--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Roscelle Griffin
There is not a nice way to describe Louisville vs. Florida State, Game two, The Cardinals were shelled by the ‘Noles.
Louisville dropped the penultimate game of the 2019 regular season 14-3. A night after defeating Florida State 14-1, the script totally reversed. Four Louisville pitchers gave up more than two runs or more. The Cardinals managed to record just six hits.
If there were two bright spots, they were Zach Britton and Lucas Dunn. Dunn went 3 for 5 with one run and two doubles, while Britton homered.
Starting pitcher Nick Bennett witnessed his record move to 6-3 after surrendering six runs, all earned; in 2.1 innings pitched. He allowed nine hits, and walked one.
The Cardinals led for the first inning. Danny Oriente took a pitch for the team with the bases loaded, sending Dunn to home plate.
Florida State tied the game in the top of the second. Then, they had a five-run third. The first run was on a groundout, the second on a triple, third on an RBI single, and the final two on a home run from Mattheu Nelson to left.
Britton hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth, his second in as many days. Dunn plated Zeke Pinkham on a double to right center.
FSU had a three run fifth, three run eighth, and two run ninth to close out the game.
Louisville moves to 42-13. The season finale is tomorrow at 1pm. The Cardinals look to end 2019 on a high note.
--Gallery by Roscelle Griffin
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
In 2016, the Louisville Cardinals football team routed Florida State. This year, in 2019, the Louisville Baseball team had their turn ripping the Seminoles.
Dan McDonnell and Co. downed soon-to-be retiree Mike Martin and the ‘Noles 14-1. Reid Detmers had another great start with more than 10 strikeouts. Louisville’s offense hit a grand total of four home runs.
Detmers threw six innings, and did not surrender a run. He struck out 11 surrendered four hits, and walked two. He received the win.
Three Cardinals hit home runs in four batters in the first inning. Logan Wyatt ripped a two-run blast to right field on the first pitch of his at-bat, scoring Lucas Dunn. Then, Freshman phenom Alex Binelas hit a high home run to right-center two pitches later. Two batters later, Zach Britton homered to right center.
Louisville added seven runs in the bottom of the second inning. Justin Lavey scored on a throwing error by the third baseman. Then, Wyatt recorded an RBI single on a 3-1 count. Binelas homered again to right center, scoring two other runners. Drew Campbell doubled in Danny Oriente for Louisville’s last run in the inning.
Jake Snider reached the plate on a double play from Alex Binelas in the third.
In the bottom of the seventh, lightning delayed the game. It would resume over an hour later. Binelas recorded an RBI when the game resumed, on a sacrifice fly that scored Cameron Masterman.
Florida State’s Robby Martin plated the only Seminole run in the eighth, after hitting a single on a 1-1 count.
Dunn recorded a sacrifice fly and RBI in the bottom of the inning for Louisville’s last run.
The Cardinals move to 42-12. Game two is at 6pm on Friday, May 17th. It is the penultimate game of the season.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
The weather was warm, and so were the bats at Jim Patterson Stadium. No. 4 Louisville defeated Western Kentucky, 11-4.
The lead switched for the first few innings, but behind a long fourth And fifth, Louisville was able to secure a victory over one of the other in-state schools.
Jack Perkins started for Louisville, and did not have a great outing. He threw 42 pitches over three innings, but gave up four runs, all earned. Perkins allowed three hits, walked one, had one wild pitch, and struck out only two.
Perkins allowed a run to score in the top of the second. Nick Brunson hit a solo-shot home run to center field on the second pitch of his at-bat.
Alex Binelas, ACC player of the week for two of the past three, hit a two-run bomb in the bottom half of the frame to tie the game and give Louisville the lead. Then, Lucas Dunn hit an infield single to plate Danny Oriente.
In the top of the fourth, Western Kentucky regained the lead. Matt Phipps hit an RBI double to left center, scoring one run, and causing Dan McDonnell to pull Perkins. Then, Kevin Lambert hit a sacrifice fly and RBI. Brunson plated the inning’s last run on a single through the left side.
Louisville scored three to cancel Westerns’ effort. Tyler Fitzgerald hit an RBI sacrifice to center. Logan Wyatt plated Zeke Pinkham on an RBI groundout. Then, Binelas recorded an RBI single down the right-field line.
The Cardinals extended the lead in the fifth. They scored three runs. First, Dunn hit an RBI single to right center field. Then, Jake Snider singled to center, scoring Pinkham. Fitzgerald hit an RBI single to center.
