The 2019 Louisville Baseball season is now officially in the books, with the Cards ending with a 51-18 record and a third place finish in the College World Series. A season which fielded the “best team he’s ever coached” as proclaimed by head coach Dan McDonnell is bound to have noteworthy standouts, and they deserve to be recognized as such. Without further ado, I present my 2019 edition of Louisville Baseball Accolades:
Freshman of the Year
GP-GS: 59-54, AB: 206
.291/.383/.612, 14 HR, 59 RBI
While catcher Henry Davis put together a solid inaugural collegiate campaign, there’s zero doubt that third baseman Alex Binelas was the Louisville Baseball freshman of the year. After having a slow start to his collegiate career, he went on an absolute tear through the middle portion of the season. Starting with a 2-4, HR, 4 RBI performance against #17 Ole Miss on March 13, he proceeded to bat .424 between then and April 30, where he 3-5 with 4 RBI vs. Western Kentucky with his batting average peaking at .369 on the season. Winning ACC Player of the Week twice, he was also awarded with Perfect Game National Player of the Week honors after being the first Cardinal in 21 years to hit for the cycle, along with driving 10 total RBI vs. Alabama A&M. He ends the 2019 having led the team in slugging percentage, OPS and home runs.
Most Improved Hitter
2018 stats: .100/.156/.100 (.256 OPS), 0 HR, 1 RBI: 30 AB
2019 stats: .324/.454/.885 (.885 OPS), 1 HR, 16 RBI: 102 AB
Prior to his final year with the program, catcher Zeke Pinkham had not put together an all that impressive collegiate career. In his first 3 years, he had only 13 total hits, a .140 batting average and only 26 starts. His swan song however saw a completely different player at the plate. The Elizabethtown native matched or set new career highs in almost every major offensive category, including having more hits, RBI, walks and total bases in his senior season that his first three years combined. He is also one of only 3 Cards (min. 25 AB) this season to have more walks than strikeout (Logan Wyatt, Drew Campbell).
Most Improved Pitcher
2018 stats: 12.71 ERA, 2.34 WHIP, 16 K, 14 BB, 11.1 IP
2019 stats: 1.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 42 K, 9 BB, 32.0 IP
The difference between Michael Kirian’s freshman and sophomore years is night and day. The left-hander went from having the worst ERA on the team in 2018 to having the best in 2019. Having 6 appearances with multiple earned runs and only pitching a full inning or more six times in 2018, he would see vast improvement in longevity, pitching a full inning or more 21 times and only allowing multiple earned runs just once (5/7/19 vs. Vanderbilt). He would also finish 2019 with the second-most saves on the team, trailing only 3rd round 2019 MLB Draft pick Michael McAvene’s 7 saves.
Defensive Player of the Year
231 TC, 84 PO, 142 A, 5 E, .978 FLD%
Junior infielder Justin Lavey made huge overall strides in his game from his sophomore year to his junior year, and it was most evident in his defensive presence on the diamond. He went from leading the team in errors in 2018 to becoming one of the most defensively versatile players on the roster in 2019. Having not started a game outside of third base in his collegiate career, he would go on to see action at every infield position except first baseman. His cannon of an arm got much more accurate, producing a much improved fielding percentage of .978 as opposed to .922 the year before. This was the third highest fielding percentage on the team and the highest among infielders (excluding pitchers, catchers and first basemen).
Reliever of the Year
1.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 42 K, 9 BB, 32.0 IP (26 APP)
With a star pitcher like Reid Detmers on the roster, it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t actually have the lowest ERA on the team. That in fact, actually belongs to fellow sophomore lefty Michael Kirian. The New Riegal, OH native has the only sub-2.00 ERA on the team at 1.69, and has the third lowest WHIP on the pitching staff. In his 26 relief appearances in 2019, he gave up earned runs in only 5 of them. This included not giving uo an earned run until over a month into the season, and over the course of the season his ERA did not get higher than 1.88.
Starter of the Year
2.78 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 167 K, 33 BB, 113.1 IP
This one was a no-brainer. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Reid Detmers was a near unstoppable force every Friday night when he took to the mound. He tossed over double the amount of strikeouts as the next man in the rotation, has the lowest WHIP on the team, and broke his career strikeout mark a whopping 3 times, peaking with 16 in a loss to Georgia Tech.
Substitute of the Year
GP-GS: 55-30, AB: 132
.288/.368/.470, 5 HR, 28 RBI
While outfielder/DH Zach Britton technically meets the requirement to be a “qualified batter” (2 PA/G, 75% of games played), catchers Henry Davis and Zeke Pinkham technically got more starts the sophomore product of Batesville, IN. Though he made the most of his time he got at the plate, and was considered to be a secret weapon of sorts for head coach Dan McDonnell. He finished with the 4th highest slugging percentage on the team (.470), and had the second highest home run rate, averaging a home run every 26.4 at-bats (second only to Alex Binelas’ 14.7). In pinch hitting situations he batted .571, and had the second highest batting average with runners in scoring position with .383.
Offensive Player of the Year
.315/.391/.483 (.874 OPS), 8 HR, 65 RBI, 129 TB
The Brooks Wallace award semifinalist might not have had the walks of Logan Wyatt or the home runs of Alex Binelas, he was definitely a jack-of-all-trades from an offensive standpoint and was the barometer for the offense. He was third on the team in batting average at .315, second in slugging percentage at .483, second in extra base hits with 26 and led the team with 129 total bases. Rounding out his offensive game, he was also a huge threat on the base paths. His 18 stolen bases in 2019 was second only to fellow infielder Justin Lavey’s 20.
Most Valuable Player
2.78 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 167 K, 33 BB, 113.1 IP
The sophomore southpaw out of Chatham, IL put together one of the best pitching season in program history. He set the UofL single season strikeout record with 167, breaking the old record of 146 set by Brendan McKay in 2017. He also tied the single season wins record of 13, sharing it with Kyle Funkhouser in 2014. Racking up the accolades from a stellar season, he was the 2019 ACC Pitcher of the Year, a Golden Spikes Award & Dick Howser Award Semifinalist, and was a near-consensus First-Team All-American.