louisville baseball looks to build on strong 2017
By Mike Gilpatrick
February 15th, 2018
February 15th, 2018
Spring is almost here. Major League Baseball teams have reported to Spring Training, and College Baseball will begin playing real games.
For the Louisville Cardinals, their season opens Friday, in Charleston, South Carolina. For the first time since June, Louisville baseball will play a real, live opponent. The Cards open against Richmond in the Charleston Crab House Challenge. They'll also play Dan McDonnell's alma mater, The Citadel, and George Mason.
The Crab House Challenge kicks off a slate of 56 regular-season games, not including the ACC championship or NCAA tournament. Louisville has won more than 50 games the past two seasons, and the ACC Atlantic Division the past three.
This year will be different, They're picked to finish second in their division, behind the Florida State Seminoles. In the USA Today Coaches poll, Louisville is the third highest-ranked squad, behind No. 5 Florida State and No. 7 North Carolina. The Cards are 13th.
It's a new look team for 2018. The Cards return only two consistent starters to the lineup: Second-baseman Devin Mann and Center Fielder Josh Stowers. Shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald also returns, after making 36 starts last season.
McDonnell's lineup by position lists Pat Rumoro or Zach Britton behind the plate, Logan Wyatt at first, Mann at second, Fitzgerald at short, Justin Lavey at third, Stowers, Ethan Stringer and Drew Campbell patrolling the outfield, and either Danny Oriente or Jake Snider DHing.
Three Juniors, Six Sophomores, and two freshman make up McDonnell's lineup. The rotation is comprised of all juniors: Adam Wolf, Riley Thompson, and transfer Liam Jenkins. Wolf is the most experienced, appearing in 39 career games, all in relief. McDonnell hopes Wolf will follow in the footsteps of former standout and current Rays prospect Brendan McKay. Wolf has went 6-0, with a 2.18 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 41.1 innings. Thompson, the Saturday starter, has gone 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched. Jenkins went 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA in junior college. A Wednesday starter hasn't been listed.
The Bullpen is captained by Sam Bordner, a second-team preseason all-american, and a member of the 2018 Stopper of the Year watchlist. Border takes over closing duties from Lincoln Henzman. Border has a 0.41 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched. Rounding out the 'pen is graduate transfer Austin Conway, former starter Nick Bennett, and Bryan Hoeing.
It remains to be seen if this team can make it back to Omaha. The rotation is comprised of new faces. The lineup is young. They won't ride experience like 2017. It will have to be from skill, and coaching.
This team will be ready. McDonnell isn't fourth nationally in winning percentage among active coaches, and Baseball America's 2017 coach of the year for nothing.
They're also playing to honor one of their own, Todd Esser. Esser was a Louisville baseball super-fan, and went to most games and practices. He was "as close to our program as you could be without getting paid," as McDonnell put it. The Louisville Cardinals feature his name, Todd, on the left side of their hats.
Louisville looks to honor Todd Esser, and make it back to Omaha for the fifth time since 2007. They open the season tomorrow at noon, against Richmond. The game can be heard on 93.9 FM. The Cardinals will play their first game in Patterson Stadium Wednesday, February 21st, at 3pm, against Eastern Kentucky.
Spring is almost here, and baseball is back.