With so much success surrounding the basketball and football programs, it is too often overlooked that the University of Louisville has been building quite the baseball monster under head coach Dan McDonnell. This season, McDonnell and company are set to do their part in trying to continue one of the most successful years in Louisville athletics history. Most preseason rankings, such as the ones released by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and Perfect Game, have the Cards ranked somewhere in the 15-25 range. Baseball America sees a lot more in the team and has them ranked 4th, which is the highest preseason ranking in school history.
The Cards are coming off of an impressive season, in which they went 41-22 and won the Big East regular season championship, their third in four years. They advanced to the NCAA Regional championship round where they fell to eventual College World Series champions University of Arizona. The Cards return eight position player starters and add solid Junior College transfer Coco Johnson in the outfield. The returning eight starters in the field hit for a combined average of .307 last season and only one player hit under .297. That was then-freshman and current sophomore Zach Lucas. He will be the youngest of the projected players in the lineup, as everone else is either a junior or senior. Experience is definitely on the Cards’ side this season, but it will miss the pop of former first baseman Stewart Ijames’ bat, who graduated last year after hitting 12 homers, twice the amount of any other Cardinal. Someone else will need to step up to provide the power bat for Louisville, but they may have to play small ball until that player surfaces. Given the returning batting average, as well as the overall speed that Baseball America raves about, the team should have no trouble getting on base and putting up runs, though.
The pitching should also be solid, and one player fans may want to make a trip to see is sophomore relief pitcher Nick Burdi, who Baseball America calls “the hardest thrower in college baseball, with a fastball that regularly hits triple digits and a true slider in the low 90s.” McDonnell brings in a solid group of freshmen as well, led by high school All-American Anthony Kidston (who is listed as both a first baseman and pitcher). For you recruiting junkies who want to rank him on star ratings, Rivals had him listed as a 4-star player and 98th best player in the class of 2012. It is unclear how much Kidston or any of the freshmen will play, but both the present and future appear bright under the leadership of McDonnell. With so much attention geared towards basketball and football in this city, it is important to note that it was not just those sports that were responsible for the ACC invite. The Cardinal Nine hopes to remind people of that as they pursue their first trip to Omaha for the College World Series since 2007.