Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: Goateed Birds | School Location: Home of Bourbon and Bats, KY | Conference: ACC
2022 Record: 25-11 (9-6, 1st Atlantic) | 2022 RPI Rank: 38
2021 Record: 28-22 (16-16, 4th Atlantic) | 2021 RPI Rank: 70
2020 Record: 13-4 (2-1, 3rd Atlantic) | 2020 RPI Rank: 35
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Jim Patterson Stadium (Louisville, KY)
Game Time(s): Fri, Apr 22 @ 8:00pm | Sat, Apr 23 @ 2:00pm | Sun, Apr 24 @ 1:00pm
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Tell me about this team
Louisville is currently in the midst of the worst three-year run they’ve experienced under Dan McDonnell.
That’s hilarious to write considering the Cardinals are 66-37 during that timeframe. 2021 was just the second time under McDonnell that Louisville didn’t make an NCAA Regional (2020 season not counting - the previous time was 2011), and this team will not be #3 for him.
Before we move on, I’d just like to point out that McDonnell has led Louisville to eight Super Regionals, advancing to the College World Series in five of those seasons. The dude is one of the best coaches in the game.
Okay, so back to this year’s Cardinals team.
So what do they do well? Well, they hit the ball and they hit it... err... well. With an experienced, consistent, and productive starting lineup (each of their starting nine have started 31 or more of the team’s 36 games with seven of those guys sporting OBPs over .400 - and the two who have an OBP under .400 are each slugging over .500) the team puts up runs in bunches. Thirteen times this year they have reached double digits in runs, with eight of those being 15+ runs, and two separate instances of three or more consecutive games of double-digit runs.
The Cards are also aggressive on the bases, leading the ACC in stolen base attempts per game in league play. Four players have 8 or more stolen bases on the year, led by Levi Usher’s perfect 22-for-22 effort. So, yes, they get on base and then they continue to be a pain in your rear once there.
In the field, Louisville is solid with a .973 fielding percentage in ACC play. Their catchers, Jack Payton and Dalton Rushing, have combined to throw out 5-of-11 base stealers in their 15 league games.
The pitching has been perfectly fine to support that excellent offense. It doesn’t help that projected staff ace Luke Seed has been out with an injury for almost the entire year, but it’s Louisville, so you know every arm they run out is high caliber and capable of shutting down opposing bats. Jared Poland and Riley Phillips create a solid 1-2 starting punch, although Louisville needs a reliable third option to emerge if it’s going to be an Omaha threat for the 6th time under McDonnell. Michael Prosecky has turned into one of the best closers in college baseball this year, and as State fans know, it only takes a few quality starting arms and a shutdown reliever or two to make a postseason run.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Friday: RHP Jared Poland (SR)
3B Ben Metzinger (JR) - .324/.452/.676, 6 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 43 R, 46 RBI, 32 BB, 28 K, 4 HBP, 8-8 SB. Already has more ABs this year than he did his first three years on campus combined. Hometown kid who is poster child for the benefits of developing under consistent leadership. He’s not only playing and playing extremely well, he’s also positioning himself well in the MLB Draft this year given his bat skills and defensive versatility.
LF Cameron Masterman (SR) - .318/.405/.649, 10 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 35 R, 43 RBI, 17 BB, 46 K, 6 HBP, 1-1 SB. Big corner outfielder who’s built like a safety. Was a reserve role player his first two years on campus before stepping into a starter role last year and doing okay in it. Has developed into the power-hitting threat the team needs this year. High K% is his biggest issue.
C/DH Jack Payton (SO) - .387/.439/.528, 12 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 34 R, 29 RBI, 12 BB, 18 K, 2 HBP, 3-5 SB. Impressive second year player who parlayed a little bit of playing time last year into a breakout performance this year. Has pushed his way into the starting catcher job, elbowing in front of Dalton Rushing, a guy with some MLB Draft buzz. Has a 14-game hitting streak going.
