The Cardinal Nine appears to have turned a corner, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The #21 Louisville Cardinals (24-11, 9-9) went 4-0 this past week, starting off with a midweek victory over the Northern Kentucky Norse (9-23), and capping it off with a three game road sweep of Virginia Tech (15-20, 6-12). Although it might have been against lesser opponents, they did look better than they had in recent weeks. They only committed an error in one of the 4 games this past week, they held their opposition to 2 runs or less in each game, Sam Bordner has returned to form with a couple saves after a midseason hiccup, and they ended the week with plenty of forward momentum with 16 runs in the game 3 sweep-clinching victory over VT.

Heading into this week, they’ll need all the momentum they can get. Round 2 of the Battle of the Bluegrass comes to town, with the Cards taking on the Kentucky Wildcats (25-11) for the midweek game and follow that up with a home series against the Virginia Cavaliers (20-16, 7-11). The odds are in favor for Louisville, as they have not lost at home to UK since 2014 (5 game home winning streak vs. the Cats) and are 7-3 against Virginia since joining the ACC.

All Louisville Baseball games are ticketed entry this season for the very first time, and can be purchased through Ticketmaster here. Berm seating is $5 with reserved chair back seating costing $10. In case you cannot make it to the games, all games this week will be featured on ACC Network Extra.

News & Notes

  • Sophomore right hander Austin Dickey earned his first career win in the midweek victory over Northern Kentucky.
  • Sophomore outfielder Danny Oriente equaled a career-best 3 hits in game 1 vs. Virginia Tech.
  • The eight inning start by sophomore left-hander Nick Bennett in game 2 was the longest outing of his career.
  • Junior right-hander Sam Bordner’s 10th save in game 2 put him at 8th on the UofL single-season saves list, as well as 9th on the UofL career saves list.
  • The 15 run game 3 victory tied a Louisville record for largest margin of victory against an ACC opponent (15-0 vs UVA on March 27, 2016).
  • Junior outfielder Josh Stowers moved into the top 10 in career stolen bases at UofL with 46.
  • Danny Oriente is currently riding a career-high 9 game hitting streak.

The Week Ahead

Louisville will be at home all week, with the normal slate of games on Tuesday and Friday – Sunday.

Home (Louisville, KY)

  • Tuesday, April 17th at 6pm vs. Kentucky
  • Thursday, April 20th at 6pm vs. Virginia
  • Friday, April 21st at 6pm vs. Virginia
  • Saturday, April 22nd at 1pm vs. Virginia

Opponent Breakdown

Kentucky Virginia Louisville
Base on Balls 15 (196) 90 (153) 16 (195)
Batting Average 7 (.312) 108 (2.73) 112 (.272)
Hits 11 (383) 81 (332) 130 (331)
Home Runs 2 (58) 191 (16) 171 (18)
Runs 7 (287) 115 (202) 47 (236)
Slugging Percentage 2 (.527) 181 (.372) 121 (.396)
Earned Run Average 170 (4.97) 82 (3.99) 35 (3.43)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings 22 (9.6) 5 (10.6) 6 (10.4)
WHIP 83 (1.37) 52 (1.31) 66 (1.34)
Walks Allowed/9 Inn. 56 (3.54) 72 (3.65) 233 (4.94)
Key: Rank out of 297 (Value)

Kentucky might have had some struggles akin to Louisville’s, but they are still an extremely dangerous team from the plate. They rank second in the nation in home runs and slugging percentage, with 3 players driving in double digit home runs and 5 players with a slugging percentage over .500. Their pitching is not nearly as grandiose as their hitting is, but with a closer like Chris Machamer (1.82 ERA over 24.2 IP, 5 saves), Louisville’s best chance to defeat Kentucky would be to score often and not find themselves facing a late, insurmountable deficit.

Collectively, Virginia isn’t that much better than their commonwealth counterparts, whom the Cardinal Nine just swept on their home diamond. They do however have viable threats on each side of the plate. Among qualified starters, infielder Andy Weber leads the Cavaliers in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage with a slash line of .366/.429/.552 and 33 RBI. Senior right-hander Derek Casey also has a team best 5 wins, with a 3.05 ERA over 62.0 IP and 74-13 strikeout to walk ratio. Keeping these two Cavs players in check will be tantamount for a series victory.

I’m one to guess that sweeping a conference foe to break a conference losing streak will have the Cards feeling pretty good when it’s time to play Kentucky. I predict that they will edge out the Wildcats by a slim margin, and follow that up with a series win over Virginia. While I think they win 2 out of 3 vs. Virginia, it is quite possible that the series could end in a sweep.

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Matt McGavic

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