Entering the final month of the season, the #5 Louisville Cardinals (35-9, 15-6) could not be flying any higher. They started this past week by shutting out long-time rival Cincinnati (22-22) in their own stadium, then soared to new heights with an absolute thumping of Alabama A&M (13-33) in a three game series sweep at home.

Louisville’s offense could not be clicking at a better time than they are right now, and they have quickly turned into the best offense in the ACC and one of the best offenses in all of Division I baseball. In just three weeks times, Louisville’s team batting average has leaped from .257 to .301, going from 11th in the ACC to the top of the conference. Over those three weeks, Louisville has been batting .407 as a team with 152 RBIs. For contexts’ sake, their team RBI total was 172 prior to the beginning of their three-week offensive tear. Also over these three weeks, a Louisville Cardinal has been named ACC Player of the Week in every instance, with Logan Wyatt winning once and Alex Binelas winning twice. During this stretch, the duo has combined to bat .467 with 6 HR, 43 RBI, 15 doubles and 21 walks. On the season they both has an OPS over 1, with Binelas also slugging close to .700. These two are just a couple of the 9 guys on the roster who are batting over .300, including total bases and RBI leader Tyler Fitzgerald. At some point the offense as whole might come back down to Earth a little bit, especially as they return to ACC play. But for the time being they are riding an incredible high.

While they have given up some runs in recent weeks, including facing deficits in two of the three games vs. Alabama A&M this past weekend, this is still a top 10 pitching staff in the nation and the best the ACC has to offer. Reid Detmers remains the crown jewel of the Louisville arms, as he recently became just the 12th pitcher in school history to toss 100 strikeouts in a season. At 113 strikeouts, he is just 33 away from tying Brendan McKay’s single season school record of 146 with still 3 probable regular season starts left and the postseason. Bobby Miller also seems to have returned to his former self, posting an ERA of 3.38 since returning to the starting lineup. Michael McAvene continues to remain borderline unhittable in the closer’s role, as he has tossed 14 strikeouts and allowed only 3 hits in his last 9.1 innings of relief. Michael Kirian also continues to remain one of the more effective bullpen arms, as he has tossed a strikeout in every single pitching appearance thus far, and has only allowed a run in 3 of his 15 times on the mound. Coupling with the red hot offense, this pitching staff will only get better as the regular season starts to come to a close.

News & Notes

  • Louisville jumps up a spot to #5 in the polls (USA Today Coaches Poll).
  • Louisville still remains at the top of the Atlantic Division and ACC as a whole, 2.5 games ahead of second place N.C. State with 9 conference games to go (Louisville holds tiebreaker against Wolfpack).
  • The 32 runs scored in game 1 vs. Alabama A&M are the second most in program history (42 vs. Georgetown on April 18, 1947).
  • The 28 hits, 46 total bases and 11 doubles in game 1 vs. Alabama A&M are the most since at least 2000.
  • The 19 strikeouts in game 1 vs. Alabama A&M is a new Jim Patterson Stadium record.
  • Freshman third baseman Alex Binelas’ 8 RBIs and 12 total bases are the most since Brendan McKay had 9 & 16 on April 25, 2017 at Eastern Kentucky
  • Louisville is #1 in the ACC in all of the following categories: batting average, doubles, ERA, hits, hits allowed per nine innings, scoring, shutouts, stolen bases, strikeout-to-walk ratio, strikeouts per nine innings, WHIP, W/L percentage.
  • Louisville is #2 or #3 in the ACC in all of the following categories: fielding percentage, on base percentage, runs, sacrifice flies, triples.
  • Logan Wyatt is second in the nation in walks with 52, behind only projected #1 overall 2019 MLB Draft pick Adley Rutschman (54). He is also 27th in the nation in on base percentage.
  • Reid Detmers is 17th in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings, 8th in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 3rd in strikeouts, and 2nd in WHIP.
  • Tyler Fitzgerald is 31st in the nation in RBIs.
  • Alex Binelas is 20th in the nation in slugging percentage.

The Week Ahead

Coming up this week, the Cardinals will start the week by taking on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (20-21-1) at Jim Patterson Stadium for the midweek game. They’ll follow that up by resuming conference play with a weekend road series against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-23, 12-12).

Home (Louisville, KY)

  • Tuesday, April 30th at 6:00pm vs. Western Kentucky
    • ACC Network Extra
    • 93.9 The Ville

Home (South Bend, IN)

  • Friday, May 3rd at 6:00pm vs. Notre Dame
    • ACC Network Extra
    • 93.9 The Ville
  • Saturday, May 4th at 3:00pm vs. Notre Dame
    • ACC Network Extra
    • 93.9 The Ville
  • Sunday, May 5th at 1:00pm vs. Notre Dame
    • ACC Network Extra
    • 93.9 The Ville

Adjusting the ticketed entry plan first featured last season, 17 of this season’s 34 home games will revert back to free entry. This week, the game against Western Kentucky will feature free admission. Tickets for later games can be purchased here. In case you cannot make it to any of the games, all 4 games this week will be televised on ACC Network Extra and broadcast on 93.9 The Ville.

