The No. 6 University of Louisville baseball team kicks off the 2017 season with a visit to Clearwater, Florida for a trio of opening weekend games at Spectrum Field, spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cardinals will face Alabama State on Friday at 3 p.m., ET, No. 22 Maryland on Saturday at 6 p.m., and Ball State on Sunday at 1 p.m. Radio coverage for Friday’s opener is set for 1450 WXVW, while 93.9 The Ville will air the final two games of the weekend.

The opening weekend in Clearwater features two games each day at Spectrum Field with a full round robin format for each of the four teams. Louisville finished with a 2-1 record in a similar event in Clearwater in 2015 earning wins over Alabama State and USF before dropping the weekend finale to Cal State Fullerton.

GAME DAY INFORMATION
#6 Louisville’s Opening Weekend
Location: Clearwater, Fla.
Venue: Spectrum Field (8,800)

Friday, Feb. 17 | 3:00 p.m. ET |
TV: None | Radio: 1450 WXVW
LOU: Jr. LHP Brendan McKay (12-4, 2.30 ERA)
ASU: Sr. RHP Tyler Howe (10-3, 1.69 ERA)

Saturday, Feb. 18 | 6:00 p.m. ET |
TV: None | Radio: 93.9 The Ville
LOU: Jr. RHP Kade McClure (12-0, 2.54 ERA)
MD: Jr. RHP Taylor Bloom (6-5, 2.46 ERA)

Sunday, Feb. 19 | 1:00 p.m. ET |
TV: None | Radio: 93.9 The Ville
LOU: Fr. RHP Michael McAvene (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
BSU: TBD

The Cardinals return a trio of All-Americans and 19 total letterwinners from last year’s team, which won its second straight ACC Atlantic Division championship, advanced to its fourth straight NCAA Super Regional and reached the 50-win plateau for the fourth time in school history. Two-time John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-American Brendan McKay returns for his junior season after finishing with a 12-4 record, 2.30 ERA and 128 strikeouts on the mound and a .333 batting average, six home runs, 19 doubles and 41 RBI at the plate last season.

Junior righthander Kade McClure, an All-American selection by the NCBWA and Perfect Game in 2016, is expected to give the Cardinals a 1-2 All-American punch in their weekend rotation after closing his sophomore season with a 12-0 record, 2.54 ERA and 77 strikeouts 13 starts and 15 total appearances. Joining McKay in the Louisville lineup is junior shortstop Devin Hairston, who hit .361 with three home runs, 16 doubles and 45 RBI while earning ABCA Third Team All-America honors last season.

In 10 seasons guiding the Louisville baseball program, head coach Dan McDonnell has placed the Cardinals among the nation’s elite programs with three College World Series berths, six NCAA Super Regional appearances, nine NCAA Regional bids, seven regular season conference championships, two conference tournament titles, 29 All-Americans and 456 wins overall.

Louisville enters 2017 ranked in the top 12 in all six major preseason polls, including the No. 6 ranking from Perfect Game. The Cardinals are also ranked No. 7 by Baseball America, No. 8 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll, No. 8 in the USA Today Sports coaches’ poll, No. 11 by Collegiate Baseball newspaper and No. 12 by D1Baseball.

ABOUT THE OPPONENTS
Alabama State enters 2017 as the favorite to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Eastern Division title after closing last season with a 24-0 league mark. The Hornets were 38-17 last season and advanced to the program’s first ever NCAA Regional in Tallahassee. First-year ASU head baseball coach Jose’ Vazquez will be making his NCAA DIvision I coaching debut.

Maryland was tabbed Wednesday as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten Championship in 2017 by the conference’s head coaches. The Terrapins, ranked 22nd in the D1Baseball preseason poll, closed last season with a 30-27 record overall and was tied for sixth in the Big Ten with a 13-11 league record. Maryland closed the 2016 season with a loss to Iowa in the Big Ten semifinals.

Ball State is preseason favorite to win the MAC West Division in 2017, while Kent State is the the overall favorite out of the East. Last season, Ball State won the MAC West crown for the second time in three years and was second overall in the MAC with a 15-9 league record. The Cardinals closed the  season with a 32-26 record  after dropping two games at the MAC Championship.

LOUISVILLE RETURNS TO THE FRIENDLY CONFINES IN CLEARWATER
The Louisville baseball program has played 36 games all-time at Spectrum Field (formerly known as Bright House Field) and has played at least one game in the ballpark in nine of the last 11 seasons. The Cardinals have been very successful at Spectrum Field compiling a 23-13 record since its first visit for the 2006 Big East Championship. Along with playing in eight conference tournaments at Spectrum Field, the Cardinals also played in season-opening events in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

TEAM NOTES AND TRENDS
• Louisville has won three straight season-openers and is 7-3 all-time in season-openers under head coach Dan McDonnell.
• Collectively, the Cardinals finished with a .322 (No. 6 nationally entering the week) batting average as eight players hit .309 or better while starting at least 27 games.
• Prior to the season-ending loss against UCSB on June 12, Louisville had won 186 straight games when entering the ninth inning with a lead dating back to May 2012.
• The Cardinals were 101-of-126 on stolen bases in 2016 (12th nationally) continuing the aggressive approach from McDonnell. Louisville was fourth nationally with 127 stolen bases in 2015, second in the nation in 2014 with 133 and second in 2013 with 150.
• Louisville allowed two or fewer earned runs in 36 of 64 games this season, a feat achieved in 36 of 65 games last season. In 2014, they did it in 40 of 67 games, while in 2013, they accomplished the task in 36 of 65 games.
• The Cardinals closed the season ranked second in hits allowed per nine innings, third in hits, third in sacrifice flies, third in shutouts, fifth in ERA, sixth in batting average, sixth in doubles, sixth in slugging percentage, sixth in WHIP, ninth in runs scored, 12th in stolen bases, 15th in fielding percentage, 15th in on-base percentage, 15th in strikeouts per nine innings, 19th in home runs, 20th in scoring, 21st in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 25th in hit by pitch and 26th in triples.
• Louisville closed the regular season leading the ACC in batting average, ERA, slugging percentage, doubles, RBI and opponents’ batting average.

PLAYER NOTES AND TRENDS
Devin Hairston: All-ACC Third Team honoree ranked 11th in the ACC in hitting, 10th in runs.
Colby Fitch: Delivered four of five home runs, 22 of 25 RBI in his 27 starts last season.
Drew Ellis: Redshirt freshman had 30 starts last season in left field, one at third base and one at second base.
Devin Mann: While being called into everyday duty with the injury to Nick Solak, Mann managed himself well hitting .307 with eight doubles, 16 RBI and 13 runs scored in the 19 starts.
Colin Lyman: Had 47 starts and 60 games played last season with all 47 starts in right field.
Logan Taylor: Has played in 177 career games with 81 starts, including 44 starts last season.
Brendan McKay: Recorded eight or more strikeouts in 11 of his 17 starts last season and has finished with eight or more strikeouts 18 times in his career.
• McKay ranked seventh in the nation with 128 strikeouts last season.
• In 17 collegiate starts at Jim Patterson Stadium, McKay is 15-1 with a 1.56 ERA (20 earned runs in 115.0 IP) and 137 strikeouts.
• In 22 career appearances on the mound at home (including 17 starts), McKay is 16-1 with four saves, a 1.48 ERA (20 earned runs in 121.0 IP) and 149 strikeouts.
• At the plate, the All-ACC First Team utility player ranked ninth in the ACC in doubles.
Kade McClure: Won 12 of 13 starts last season and was tied for fifth nationally in victories. He was also in the top 10 in the nation in WHIP and hits allowed per 9 IP.

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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