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Louisville Opens NCAA Tournament Play Against SEMO at 2 PM

It’s go time!

Photo by University of Louisville Athletics

For the seventh time in nine years, postseason baseball will be played at Jim Patterson Stadium. If you have never experienced Jimmy P during this time of the year, do yourself a favor and track down a ticket this weekend.

And as Jeff Walz says, “Bring a friend with you.”

This video gives me chills.

As the No. 12 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Louisville is the one seed in the region, followed by Oregon, Michigan, and Southeast Missouri State, rounding out the remaining teams in the bracket.

What to Expect This Weekend

Runs. A lot of runs.

The teams in this regional can score in a hurry and all four of them have elevated ERA’s, meaning if you enjoy offense, tune in. Oregon has the lowest team ERA at 4.58 while Michigan sits at 6.81.

Both Michigan and Southeast Missouri State won their respective conference tournaments to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, while Louisville and Oregon both bowed out of their tournaments after losing their first two games.

Louisville is very familiar with the Wolverines after taking two games from them earlier in the season. The two teams were also placed in the Louisville regional in 2015 when Louisville defeated Michigan twice to end the Wolverines season.

Roster Update

  • Coach McDonnell and Coach Williams announced on Thursday that they will hold their ace, Jared Poland (5-4, 2.92 ERA) and have opted to start Garrett Schmeltz (1-0, 4.05 ERA) against SEMO.

The PRP native started in the ACC Tournament against Pittsburgh in a game that I assumed would be a tune-up for a big time situation in the NCAA Tournament. A week later, here we are. I expect him to pitch the first three to five innings before the bullpen takes over. Coach McDonnell eluded that we would likely see Tate Kuehner at some point today.

Some look at it as a risky move, not starting Poland, but if it pays off, the Cardinals will have their ace against the winner of Oregon and Michigan in the championship of the winners bracket.

  • Christian Knapczyk’s return will be pivotal in order for Louisville to have success this weekend. After missing the last few weeks due to an ankle Injury, the staff has been able to ease Knapczyk back into the swing of things.

The short stint in the ACC Tournament allowed him (and the rest of the team) to get as healthy as possible heading into the regional. Not only is his play needed on the field, but his energy is contagious.

  • The status of JT Benson for this weekend is currently unknown due to an apparent injury. This is all I know at this point, but it would be a big blow as Benson’s at-bats were increasing as the season progressed.

It would be the second time he has been shelved this year due to an injury after breaking his jaw earlier in the year.

SEMO Breakdown

  • 37-20, 16-8 OVC
  • RPI: 64
  • SOS: 144

Louisville will likely see Jason Rackers (6-3, 4.45 ERA), the Redhawks ace this afternoon. He is not a high strikeout guy with just 77 in 85 innings, but allowed just 30 free passes. The Cardinals are going to have to earn everything they get, Rackers is not going to give runs away.

In the OVC Tournament, Rackers tossed 9.2 innings in the championship win against Belmont, the No. 1 seed in the conference.

After Rackers, Kyle Miller (8-4, 2.91 ERA) is THE guy out of the bullpen. Miller has logged 23 appearances, allowing batters to hit just .224 against him. I don’t see a situation that Louisville does not see Miller on Friday unless things get out of hand early against Rackers and they opt to save Miller.

Offensively, the Redhawks hit just .272 as a team but they display a ton of power with 95 home runs on the season. Four of their batters have recorded double digit home runs, the same number as Louisville, so Schmeltz and Co. will have to limit the long ball.

Tyler Wilbur is the biggest name to keep an eye on, the senior shortstop for the Redhawks. He has played every inning since he stepped foot on campus. Wilbur led the OVC in hitting twice and set a SEMO record with 73 RBI this season,

Schedule

Louisville and SEMO will play on Friday at 2:00 PM, followed by Oregon and Michigan at 7:00 PM. The losers of the first round will play at noon on Saturday and the winners will play at 4:00 PM.

The All-American Wall is Growing!

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named Dalton Rushing as a Second Team All-American after his performance this season. Rushing batted .310 with 21 home runs and 58 RBI.

LFG!