Know The Foe

Midweek

School: Western Kentucky University
Nickname: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky
Total Enrollment: 20,257
Head Coach (school record): John Pawlowski (81-121-1)
2019 Record (conference record): 20-21-1 (11-9-1)
Ranking: NR
Team Leaders:

  • Avg: Jake Samford (.419)
  • RBI: Jake Samford (56)
  • HR: Jake Samford (19)
  • ERA: Bailey Sutton (3.86)
  • Strikeouts: Troy Newell (44)
  • Wins: Bailey Sutton & Collin Lollar (4)

Weekend

School: University of Notre Dame
Nickname: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Location: South Bend, IN
Total Enrollment: 12,467
Head Coach (school record): Mik Aoki (243-246-1)
2019 Record (conference record): 19-23 (12-12)
Ranking: NR
Team Leaders:

  • Avg: Spencer Myers (.294)
  • RBI: Niko Kavadas (35)
  • HR: Niko Kavadas (10)
  • ERA: Cole Kmet (2.89)
  • Strikeouts: Cameron Brown (75)
  • Wins: Tommy Sheehan (5)

Opponent Breakdown

W. Kentucky Notre Dame Louisville
Base on Balls 241 (150) 84 (198) 30 (229)
Batting Average 51 (.288) 244 (.248) 21 (.301)
Hits 55 (426) 231 (343) 17 (465)
Home Runs 99 (36) 180 (24) 110 (33)
On Base Percentage 105 (.373) 211 (.350) 28 (.398)
Runs 83 (274) 234 (206) 10 (356)
Slugging Percentage 73 (.428) 247 (.347) 34 (.452)
Earned Run Average 257 (6.41) 178 (5.19) 21 (3.43)
Hits Allowed/9 Inn. 247 (10.48) 125 (8.98) 3 (6.70)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings 224 (7.4) 62 (9.0) 5 (10.6)
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio 255 (1.40) 102 (2.03) 19 (2.86)
WHIP 262 (1.75) 136 (1.49) 5 (1.16)
Walks Allowed/9 Inn. 249 (5.28) 155 (4.42) 72 (3.70)
RPI 182 97 7
SOS 171 50 34
Home Record 13-8-1 8-10 24-5
Away Record 7-10 8-9 10-2
Key: Rank out of 297 (Value)

On paper, the Hilltoppers boast an above average offense. 5 players are currently batting over .290 with a team batting average of .288, and are in the top half of most offensive categories in Conference-USA. However, shockingly a majority of these numbers are inflated solely by one person. While junior first baseman Richard Constantine is batting .413/.500/.698, this comes on just 63 at-bats over the season. The man who is tipping the scales for the WKU offense is junior outfielder Jake Samford. Starting in every game this season for the Hilltoppers, he is batting .419/.505/.874 for an outrageous 1.379 OPS. Oh, and don’t forget 19 home runs and 56 RBIs with 15 doubles to spare. He leads the nation in slugging percentage, is second in total bases, third in home runs, fifth in batting average, sixth in RBIs and eighth in hits. He’s also in the the top 20 in on base percentage and runs. Stopping him is almost impossible. On the plus side, WKU’s team batting average drops from .288 to .271 when not including him. It’s a sure-fire guarantee that Samford will get his in the midweek contest, so it will be up to the pitching staff to limit what his supporting cast will do.

Where the ‘Toppers have a chance offensively to hang with UofL, if they are forced into a barnburner with the Cards, they have almost no chance to come on top due to their dreadful pitching. As a team, they post an ERA of 6.42 and WHIP of 1.76, and offer only one pitcher on the roster with an opponent’s batting average less than .250. Probable midweek starter Jeff Ciocco, who only just took the midweek starter job in his last two games, sports an ERA of 4.86 and has struck out just 9 guys over 16.2 innings pitched. Reliever Bailey Sutton poses Western’s best chance out of the bullpen as he leads the team in ERA and is second in strikeouts, but outside of him their bullpen doesn’t stand much of a chance to the red hot Cardinals offense.

As far as ACC power rankings go, you would probably expect to see Notre Dame close to the bottom of that list. This is mainly due to their offense, or quite frankly lack thereof. They’re very similar to that of WKU in that a couple of guys carry the team on their back, but with a much worse supporting cast. Notre Dame posts some of the worst offensive numbers for a Power 5 school. Sophomore infielder Niko Kavadas, junior first baseman Daniel Jung and senior outfielder Eric Gilgenbach combine for 35% of Notre Dame’s hits, 43% of their total bases, 51% of their RBI and 83% of their home runs. If Reid Detmers and co. can stop or limit these three guys, then Louisville has a very good chance at limiting the Fighting Irish’s offensive production.

Notre Dame’s pitching staff is much better than their offense, but that isn’t really saying much. The weekend rotation of left handers Cameron Brown & Tommy Sheehan and right-hander Cameron Junker combine for an ERA of 4.77, though Brown is 5th in the ACC in strikeouts with 72. Once they are chased out of the game, at some point Louisville will have to deal with reliever Tommy Vail. As a freshman, he has tossed 45 strikeouts over just 30.2 innings pitched and also has 5 saves to boot. He has proven himself as a rally killer, something that Louisville has had to rely on from time to time. The Cards will have to make sure that they continue to score first to prevent going down early, otherwise they could face the prospect of not being able to come back.

I predict that after the Cards handle their business at home vs. WKU, their ferocious offensive streak will carry into South Bend and result in a three game sweep of the Fighting Irish.

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Matt McGavic

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