7th Inning Stretch: Baseball is Back! (Week 1)

College baseball is finally back, and the Louisville Cardinals are set to open up the 2021 season at home with a three-game series against Bellarmine.
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(Photo of Louisville Players & Dan McDonnell: Matt Stone/Courier Journal, Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Following a much longer than normal offseason, college baseball has finally returned to Jim Patterson Stadium. When the Louisville baseball program begins their 2021 seaosn on Saturday, Feb. 20, it will have been 347 days since their last competitive baseball due to the majority of the 2020 season getting scraped because of COVID-19.

The Cardinals head into the new season having lost most of their starting pitching lineup in Reid Detmers & Bobby Miller, but retain almost all of their position players. This is due to the 2020 MLB Draft getting shortened by over 85%, and the NCAA allowing seniors to come back for one more year.

As a result, Louisville has arguably the deepest crop of position players that head coach Dan McDonnell has ever had, and quite possibly the deepest out of all Division I baseball. But in the same breathe, the Cards still have plenty of experience on the mound, particularly in the amongst their new starting rotation.

All that being said, it's time to dive into another season of college baseball, and take a look at Louisville's first week of the 2021 college baseball season:

News & Notes

  • Louisville is ranked as high as 2nd in the nation among the six major collegiate baseball polls (Perfect Game), and place in the top 7 in five of them.
  • Six Cards in total have been named 2021 preseason All-Americans. Out of the the major services, catcher Henry Davis has been the sole unanimous selection. Third baseman Alex Binelas, outfielder Levi Usher, right-handed pitcher Jack Perkins, Left-handed reliever Michael Kirian and utility man Jared Poland also received preseason All-American honors.
  • Louisville was once again picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. They received nine first place votes, with Miami & Virginia each securing two votes, and Florida State receiving one.
  • Junior right-hander Glenn Albanese, senior left-hander Adam Elliott and senior right-hander Luke Smith will consist of the starting rotation in that order to start the 2021 season.
  • Sophomore catcher Henry Davis, junior infielder/outfielder Lucas Dunn, senior left-handed pitcher Adam Elliott and senior right-handed pitcher Luke Smith were selected by the players and coaches to be the captains for the 2021 season.
  • Head coach Dan McDonnell enters his 15th season with the program, compiling a 618-244 record during his tenure as the Louisville skipper - the most wins of any team in the country since his hiring in 2007.
  • To begin the season, Jim Patterson Stadium will operate with a reduced capacity of 20 percent, allowing seating to be socially distanced.
  • Tickets will be offered through a combination of partial season ticket packages and free admission for select games. Ticketed events include all 18 ACC games plus rivalry games against Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
  • The season opener has been pushed back from Friday, Feb. 19 to Saturday, Feb. 20 due to inclement weather.

The Week Ahead

Coming up this week, the Cardinals will have three games to open the season - a weekend series against the Bellarmine Knights.

Home (Louisville, Ky.)

  • Saturday, Feb. 20 at 1:00pm vs. Bellarmine
    • ACC Network Extra
    • 93.9 The Ville
  • Sunday, Feb. 21 at 12:00pm vs. Bellarmine
    • ACC Network Extra
    • 93.9 The Ville
  • Sunday, Feb 21 at 3:30pm vs. Bellarmine
    • ACC Network Extra
    • 1450 WXVW

Know The Foe

Weekend

School: Bellarmine University
Nickname: Knights
Location: Louisville, Ky.
Total Enrollment: 3,331
Head Coach (school record): Larry Owens (188-146)
2020 Record (conference record): 10-4 (3-0)
All-Time Series Record: UofL leads 40-29
Team Leaders (2020):

  • Avg: Matt Higgins (.378)
  • RBI: Chris Gambert (13)
  • HR: Chris Gambert (4)
  • ERA: Five Tied (0.00)
  • Strikeouts: Brandon Pfaadt
  • Wins: Brandon Pfaadt (1)

Opponent Breakdown

Rankings (2020):

BellarmineLouisville

RPI

N/A

35th

SOS

N/A

78th

Home Record

4-1

10-1

Away Record

6-3

3-3

Neutral Record

0-0

0-0

Hitting (2020):

BellarmineLouisville

Base on Balls

182nd (56)

88th (75)

Batting Average

166th (.258)

3rd (.323)

Hits

179th (117)

5th (189)

Home Runs

98th (11)

37th (16)

On Base Percentage

189th (.350)

22nd (.407)

Runs

164th (86)

11th (146)

Slugging Percentage

102nd (.412)

9th (.508)

Pitching (2020):

BellarmineLouisville

Earned Run Average

44th (3.91)

59th (3.23)

Hits Allowed/9 Innings

84th (8.84)

63rd (7.48)

Strikeouts Per 9 Innings

60th (9.3)

7th (12.0)

Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio

39th (2.59)

15th (3.72)

WHIP

59th (1.38)

46th (1.19(

Walks Allowed/9 Innings

44th (3.60)

37th (3.23)

Bellarmine Knights

Most people might not know this, but Louisville and Bellarmine actually have a bit of a long history. The Cards and Knights have faced off 69 times, and played every year between 1972 and 1993. This time, however, will be the very first time in which Bellarmine will take on Louisville as a Division I opponent, making the jump to the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Knights have generated a fair amount of momentum prior to their DI jump, as head coach Larry Owens had guided them to three straight DII NCAA Tournament appearances (2017-19), including a program-best 38 wins in 2018 and winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament in 2019.

Bellarmine has a very experienced set of position players, as six of their eight project starters in the field will be juniors and seniors. They also have a couple standouts that can do some damage. Third baseman Josh Finerty had a hot start before the season's cancellation, as he led the team in both on base and slugging percentage at .468 and .635, respectively, and was second in batting average at .365. He also poured in two home runs, eight doubles and 10 RBIs, and was named a 2021 Preseason All-ASUN selection by Perfect Game. Outfielder Matt Higgins is one of their top true hitters, as he led the team in batting averages at .378, and was second in on base percentage at .464. As far as pure power goes, utility man Jacob Mulcahy & catcher Chris Gambert are their best options, as the duo was first and second in home runs & RBIs, combining for six & 25. However, outside of their six qualified hitters from 2020 (2 PA/G, 75% of games played), Bellarmine doesn't have a ton of production, as the Knights collectively hit just .258.

The Knights' pitching was undoubtedly their string suit a season ago, but most of that was due to starting right-hander Brandon Pfaadt. Out of Bellarmine's five pitchers with double digit innings pitched, Pfaadt was the only one with an ERA under 4.00. He posted a 1.38 ERA with 27 strikeouts to just 4 walks in 26.0 innings pitched. He became Bellarmine's 10th MLB Draft Selection, signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks after being taken in the fifth round with the 149th overall pick. Left-hander Shane Barringer (4.12 ERA, 20 Ks in 19.2 IP and 5 appearances in 2020) and right-hander Deylen Miley (4.05 ERA, 21 Ks in 20.0 IP in 4 appearances) return to the rotation, and right hander Reece Davis makes the jump from the bullpen to be the Sunday starter (6.06 ERA, 23 Ks in 16.1 IP and 5 appearances. Bellarmine's two best bullpen options are right-handers Anthony Ethington & Jacob Nagel, with Nagel not allowing a run in 8.0 innings pitched.

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