CF Levi Usher (SR) - .282/.377/.504, 11 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 32 R, 28 RBI, 16 BB, 44 K, 4 HBP, 22-22 SB. Has been excellent in ACC play (.328/419/.578 with 7 2B, 3 HR, 9-9 SB). Former JUCO transfer who was drafted in the 37th round of 2019 (Angels) following that JUCO season. Struggled last year, but the underlying metrics were there to indicate this level of improvement was possible. Biggest detriment is a bad BB:K ratio. Currently riding an 11-game hitting streak.
SS Christian Knapczyk (SO) - .354/.486/.497, 9 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 53 R, 18 RBI, 28 BB, 18 K, 10 HBP, 14-18 SB. Undersized left-handed hitting leadoff man has posted multiple hits in four of the last six games. Incredibly patient hitter with an excellent eye and fantastic bat-to-ball skills. Willing to bet a lot of money that the announcers will use the terms “hard-nosed” and “grinder” during this series to describe him. Was a 2021 All-ACC 3rd Team and All-Freshman Team selection.
RHP Jared Poland (SR) - 2-2, 2.57 ERA, 42.0 IP, 38 H, 14 BB, 52 K. Was a 34th round draft pick out (Red Sox) of high school in 2018. Ranks 7th in the ACC in strikeouts in conference play, including 17 over his last two starts (10.0 IP).
LHP Riley Phillips (SO) - 3-1, 4.14 ERA, 41.1 IP, 45 H, 11 BB, 43 K. Oddly, he’s not listed as a starter for this weekend, and that could be due to a trio of consecutive rough outings, but he’s still far too good to not pitch. In three consecutive starts in March against Michigan, Notre Dame, and Boston College, he combined to pitch 19.0 innings allowing just 3 earned runs.
LHP Michael Prosecky (JR) - 2-0, 7 SV, 2.05 ERA, 22.0 IP, 11 H, 14 BB, 28 K. The most talented of the Cardinals pitchers, but also one with extreme control issues. Has an 0.82 ERA in ACC play, but also has issued 10 free passes (8 BB, 2 HBP) in those 11.0 IP. Has a four pitch mix, but relies heavily on his fastball and wipeout slider.
RHP Kaleb Corbett (SO) - 2-1, 1 SV, 6.05 ERA, 19.1 IP, 23 H, 6 BB, 21 K. Started the Thursday game last week against Florida State, his first start of the year, helping keep Poland and Phillips on their regular schedule. He did pitch briefly on Tuesday against Kentucky, but could be the Sunday starter in this series. Corbett tied for the team lead in saves in 2021.
LHP Tate Kuehner (JR) - 4-2, 4.54 ERA, 39.2 IP, 38 H, 18 BB, 33 K. Here’s your other option to start the third game of the series. Started the season in the weekend rotation and made 8 starts there, but had back-to-back rough outings against Pitt and UNC and went tot he bullpen last weekend.
RHP Ryan Hawks (JR) - 4-1, 0 SV, 5.34 ERA, 28.2 IP, 30 H, 8 BB, 33 K. The Cards preferred long-relief man, 12 of his 14 appearances have spanned multiple innings with six of them going across three innings. 6’2, 230 pounder missed all of last year with an injury.
Quick! Fun Facts!
Since Dan McDonnell took over the Louisville program in 2007, he’s had 22 former players go on to play at the MLB level. The Cardinals program had all of 3 former players reach the MLB level before McDonnell’s arrival, and that was over 89 seasons. Furthermore, 11 of the 22 MLB players who played under McDonnell at Louisville played in the MLB in 2021.
Louisville plays on an artificial turf field and that is just awful and sad.
The Cardinals have won 13 of the 18 games between these two schools and that, too, is sad.
Both teams have some questions in the rotation and bullpen, but both also feature lights-out closers. Both teams can mash, but Louisville’s lineup is more solid and consistent top-to-bottom. This is a very tough series on the road against an experienced squad.
Outcome: Louisville takes 2-of-3.