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Opponent Preview: Louisville

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Meet the Cardinals... They’re not as good as they have been, but they’re still scary as hell

GoPack.com

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Louisville

Mascot: Cardinals | School Location: Louisville, KY | Conference: ACC

2018 Record: 19-9 (5-7, T-4th Atlantic) | 2018 RPI Rank: 32

2017 Record: 53-12 (23-6, 1st Atlantic) | 2017 RPI Rank: 6

2016 Record: 50-14 (22-8, 1st Atlantic) | 2016 RPI Rank: 2


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Jim Patterson Stadium, Louisville, KY

Game Time(s): Friday, Apr 6 @ 6:00pm | Saturday, Apr 7 @ 1:00pm | Sunday, Apr 8 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh

Live Stats: Sidearm Sports


Tell me about this team

It’s kind of impressive that a team that’s likely to win 40+ games, finish with at least a .500 record in the ACC, and probably end up as at least a 2-seed in a NCAA regional seems like a letdown. Yet, here is 2018 Louisville. Then again, that’s bound to happen when you spend the last two years comfortably inside the RPI Top 10 - and the previous three seasons before that sitting in the RPI Top 20. Yeah, three College World Series appearances in five years will pretty much set that bar really dang high.

Well, after a 14-0 start to the 2018 season, Louisville has limped to a 5-9 record since, although much of that can be attributed to the sudden increase in strength of schedule that has come with the beginning of ACC play. The Cardinals started out with three of their first four conference series being against RPI #4 Clemson, #5 Florida State, and #11 North Carolina. That’s a rough way to start things, although they did take two-of-three from UNC (ha!), but have gone 1-2 in each of their other three conference series since (the other ACC matchup thus far being an away series vs RPI #123 Wake Forest).

Louisville lost seven MLB draft picks off of the 2017 CWS team, with five of those seven players being selected in the top six rounds of the draft, so it’s no wonder that the team has taken a step back this year. Even so, this is a formidable Cardinals team. The offense isn’t as prolific as what has become the norm from Louisville squads, but there are still some very solid bats there, and the pitching... well... that’s still what you’d expect despite not having a consistent weekend starting rotation to this point: a group that’s going to limit hits and rack up strikeouts (although the walk rate is higher than the last few years). For the season, the Louisville offense is slashing .272/.396/.405 while the Cardinals pitching staff has posted a 3.65 ERA and held opponents to a .220/.338/.319 slash line.

Key Players:

Offense

1B Logan Wyatt (SO) - .343 BA, .504 OBP, .525 SLG, 99 AB, 13 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 22 R, 25 RBI, 31 BB, 14 K, 1-1 SB. Wyatt played sparingly last year as a freshman on a loaded Cardinals team, but has burst onto the scene big time as a sophomore starter. Just had an 11-game hitting streak snapped in their midweek loss to Kentucky.

OF Drew Campbell (SO) - .333 BA, .407 OBP, .444 SLG, 72 AB, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 R, 15 RBI, 7 BB, 14 K, 2-2 SB. Campbell, a JUCO transfer, is another sophomore that’s making up the core of what’s sure to be the next great Louisville offensive team. He hasn’t had a lot of extra base hits, but he’s been producing consistently. In the rare instances where he hasn’t started, he has four hits in his last five pinch hit appearances.

2B Devin Mann (JR) - .283 BA, .450 OBP, .457 SLG, 92 AB, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 23 R, 27 RBI, 28 BB, 20 K, 3-4 SB. A 2016 ACC All-Freshman team selection, Mann was hitting .390 entering conference play, so he’s cooled off considerably. Still, he’s a guy with some pop in his bat that you can’t take lightly.

OF Josh Stowers (JR) - .253 BA, .413 OBP, .411 SLG, 95 AB, 3 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 25 R, 18 RBI, 25 BB, 20 K, 13-15 SB. Stowers is having a bit of a down year compared to what he did in 2017 (.313/.422/.507) with his batting average down and slugging percentage considerably down and his K-rate up, but his BB-rate is significantly up and his non-2B XBH rate is on par with where it was a year ago. All this is to say that Stowers is a dangerous player at bat and on the bases. He’s a player that had a lot of attention on him entering the year, with some projecting him as high as a late first round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.

Pitching

LHP Adam Wolf (JR) - 3-2, 2.68 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .211 OBA, 40.1 IP, 32 H, 18 R, 12 ER, 15 BB, 49 K. I feel like State should run a monopoly on guys with the last name “Wolf”, but alas, Wolf will be the Friday starter facing the Wolfpack in this series. Wolf was a stud reliever for the Cardinals his first two years, including a brilliant performance in the 2017 CWS. The 6’6, 220 pounder will hear his name called in the upcoming MLB Draft. Needless to say, I don’t like this matchup for State.