Louisville hit a pair of home runs in the bottom of the seventh. First, Fitzgerald the second pitch he saw from Cody Hartness over the left field wall. Then, Binelas bombed a pitch to left-center.
The Cardinals move to 36-9 (15-6 ACC). They head north on I-65 to South Bend for a three-game set against Notre Dame this weekend. They return from their Derby road trip for a game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday, May 7th. The game will be at 7pm.
By Jason Wyrick
Photo by Jared Anderson
When you think of the best Louisville Baseball teams in program history, 2016’s team immediately comes to mind. Despite falling short to UC Santa Barbara in the Super Regional in a heartbreaking loss to end the season, that team still had, in my eyes, the greatest collection of talent that the Cards’ have ever seen.
In the 2016 draft, seven Louisville stars were drafted within the top 115 picks and three of those went in the first round. The triple-digit fastballs from Zack Burdi, the rare speed and power bat combo in the form Corey Ray and the strikeout master Drew Harrington all were generating buzz among fans interested in seeing their careers continue into professional baseball. Amidst all the star power this draft class stockpiled from UofL, one man is often overlooked. Is it fair? Not at all. Do I get it? Yes. Nick Solak never was flashy. He was never someone that made you stare stupefied at the diamond to try and understand what just happened like a Burdi or a Ray. He never was a guy that piled on stats like a Harrington. He just wasn’t the “flashy” type. At the end of the day though, that is what makes Nick Solak great.
Nick Solak never was “that guy” that anyone talked about and he flew under the radar to the casual fan. He was good, but was he really someone a professional organization would draft very high? He didn’t hit home runs or swipe bases at an alarming clip. He didn’t hit for an unbelievable average. However, to the Major League scouts that made their way to the front row in section 105 at Jim Patterson Stadium, two things about his game made him stand out.
What was Nick Solak? Well-rounded and dependable.
He held his own at second base and even thrived there in his junior season despite his injury. He stole a handful of bases when the opportunity presented itself. He drew walks, strolling to first about once every two games. He hit for a solid average, barreling up the ball consistently and knowing how to work all fields. That is what the New York Yankees saw in him when they decided to roll the dice on a kid from Illinois by way of Louisville in the second round.
He spent his first summer in pro ball with the Staten Island Yankees in 2016. It came as a complete shock to everyone in the Yankees organization, let me assure you, but he did more of the same; the same stuff that he’s always done.
After completing his first pro season with Staten Island, he returned to Louisville to finish school and to get ready for what would be his first full professional season.
He opened the 2017 campaign in advanced-A (commonly referred to as “high-A”) with the Tampa Yankees. More of the same was on the menu for his managers, hitting .301 with decent pop and consistently being solid in the field. He spent 100 games in Tampa before moving up to finish the season in New Jersey and AA ball with the Trenton Thunder.
AA ball is widely regarded as the last and most important step of development in a minor leaguer’s career, so when he was sent to Tampa Bay in a three team deal that sent Rays’ outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona and Diamondbacks’ third baseman Brandon Drury to the Bronx, it caught everyone off guard. “It was surprising getting traded when I did,” Solak Said. “[Tampa Bay]’s a fun organization to be a part of and to show up to work everyday.”
Solak was a classic bat-first prospect. He was never was going to be a plus defender at the next level, but his good athleticism and dependable bat would always get him into the lineup somewhere. With the Rays’ AA ballclub in Montgomery, he did just that. He split his 2018 between second base and left field in an attempt to make him a more versatile defender and in turn, make it easier to slot him into the lineup somewhere and compete for a spot on the big league roster during the Tampa Bay Rays’ rebuild.
Now, with AA in the rear-view mirror, he continues this development in both positions at the AAA level in Durham. “The ability to play multiple positions really helps any team you’re on… it helps a manager make a lineup that is going to help the team win.” He continued, “you just try and do everything you can each and every day to help the team you’re on win. Usually when you’re playing that way, your numbers take care of themselves and when the big league club needs you, you’re ready to perform and help them win.”
A month into AAA, he looks poised to refine his game to further plead his case for a contract purchase and eventually a call to the show. Like any developing player, he has holes in his game. However, generally speaking, at this point a prospect is who he is and the organization is still comfortable assigning him to the next level. Now, it’s all about masking that weakness and minimizing its effects on the rest of a players’ performance to show why he deserves a spot on the rebuilding team.
