With a starting lineup that featured three new faces who did not see action on Friday, the Louisville offense showed plenty of patience Saturday afternoon, drawing nine walks and taking four more bases by the way of HBP. Not only did we see three new starters, two of which were freshman, but six total newcomers made their collegiate debuts in route to a 11-2 victory over Bucknell.
The Cards reached double digit hits for the second time in as many days, led by Christian Knapczyk and Eddie King Jr., who each had two. Knapczyk also walked once, was hit by a pitch, stole two bases, and scored three runs. What a day for the preseason All-American.
Speaking of preseason All-Americans, Jack Payton belted a ball to dead center off the batter’s eye, traveling 426 feet, in the fourth inning, to give the Cards a commanding 8-1 lead.
The only thing missing from the offense today was production from the lower third of the lineup. The 7-8-9 batters combined to go 2-for-12 at the plate, although two of them were freshman and will likely see their production increase now that they have the jitters out of the way.
To me, I was most excited about the pitching staff. They found themselves in situations where they used a bend, don’t break mentality, stranding 12 Bison on the base paths. Sure, the pitching staff walked 10 batters, which must improve, but the staff last year would not have responded like they did today.
They were able to limit Bucknell’s damage and not let innings get out of hand, which is a major improvement. If they can prevent “that one inning” this season, this team can go a long way, and they did just that today.
Riley Phillips started for the Cards, tossing the first 3.1 innings before getting himself in a jam in the 4th. Phillips allowed one run, striking out four and walking four. Will Koger (W, 1-0) took over in the 4th, picking up his first career win in a Louisville uniform.
Koger struck out three batters in 2.2 innings of work and showed glimpses of the improvement he displayed in the Cape Cod League last summer. He is going to be an important piece of the bullpen this season and could even earn a spot in the rotation if he continues to show improvement.
Two freshman, Kayden Campbell and Tucker Biven, each threw one inning apiece. Campbell allowed two hits and a run, while Biven picked up two strike outs in Louisville debut.
Kaleb Corbett, who would like to forget about last season and replicate his freshman year, closed out the final frame, but walked three along the way. He, like Koger, is a critical part of the success of the bullpen this season.
Louisville will go for the sweep tomorrow with the first pitched scheduled for 1:00 PM. Carson Liggett (3-0, 4.68 ERA last season) will start for the Cards and face Tyler O’Neill (3-4, 3.81 ERA last season) from the Bison. The game will be televised on the ACC Network Extra and 970 AM.
The temperature is going to be in the mid-50’s. Grab a friend and head to the ballpark!