LHP Nick Bennett (SO) - 3-0, 1.59 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .186 OBA, 17.0 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 20 K. Bennett will be making just his third start of the season on Saturday, but his two previous starts over the last two weekends were fantastic. Against Clemson and Florida State, Bennett combined to 12.0 innings of one run ball, allowing just six hits and four walks while striking out 13. The 6’4 lefty was a Freshman All-ACC and Freshman All-American selection a year ago, while also earning a 3rd Team All-ACC nod when he went 5-1 with a 3.18 ERA over 15 appearances (13 starts).

RHP Bobby Miller (FR) - 3-0, 1.20 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, .063 OBA, 15.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 7 BB, 15 K. The 6’5 Miller has been lights out aside from some minor control issues (7 BB and 3 HBP in 15.0 IP), but those can be ignored when you ONLY GIVE UP THREE HITS IN FIFTEEN FRIGGIN INNINGS! Sorry. Sorry about that. The 38th round selection in last year’s draft is good. I don’t like writing that.

RHP Shay Smiddy (SO) - 2-1, 3.80 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .233 OBA, 23.2 IP, 20 H, 14 R, 10 ER, 14 BB, 29 K. Aside from having an awesome name, Smiddy is also a pretty decent pitcher and another in a long line of big, tall pitchers for Louisville (he’s 6’5). He’s made four starts this year among his nine appearances, but has struggled with his control a bit, as he also did as a freshman last year.

RHP Sam Bordner (JR) - 1-1, 8 SV, 2.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .200 OBA, 13.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 18 K. The top set-up man for the Louisville bullpen in 2017, Bordner’s moved into the closer role this year. Like NC State’s Joe O’Donnell, he’s seen his workload decrease significantly in this designated role, but he’s still highly effective and it should be a cause for concern when you see him enter the game. Bordner’s a likely high pick in this year’s MLB Draft. Oh yeah, and just to keep the trend going: he’s 6’6, 240.

RHP Reid Detmers (FR) - 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, .188 OBA, 22.0 IP, 15 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 22 BB, 32 K. My guess for who gets the nod on Sunday in the currently designated “TBD” starter spot for Louisville. In his last outing he tossed three innings of scoreless ball against Florida State, allowing just a single hit and striking out five (although he did walk four). Yep, he’s averaging an even walk per inning pitched, so plate discipline and patience will be vastly important for State’s hitters when Detmers is on the mound. The 32nd round selection of the Braves in last year’s MLB Draft has some seriously good stuff, though, when he can locate.


Quick! Fun Facts!

This is still a pretty new series between the two programs, with Louisville leading NC State head-to-head by a record of 8-2.

The Cardinals have been ranked in at least one major poll every week since the beginning of the 2012 season.

Louisville, for some reason, likes to put random as hell facts about their players on their bio pages. Did you care to know that Devin Mann’s favorite restaurant is Olive Garden or that Josh Stowers likes to spend his spare time playing Guitar Hero? Me neither, but now I know...

Louisville SO LHP Nick Bennett played his prep ball at the storied Moeller High School in Cincinnati, OH, the same high school that produced former Wolfpack greats Andrew Brackman and Eric Surkamp... as well as a few okay-ish players you probably haven’t heard of named Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Larkin.


Prediction

I really don’t like the fact that State will be matched up with two very good lefties in the first two games of the series. The Wolfpack offense, aside from a few outbursts, has been significantly less impactful in ACC games of late. Having to face Wolf and Bennett on Friday and Saturday, respectively, is not something that lends itself to a large offensive output. Thankfully, State will be sending Johnny Piedmonte and Brian Brown to the mound in those two games to face the Louisville offense. I’d expect low scoring games in each of those, with the two teams splitting the outcomes of two games that barely hit 10 total runs combined between the teams.

Michael Bienlien will be toeing the rubber for the Wolfpack to start the series finale while Louisville will apparently toss darts at a board or play a rousing game of duck-duck-goose to figure out who will get the start on the mound for them. That third game should be the one where we see some more offense from each team, but I like State’s chances as I think Piedmonte and Brown can go deep on Friday and Saturday to keep the Wolfpack bullpen fresh for the finale. The Wolfpack pull out a 7-5 win on Sunday.

State takes the series 2-1 to maintain first place in the ACC Atlantic.

Go Pack!