For a guy who was never flashy but always consistent, that challenge comes with minimal pressure. For now, Nick Solak is perfectly content enjoying his time in AAA with Durham and visiting some familiar places and faces along the way. On returning to Louisville, he said “it’s really awesome. I really loved and enjoyed my time at Louisville. I played there for three years and spent my first offseason in Louisville, so for four years it was my home… it has been a really cool experience to be back here and play here.” In calling a place home, one is bound to enjoy the important things the city has to offer, and it is no surprise that Solak didn’t waste any time returning to his favorite restaurants: Sidebar, Feast BBQ and The Eagle; and seeing those who are important to him who are still in the area, notably Louisville Baseball coach Dan McDonnell.
After this week, it will be back to the road for Solak, whose Durham Bulls are not slated to return to Louisville this season after this April series. However, the road has more stops along the way. Stops where old friends will reunite and their own paths will intersect.
Of those seven teammates drafted in 2016, five of them have now reached AAA. Kyle Funkhouser, Zack Burdi and another from 2015’s class, Josh Rogers, are all in the International League of AAA. “It’s a lot of fun keeping up with everybody and it’s also a lot fun playing against some of the guys.” He faced former Louisville and Yankees minor league teammate Josh Rogers this season already in Norfolk, and with Toledo and Charlotte plastered all over the Bulls’ schedule, he knows it is only a matter of time before he faces Burdi and Funkhouser as well. “It’s a cool opportunity, you get really close to those guys.”
Despite the friendships and the dinners after games, as professionals, it is all a part of the job description. “It’s pretty much another day at the office. You know the guy that you’re facing a little bit better and you can give a little better scouting report to the team because you’ve spent so much time watching them and playing behind them. I’m really looking forward to when Zack gets healthy and back in Charlotte and facing Funk and facing Rogers and hoping the best for them too.”
Nick Solak’s journey has taken him many places already. From growing up in Illinois and his second home in Louisville to a minor league path that has sent him to Staten Island, Tampa, New Jersey, Montgomery and now Durham, he is a well-traveled guy who is just trying to find his way as a ballplayer. As his journey continues, don’t be surprised when the guy who always flew under the radar quietly continues to make a name for himself. Sooner than later, he is going to add a third home to his collection, one that he hopes will be more than just a small stop along the way. Nick Solak fully intends to return to the Tampa Bay area and stay there, but this time on the St. Petersburg side.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals won a ‘ruff’ outing against Northern Kentucky Tuesday, 11-2.
While the score was not necessarily close, and the Cardinals never trailed; it was Bark at the Park Night at Jim Patterson Stadium. There were multiple four-legged fans present at the left-field berm throughout the game.
The Louisville nine were hardly barking. Dan McDonnell’s squad jumped out in front in the first inning, and stayed there for the rest of the game. On the mound, it was a start by committee. Luke Smith pitched three innings of scoreless baseball, followed by one inning from Shay Smiddy, one from Garrett Schmeltz, two-thirds from Jack Perkins, 1.1 from Adam Elliott, and a slew from the rest of the bullpen.
Tyler Fitzgerald notched his second triple of the season in the bottom of the first. It gave him his 28th RBI of the season- and plated Lucas Dunn.
Logan Wyatt added an insurance run in the third. He drove in Fitzgerald on an RBI single to right field; on the second pitch of the at-bat.
Northern Kentucky cut their deficit in half in the fifth. Noah Fisher reached base, made it to third on an error, and scored on a groudout from Collin Luty.
Louisville scored in their half of the fifth. Alex Binelas ripped a two-bagger to the corner in left, scoring two runs. It came after Northern opted to go to the bullpen. Binelas came home on a wild pitch.
Northern Kentucky loaded the bases in the top of the sixth. Instead of looking like the four Norsemen of the apocalypse (does anyone even read these recaps?), they scraped across only one run. Louisville’s lead was still greater than the beginning of the previous inning.
Zach Britton looped an RBI double to right in the bottom of the seventh to restore Louisville’s four-run lead. Britton went home on an error. Trey Leonard stole second, and advanced to third on an error. He ran home on a wild pitch, scoring Louisville’s ninth run. Since he completely missed the bag, the umpire was hesitant to call him safe.
Wyatt drove in Louisville’s 10th run on a sacrifice fly deep to center in the eighth. Fitzgerald scored on a wild pitch later in the inning.
Louisville moves to 25-8 (10-5 ACC). They will travel to Raleigh, for a three-game set against NC State. Game one is Friday at 6:30. Reid Detmers looks to make another tremendous start.
