What do we say to the god of death? Not today.
After finding themselves on the brink of elimination on their own diamond, the #7 Louisville Cardinals (47-16) found a way to pull themselves out of a hole and advance to their sixth Super Regional in seven years. Winning the regional opener against UIC (29-23) but then losing to Illinois State (36-26) in the 1-0 game, Louisville then fired off 3 wins in row against Indiana (37-23) and ISU twice. The regional was marked by heroic performances by the likes of Jake Snider, Nick Bennett, Luke Smith and most notably Alex Binelas.
Following their loss to the Redbirds in a game which saw very little offense generated, head coach Dan McDonnell decided to get bold and make a tweak to the batting order. He would move junior outfielder Jake Snider out of the 2 hole and into the 5-spot, moving up Logan Wyatt, Tyler Fitzgerald and Alex Binelas in the lineup. This is a move similar to what he made in 2018 with Josh Stowers, a move which paid dividends for both Stowers and the team. Averaging 3.5 runs in their first 2 games of the Louisville Regional, they would average 8 runs a game in their final 3.
The offense, which has struggled at times in the last month, seemed rejuvenated and ready to take on anyone. Aside from a couple hiccups, the pitching staff seemed as dominant as ever in with their backs against the wall. Coach McDonnell finds himself in a position where the team has seemingly flipped the switch again and is ready to take on anyone and everyone they’re presented with.
News & Notes
- The Cardinals featured 8 players on the All-Louisville Regional Team: Luke Smith, Zeke Pinkham, Justin Lavey, Tyler Fitzgerald, Alex Binelas, Jake Snider, Drew Campbell and Danny Oriente. Snider took home Most Outstanding Player honors.
- Louisville is one of 4 ACC teams in the Super Regional round (Florida State, Duke, UNC).
- Freshman third baseman Alex Binelas was named a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. He is the 14th freshman under Dan McDonnell to receive All-American honors.
- Louisville had 8 players selected in the 2019 MLB Draft. Full recap here.
- Junior right-handed pitcher Michael McAvene, who is currently serving a 4 game suspension following his ejection against IU, is eligible to return either in game 3 of the Louisville Super Regional or game 1 of the College World Series.
- East Carolina is pitching coach Roger Williams’ alma mater.
The Week Ahead
Coming up this week, Louisville will greet the #10 East Carolina Pirates (47-16) for a best-of-three series matchup in the Louisville Super Regional. The first to win 2 games will advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
History doesn’t favor the Louisville Cardinals, as they are 3-11 all time against East Carolina and are on a 10 game losing streak vs. the Pirates. Their last win came on April 26th, 2003 in a 7-6, 12 inning affair. East Carolina was who Louisville played in Jim Patterson Stadium’s first ever game on April 15th, 2005, losing 4-1.
Louisville Super Regional Schedule (Louisville, KY):
- Friday, June 7th at 12pm vs. East Carolina
- 93.9 The Ville
- Saturday, June 8th at 3pm vs. East Carolina
- 93.9 The Ville
- Sunday, June 9th at 12pm vs. East Carolina (if necessary)
- 93.9 The Ville
All-Session Tickets can be purchased here. Reserved Chairback is already sold out but Berm/General Admission seating will be $25. Single-session tickets will go on sale starting this Thursday at 10am if available. In case you cannot make it to any of the games, games 1 and 3 of the Louisville Super Regional will be televised on ESPN2, with game 2 being televised on ESPNU. Th entire Super Regional will be broadcast on 93.9 The Ville.
Know The Foe
School: East Carolina University
Nickname: East Carolina Pirates
Location: Greenville, NC
Total Enrollment: 29,131
Head Coach (school record): Cliff Godwin (201-107)
2019 Record (conference record): 47-16 (20-4)
- Avg: Alec Burleson (.373)
- RBI: Alec Burleson (61)
- HR: Jake Washer (17)
- ERA: Jake Agnos (2.02)
- Strikeouts: Jake Agnos (140)
- Wins: Jake Agnos (11-2)
|#10 East Carolina||#7 Louisville|
|Base on Balls||54 (274)||17 (319)|
|Batting Average||22 (.298)||38 (.291)|
|Hits||13 (634)||11 (640)|
|Home Runs||27 (70)||78 (51)|
|On Base Percentage||24 (.394)||38 (.389)|
|Runs||23 (434)||9 (474)|
|Slugging Percentage||30 (.457)||55 (.435)|
|Earned Run Average||23 (3.66)||22 (3.65)|
|Hits Allowed/9 Inn.||45 (8.30)||3 (7.04)|
|Strikeouts Per 9 Innings||31 (9.3)||5 (10.4)|
|Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio||13 (2.82)||18 (2.75)|
|WHIP||28 (1.29)||7 (1.20)|
|Walks Allowed/9 Inn.||29 (3.31)||80 (3.80)|
|Key: Rank out of 297 (Value)|
ECU had a lot of success in the regular season, much like Louisville did. Led by AAC Coach of the Year Cliff Godwin, the Pirates posted a near identical record of 42-13 en route to winning the AAC regular season title. As far as postseason history for Cliff Godwin at ECU, he’s no Dan McDonnell but he’s also no stranger. He holds a 6-6 record at ECU in the NCAA Tournament, and has made it to the Super Regionals once in his first four years. His lone prior appearance ended in a 2-1 series loss in Lubbock at the hands of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in 2016.
