By Jason Wyrick
Photo by Gary Wolf
It is no surprise that being a professional two-way player is tough. Not only is it a grind to reach the high levels of play of a position player or a pitcher, these guys have to do it twice. Oh, did I mention how grueling that work regimen is to be a good hitter and pitcher? How taxing that is on their bodies? Consider this my declaration of the obvious: it is next to impossible.
It is indubitably difficult to overstate how challenging such an endeavor really is. I could go on and on just trying to explain it, but I won’t. What I will do, though, is help you understand for yourself.
First, please bear with me. I will get to Brendan in due time, but it is important to understand what process he is undertaking first.
I want you to think of all the players you have ever heard of playing two ways in the big leagues. I’m talking guys that play a position or DH in their off days pitching, not pitchers who rake (sorry Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard) or hitters who routinely will take the mound in relief. Take a moment to think. I’ll wait.
I am sure most of you came up with two names in particular: Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani. Quite frankly, those two are the only ones to do it regularly and at a superstar level in the history of the league. Sure, there have been a few other failed two-way experiments here and there. A guy will try it to give himself versatility to a ball club, maybe he was afforded an opportunity to pitch in a pinch and actually did well or maybe he was even a pitcher who hit the ball so well he was asked to hit even on days he wasn’t pitching. But it’s rare.
Off the top of my head, I can think of only three or four guys who actually tried playing two ways at the professional level, let alone the Major League level. Outside Ohtani, none of them exactly did it well.
Christian Bethancourt is a prime example. He was a catcher/reliever who spent time with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres before leaving the US and signing in the KBO League in Korea. In his Major League career, Bethancourt hit for a .222 average and threw for a 10.13 ERA. These are not exactly stellar numbers for either and that in itself is why he tried playing two-ways to begin with: to give himself maximum versatility in a game where he could and would be sent down if he didn’t perform.
Matt Davidson has a significantly smaller body of work in the bigs. While with the Chicago White Sox in 2018, the third baseman asked to pitch when the bullpen was depleted and the Sox were not contending to win the game. He came in and pitched the 9th inning without surrendering a run. This made him confident that he could actually play both ways, so he picked up pitching full time. He would go on to throw three full innings in the Majors in 2018, not allowing a single earned run. However, with a .228 average in 2018, he opened 2019 in AAA with the Texas Rangers organization. He is another example of a guy who tried it because his other options weren’t panning out as well as planned.
Enter Brendan McKay.
You know his name already, so he needs no introduction.
Here is one anyway.
Brendan McKay is more than just a guy who appeared on a baseball card with me. Wait, is that not how this works?
All joking aside, Brendan is the best athlete to ever suit up for the Louisville Cardinals.
Before you jump down my throat with “but what about” responses of Teddy B, Lamar, Asia Durr, Donovan, Kelsi Worrell, Johnny U, Mallory Comerford and others, hear me out.
Brendan was the ace of the Louisville pitching staff for two seasons. This is a staff that in that time produced five starters and five relievers who were all drafted – seven of those 10 in the top 10 rounds and all in the top 17 of the 40 round draft.
He also bat cleanup as the DH or at first base for even longer in a lineup that produced 12 draft picks over that time.
Brendan was the first player to win the John Olerud Award for two-way college players more than once. Not satisfied with that, he went out and won it a third time too, one for each year he played at Louisville. Oh, and he won the Dick Howser Trophy for college player of the year and the Golden Spikes Award for amateur player of the year too. Brendan was in a star-studded Louisville dugout and still managed to shine the brightest as both a pitcher and a hitter.
He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 and since the end of the Louisville run in the 2017 College World Series, has been playing two-ways in the Rays’ organization.
For the entirety of his professional career, the Rays organization has been developing him as a two-way player. That is what sets him apart from guys like Matt Davidson and Christian Bethancourt who picked up pitching when they were already there.
He opened his career with the Hudson Valley Renegades, a short season team who plays the back half of the summer and is mainly comprised of drafted rookies who just finished their final seasons of amateur baseball. He hit a solid .232 in his 36 games there, but he pitched to a 1.80 ERA in six starts.
He opened 2018 with Class A Bowling Green and lasted all of a month hitting .254 and allowing a 1.09 ERA before being promoted to Advanced A Charlotte. Playing for the Stone Crabs, Brendan hit .210 and had a 3.21 ERA before a lingering oblique issue cost him a month in the middle of the summer and also ended his season prematurely in August.