By Jason Wyrick
Photo by Roscelle Griffin
On a beautiful night at the ballpark, the Battle of the Bluegrass: Baseball Edition began play at a blistering pace between the Kentucky Wildcats and the #10 Cards. A favorite umpire among pitchers’ circles, Perry Costello lived up to his reputation, calling an enormous strike zone as Luke Smith took the hill for Dan McDonnell’s Cards. Smith, a junior JUCO product from Champaign, Illinois by way of Parkland College mowed down the first six batters he faced. His opposite was Mason Hazelwood, a 6-5 sophomore southpaw from Mercer County, Kentucky. Hazelwood took the hill for Nick Mingione’s Cats and also benefitted from Costello’s large zone, he himself also not allowing a baserunner until the 3rd.
The quick pace would not last, however. In the top of the 3rd, Luke Smith loaded the bases with two outs and could not quite escape unscathed. T.J. Collette blooped a single just in front of Ethan Stringer, scoring two. Smith struck out the next batter to escape the second and third jam. The damage was done, but it was limited to a mere two run deficit.
Louisville would strike back immediately in the bottom half, thanks in part to a Coltyn Kessler error allowing the speedy Drew Campbell to reach. Ethan Stringer “let a cat loose in the alley,” as radio broadcaster Sean Moth would describe, scoring Drew from first. Jake Snider would follow that up by roping a pitch off the wall in right, a mere few inches from getting out of the yard. Nonetheless, Stringer scored from second to knot the game at 2-all on a stand up triple from Snider.
Luke Smith began the top of the 4th inning with a single and a walk. His day would end there. Adam Elliott came on in relief and cleaned up the mess with relative ease, striking out two and gunning down a safety squeeze attempt at first.
In the bottom of the 4th inning, the Cards blew the doors off and would not look back. Mason Hazelwood put the first two on before being pulled in what was the first of a plethora of Cats pitching changes. Zeke Pinkham, with runners at the corners and no outs, beat the shift and took a pitch the opposite way to take the lead. After another Kentucky pitching change, the bases were loaded via the walk. Ethan Stringer wore a pitch for an RBI and Jake Snider singled to plate two more.
That would ultimately be the last time the game was close. Although Kentucky threatened in the top of the 8thloading the bases and plating one on starter-turned-long reliever Bryan Hoeing, Michael Kirian took the reins and struck out his first two faced to retire the side, limiting the damage to the lone run and keeping the lead at 8-3.
A slew of Kentucky pitchers and errors would provide ample opportunities for the Cards to score. It is expected that a top-10 team will punish mistakes and Dan McDonnell’s boys did just that, scoring seven unearned runs on three Kentucky errors while only mustering seven hits against the seven different pitchers that threw for the Cats.
My player of the game is Jake Snider, who has become the Kentucky killer in recent memory for the Cards. Jake went 2-4 with 3 runs batted in and a run scored, accounting for half of Louisville’s runs by himself. Adam Elliott got the win in relief, going two full innings and allowing no hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Bryan Hoeing went 2 1/3 innings, shutting down the Cats bats down the stretch before Michael Kirian slammed the door out of the pen.
In a game that saw 11 different pitchers in only 8 1/2 innings, the bullpen catchers do indeed deserve honorable mention in the player of the game analysis. The Battle of the Bullpens… err… Bluegrass first leg not only went to the Cards, but showed a ton of promise for the boys in red. With Alex Binelas playing valuable innings in the absence of Lucas Dunn and Bryan Hoeing excelling in his new role in relief, Louisville looks even more dangerous than it already has, and for the ACC and potential regional opponents, that should not be a fun thought to entertain.
Louisville Baseball will next be in action for a weekend ACC series at Clemson beginning Friday. The Cards will face these Kentucky Wildcats for leg two of the Battle of the Bluegrass in two weeks in Lexington.
Jason Wyrick is a contributor for River City Cards. You can follow him on social media @Steagles1.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo/Gallery by Roscelle Griffin
Rain, Rain, Rain…
The Louisville Cardinals hosted a double-header on Friday, with the threat of ominous storms on Saturday, for the third time in 2019. This time, it was against an ACC opponent, Wake Forest. Louisville swept the double-header easily, and notched their 7th and 8th ACC victories.
Game One: Detmers Shines Again
Reid Detmers is a beast. The normal Friday starting pitcher was no different in his latest installment. He surrendered six hits in 7.1 innings, but only one crossed home plate. Detmers struck out 10, and led Louisville to an easy 6-1 victory.
He was helped by two runs in the first, second, and eighth innings.
