he No. 2 Louisville baseball team begins its highly anticipated 2016 season with a three-game series against SIU Edwardsville on Feb. 19-21 at Jim Patterson Stadium.
All three games will be televised by CardsTV at GoCards.com. Radio coverage of Friday’s opener (3 p.m., ET) will be provided by 1450 WXVW, while the final two games of the weekend (Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.) will be aired on 93.9 The Ville. Live stats for all Louisville baseball games is available at GoCards.com.
Louisville returns an experienced, talented and deep roster of players from last year’s record-setting club, which won the ACC Atlantic Division title with the most league wins in conference history and advanced to an NCAA Super Regional for the third straight season. The Cardinals bring back more than 75 percent of their pitching starts, anchored by the 1-2 All-American punch of Kyle Funkhouser and Brendan McKay. The pitching staff also returns 83 percent of its relief innings. Offensively, the Cardinals return seven players who started 30 or more games last season, including the top three hitters in Corey Ray, Nick Solak and McKay, the reigning John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year. Collectively, Louisville returns 78 percent of its runs driven in, 73 percent of its extra-base hits, 72 percent of its total hits and 70 percent of its runs scored from the 2015 team.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
SIU Edwardsville was 20-30 last season and finished third in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 19-11 league mark. Under the guidance of head coach Tony Stoecklin, entering his fourth season at the helm, the Cougars return 15 letterwinners from last year’s club, including all three weekend starters in the pitching staff. SIUE was picked to finish seventh in the OVC in 2016 by the league’s head coaches.
This weekend’s series will mark the first ever meetings between Louisville and SIU Edwardsville.
OPENING AT HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2010
This weekend’s series will mark the first time Louisville has opened a season at home since earning a three-game sweep against Bowling Green State in 2010. The Cardinals have opened each of the last six seasons by winning at least two of their three games during the opening weekend.
LOUISVILLE ENTERS 2016 WITH PROGRAM’S HIGHEST PRESEASON RANKING
The Cardinals enter the season as the unanimous choice as the nation’s No. 2-ranked team after landing in the second position in each of the six preseason national polls. The No. 2 ranking is the highest preseason ranking in program history for Louisville, two spots better than their previous preseason high of No. 4 by Baseball America during the 2013 College World Series season. The No. 2 ranking also equals the best overall ranking in history.
TEAM NOTES AND TRENDS
• Through the 65-game season in 2015, the Louisville bullpen had a 1.82 ERA with a 22-2 record, 229 strikeouts to just 97 walks in 222.0 innings and opposing batters hit only .175.
• In 30 ACC games last season, the Cardinals had a staff ERA of 2.66 with 258 strikeouts in 277.0 innings.
• Louisville has won 139 straight games when entering the ninth inning with a lead dating back to May 2012. The Cardinals were 43-0 last season and 46-0 in 2013 when leading after the eighth.
• The Cardinals allowed two or fewer earned runs in 36 of 65 games last season. In 2014, they did it in 40 of 67 games, while in 2013, they accomplished the feat in 36 of 65 games.
• Louisville was 31-0 last season when scoring first and 15-0 when scoring in the first inning.
• From March 21 to April 10 of last season, the Cardinals played 83 consecutive innings against ACC opponents without trailing.
PLAYER NOTES AND TRENDS
• Corey Ray led the Cardinals in numerous offensive categories last season highlighted by his .325 average, 11 home runs, 56 RBI, 15 doubles, five triples and 34 stolen bases.
• Seven of Ray’s 11 home runs last season either tied the score or gave Louisville a lead.
• Kyle Funkhouser continued his climb up Louisville’s career pitching charts ranking second in wins (26), second in strikeouts (281), fourth in starts (41) and sixth in innings pitched (287.1). He also holds the school record for single season wins with 13 in 2014.
• As the first player in Dan McDonnell‘s nine seasons to start on the mound and play virtually every day as a position player/hitter, Brendan McKay was 9-3 with four saves, a 1.77 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 96.2 innings pitched. At the plate, he hit .308 with four home runs, 34 RBI, 32 runs scored and 38 walks in 58 starts as a hitter.
• Highlighted by a career-best 20-game hitting streak last season, Nick Solak was one of the team’s best offensive players hitting .324 average with a team-high 15 doubles, three home runs, 40 RBI, 47 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.
CARDINALS IN NATIONAL POLLS EVERY WEEK SINCE BEGINNING OF 2012
The Louisville baseball program has enjoyed a historic run by remaining in at least one of the major national polls every week since the release of the 2012 preseason rankings — the longest such span in school history. The unanimous choice as the No. 2 team in the nation in the six national preseason polls, the Cardinals have received a preseason top 10 ranking in four straight seasons (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and have earned a preseason national ranking in nine straight seasons (2008-2016) overall. Monday’s ranking extends a record-setting run for the Louisville baseball program, which has remained ranked in at least one major national poll every week since the release of the 2012 preseason rankings — the longest such stretch in school history.
LOUISVILLE TABBED AS ACC FAVORITE BY CONFERENCE HEAD COACHES
Louisville was selected as the 2016 ACC preseason favorite in a vote of the conference’s 14 head coaches. The Cardinals were a unanimous selection as the team to beat in both the Atlantic Division and in the conference. Louisville, which set an ACC record for conference wins with a 25-5 mark last season, tallied 98 points while Florida State was the second choice in the division with 74 points. NC State was third (72) and was followed by Notre Dame (50), Clemson (46), Wake Forest (35) and Boston College (17). Miami, which reached the College World Series last year, was named by 13 coaches as the favorite in the Coastal Division. Defending national champion Virginia received one vote for first place in the division and was second with 80 points, followed by North Carolina (71), Georgia Tech (58), Duke (38), Virginia Tech (30), and Pitt (18).
FIVE CARDINALS RECEIVE PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA RECOGNITION
Senior pitcher Kyle Funkhouser, junior pitcher Zack Burdi, junior infielder Nick Solak, junior outfielderCorey Ray and sophomore pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay earned preseason All-America accolades from various organizations for 2016. Burdi, Funkhouser, McKay and Ray were named preseason All-Americans by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball newspaper, D1Baseball, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Perfect Game. Additionally, Solak was named as a preseason All-American by D1Baseball and Perfect Game.
BURDI, SMITH AND SOLAK NAMED TEAM CAPTAINS FOR 2016
Junior righthanded pitcher Zack Burdi, junior catcher Will Smith and junior infielder Nick Solak were chosen by Louisville players and coaches as team captains for the Cardinals baseball team in 2016. Burdi was a Third Team Louisville Slugger All-American and All-ACC First Team selection last season while earning a 6-1 record with nine saves and a 0.92 ERA in 20 relief appearances. Smith started 47 games behind the plate in 2015 hitting .242 with two home runs and 15 RBI. Solak emerged as one of Louisville’s top offensive players in 2015 hitting .324 with three home runs, 40 RBI, 15 doubles and 18 stolen bases while starting all 65 games.
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