It wasn’t the full opening season he or the Rays were hoping for, but his numbers still spoke what baseball circles already knew very well: Brendan McKay is good at baseball.
After taking the offseason to get healthy again, he opened 2019 with the AA Montgomery Biscuits. The organization decided to end his career playing first base, limiting his hitting to DH duties only beginning this season in what was the first domino to fall in the story of Brendan’s rise through the minor league ranks.
From the outset, his pitching has far surpassed his hitting. This isn’t to say he was ever a bad hitter at all, he held his own just fine for the most part. What this does not say about his hitting it does say about his pitching: he is dominant, unhittable, masterful, filthy. Pick a superlative, any will work.
That trend has been epitomized this season in Montgomery. He slashed a measly .167/.256/.192 at the plate, but on the mound, he was better than ever. He held hitters to a .172 average and kept a 1.30 ERA through eight starts. This was easily enough to show he was overmatching hitters at the level and, if it was not painfully obvious at the other three levels, it sure was in AA: the Rays wanted to hold him down so that his bat could progress to its own level high enough to warrant a promotion. However, at some point, an organization must acknowledge that it is wasting a pitcher’s bullets at a level by holding them down. This is true for both pitchers who are blocked at the next level by other pitchers or in Brendan’s case by waiting to develop his bat. For Brendan McKay and the Rays, that moment came yesterday. Of course his bat was lagging behind, but when you have a guy dealing at the level that he has this season, that player will force the organization’s hand.
Forcing the Rays’ hand is exactly what he did. He was promoted to the AAA Durham Bulls last Thursday night despite his bat woes. Brendan’s pitching has carried him this far and there is no reason to doubt that he will continue to bring the lights-out stuff that made him a star at Louisville, draft day and every level of the minors that he has been through to this point. He will be in the rotation in AAA, and this will be a true test for him. AAA is comprised of two types of players: prospects on their way to the Majors and former big leaguers making their way back. He is going to face multiple hitters in every start that have been to the Show and know how to attack pitchers. He will probably get some opportunities to DH still because the Rays still want him to find his way as a hitter, let me be perfectly clear. The two-way experiment and development of Brendan McKay is not over and there is no reason to believe it will be anytime soon. However, when one of the two skill sets is so vastly superior to the other, an organization has to make a decision on the importance of the development of the secondary skill.
Thankfully for Brendan and the Rays, it is much easier to find your way as a hitter than as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Limiting him to a designated hitter role in his pitching off days has also streamlined his development as a hitter, so this decision to promote him to Durham undeterred by his bat vicissitudes was made easier in that respect.
Despite being a truly unique player being developed two ways, McKay’s situation is not much different than that of many other minor leaguers being promoted with holes in their games. Position players and relievers regularly get promoted with a deficiency that is simply overshadowed by how good they are in another aspect of the game. For example, a defensive specialist that has issues hitting, a slugger that is a liability in the field or a reliever that throws triple digits but has problems with command all come to mind. They regularly get thrown into the fire, organization and player knowing full well that the prospect’s plus tools have bought them plenty of time to figure it out everywhere else.
Starting pitchers, however, are developed differently. They generally have the most complete and refined game by the time they make it to the big leagues, and Brendan has shown that he has mastered the AA level with flying colors as a starter on the hill. Think about him this way: he has done the hard part (pitching) well. Now, as a designated hitter only, he is like any other prospect still finding their way at the plate, except he isn’t just a defensive specialist. He is well on his way to cementing his future as a future Major League ace.
Even with his bat lagging behind, this promotion does not necessarily signal an inevitable end to his two-way development in the future. His pitching prowess was simply too great to waste in Montgomery anymore. His plus-plus pitching is set to face another new challenge in Durham at the AAA level. AA is the last real development stage in a minor leaguer’s stops, whereas AAA is the closest test to Major League readiness. Even being thrown into the fire to figure it out and find his way as a hitter, if he can continue this blistering pace and meteoric rise in the rotation, he will find himself in Tampa Bay sooner rather than later, suiting up for Kevin Cash’s Rays. In the meantime however, he will take his talents to the AAA mound, his first start coming tomorrow night in Durham against the Louisville Bats.
Jason Wyrick is a co-owner and contributor to River City Cards. He can be followed on Twitter @Steagles1.
RCC would also like to thank Gary Wolf for his photo contribution to our site.
--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.
Mike Gilpatrick is the senior baseball correspondent for River City Cards... MORE