First, Danny Oriente took a second-pitch breaking ball on a ride to left center, for an RBI double that scored Logan Wyatt and Trey Leonard. Then, in the second; Tyler Fitzgerald legged out an impressive RBI triple to right, scoring Leonard and Justin Lavey.
Wake Forest drew their only run against the Louisville ace in the top of the fourth. Bobby Seymour singled up the middle, and scored Patrick Frick.
Louisville extended the lead in the bottom of the eighth. First, Henry Davis hit a single on a 3-1 count to left, and plated Lucas Dunn. Lavey drove in Davis on an RBI single to right.
The winning pitcher was Detmers, and the loser Colin Peluse (7.1 IP, 9H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K).
Game Two: Comeback attempt succeeds behind late-game heroics
Game two was tougher for the Cardinals. Wake Forest jumped out ahead early in the game, and the Cardinals were forced to come back. They did, and Dan McDonnell’s squad defeated the Deacons 10-7.
Nick Bennett is usually effective. But in game two, he allowed five runs total, and four in the top of the third. All were earned, and on six hits and three walks. He did manage to strike out five.
Michael Turconi led off the third inning with a single to left, that scored Jake Mueller. Then, Patrick Frick doubled to left-center, scoring Turconi and DJ Poteet. Bobby Seymour ended the scoring in the inning with a single up the middle.
Logan Wyatt doubled-in Louisville’s first run of the game. Jake Snider scored on the play. Then, Wyatt came home on a passed ball.
Wake added one home run on a solo-shot to center.
Justin Lavey belted a deep, 393-foot home run to left. Lavey took a no-out 1-1 pitch deep for his second home run of the season.
Then, Jared Poland hit an RBI single with two outs through the right side, and drove in Danny Oriente.
Tyler Fitzgerald gave Louisville the lead in the bottom of the seventh. With the bases loaded and no outs, the shortstop hit a massive double to left field off a 3-1 pitch, and scored Trey Leonard and Lavey. Snider hit an RBI groundout to widen the lead. Then, Danny Oriente drove home Fitzgerald on a suicide squeeze bunt.
Louisville was not finished scoring. Logan Wyatt belted a two-out, solo-shot home run to nearly the train tracks past right field.
Shane Muntz got a run back for Wake in the eighth. He looped a single into left.
Drew Campbell scored an unearned run in the bottom of the inning. He trotted home on a Henry Davis single.
With rains pouring, Wake Forest began to try a comeback attempt. They scored _ in the ninth, with two outs.
Louisville looks for the sweep, either tomorrow or Sunday. The series could conclude tomorrow afternoon- a game is still scheduled for 1pm. Since the rains are expected to pour buckets on Patterson Stadium, Sunday is still open for a potential series finale date. The games will be at 1pm either way.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo/ Gallery by Roscelle Griffin
The No. 10 Louisville Cardinals carried their momentum from Sunday’s walk-off win, and defeated the Miami Redhawks 6-1. Luke Smith gave up a few hits, but was stingy with runs. Compared with his last two starts, he pitched well. A couple of big early innings made the difference for Louisville.
Smith threw six innings, and did not allow a single earned run. The Redhawks scored one run against him. Smith allowed five hits, and two walks. He struck out two. Smith’s ERA lowered from 4.50 to 3.66.
His competition, on the other hand, managerd just two runs before being yanked. Bailey Martin allowed four runs, all earned, on two hits and four walks; with four strikeouts.
Miami scored first, in the second inning. Mackay Williams lifted a double down the line in right, and plated across an unearned run.
Louisville’s lineup wouldn’t trail for long. The Cards scored four runs in the bottom of the inning. Drew Campbell drove across Alex Binelas on an RBI groundout. Then, Justin Lavey legged out an infield single, and beat the throw from the shortstop to score Patrick Rumoro. Louisville loaded the bases, and the pitcher walked Logan Wyatt. The first baseman’s 14th RBI was arguably his easiest.
Jake Snider widened Louisville’s lead in the bottom of the fourth. He looped a single up the middle, and drove in Trey Leonard. Snider scored on a wild pitch for Louisville’s sixth run of the game.
The winning pitcher was Smith, and the loser was Martin.
The Cardinals move to 19-6 (6-3 ACC). They will host a weekend series with Wake Forest. The first game is Friday, March 29th at 6pm. Reid Detmers looks to continue his dominant season. Due to predicted rain on Saturday, there is a high likelihood there will be a double-header Friday.
Mike Gilpatrick is the senior baseball correspondent for River City Cards... MORE