it was a pretty good weekend for Usher and no one deserves it more than Levi. Kudos to him for turning this season around.
So, heres the deal.
Louisville (14-7) has a one game lead over Notre Dame (13-8) as ACC play is winding down. Remember, the Cards swept them at the beginning of conference play. Notre Dame is only going to play 27 ACC games (they always cancel when the wind blows) and Louisville still has 9 to play.
The Fighting Irish will host Pittsburgh before finishing the season at Miami.
Louisville travels to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech (one of the best teams in the country) before hosting Virginia to finish the season. Buckle up, it’s going to be a wild few weeks.
The Cards will travel to Nashville on Tuesday night to take on Vanderbilt. It’s just a midweek game, but a win will continue to catapult their RPI.