This season against Quadrant 1 opponents, ECU is 16-7 including sweeps of UConn, UCF and Campbell. However they are just 2-4 against RPI top 20 teams with a win at UNC and Ole Miss, but a road loss to Mississippi State and getting swept by UCLA in Los Angeles. Conversely, Louisville is 20-13 against Quadrant 1 opponents including sweeps of Duke & NC State and a series win over FSU. Against RPI top 20 teams, UofL posts a record of 5-4 that includes series wins over Ole Miss & Miami but a midweek loss to Vanderbilt and a series loss at home to Georgia Tech.
East Carolina’s path to the Super Regionals was extraordinarily similar to Louisville’s. They had lost 5 of their last 10 games heading into the regionals round of the NCAA Tournament, including a pair of losses to Wichita State in the AAC Tournament. Both the Cards and Pirates were forced to play multiple elimination games in their respective regionals, expect ECU lost their very first game of the regional to #4 seeded Quinnipiac. The Pirates then fired off 4 straight wins to clinch the Greenville Regional, plating 9+ runs in every single win.
Simply put, East Carolina has an explosive offense. Heading into their Super Regional matchup against Louisville, they feature 5 guys in their lineup with an OPS of over .900, with three of them venturing to over 1.000. Designated hitter Spencer Brickhouse, catcher Jake Washer and outfielder Bryant Packard are those three, with the trio all collecting triple digit total bases, 40+ RBI, double digit doubles and 28+ walks. Not to be outdone, first baseman Alec Burleson actually leads the Pirates in many major categories including batting average (.373), hits (90), doubles (22) and total bases (139). Backing them up, infielders Thomas Francisco & Turner Brown and infielder Turner Brown all boast batting averages of .300+ to give them 7 very solid options on the lineup card. Beyond these 7, ECU starts to fall off a bit in offensive production. Depth might be a slight question mark as they head to the non-starters, but their lineup is so good that the Pirates shouldn’t have to insert a pinch hitter very often.
The Pirates’ pitching staff has clear superb strengths and clear glaring weaknesses. Unfortunately the Cards will get a taste of their strengths more so than their weaknesses. Starting pitching is where ECU excels the most, as they have a pair of pitchers who are absolutely dominant on the mound. Junior left-hander Jake Agnos is the heart and soul of the starting rotation, sporting Reid Detmers-type numbers. He has an ERA of 2.02 and WHIP of 1.13 over 98.0 innings, has an 11-2 record and has tossed 140 strikeouts to only 42 walks. It’s no surprise that these numbers are what played a role in him winning AAC Pitcher of the Year. Also dominant on the mound, sophomore left-hander Jake Kuchmaner had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 73-26, an ERA of 2.99 and team-best WHIP of 1.02. Their third option in the rotation in Tyler Smith isn’t nearly as impressive as he sports a pedestrian 5.23 ERA and less than 50 strikeouts. Now comes their glaring weakness: the bullpen. The Pirates only feature 1 reliever with an ERA less than 3.00, with that being right-hander Sam Lanier (2.54). Their other regular options out of the pen in Gavin Williams, Trey Benton and Zach Barnes all have an ERA over 4.00, with Barnes’ sailing all the way up to 5.71.
For game 1’s Detmers-Agnos matchup, I am going with a slight upset and predicting that the East Carolina will take game 1 of the Super Regional. As of late, Agnos has been trending in the right direction with his season ERA decreasing after every one of his last 7 starts, while Detmers has struggled at times in the last month. It also does not help that the Cardinal Nine has not performed very well against lefties in recent weeks.
Heading into the game 2 Bennett-Kuchmaner elimination game, I am predicting that Bennett will take care of business while he is in the game but the Cardinal Nine will not while Kuchmaner is on the bump. Once it turns into a bullpen game though, Louisville will rally back against the average ECU bullpen and take the game in the late innings.
For the game that decides who goes to Omaha, the Miller-Smith matchup clearly favors the home team. I am predicting that the Cardinal Nine will capitalize on the momentum from the game before and chase Smith out of the game early. Miller will do just enough to keep the Pirates out of striking distance from Louisville, with closer Michael McAvene coming in the late innings to close the game and send the Cards to the College World Series.