#22 Louisville Baseball Preview

Louisville Cardinals

Overall Rank: #22
Conference Rank: #1 Big East
Louisville College Baseball Top 44 Team Preview
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The Cardinals have been putting together a great run in the last few seasons. They have earned the right to call themselves conference champions in three of the past four seasons, and have reached the NCAA regional in five of the past six seasons. This season they return many key players and will be looking to build on past successes.

2012: 41-22, 18-9
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach:  Dan McDonnell

Field Players:
The Cardinals lineup will be paced by a pair of outfielders, who were Second Team Big East players a season ago. Adam Engle, a junior, had an impressive 2012 campaign playing in 51 games and hitting .308. He collected 73 bases, drove in 18 runs, and grooved one homerun. Although he didn’t flash much power he was able to get on base with regularity. Once on base he creates havoc, swiping a team high 37 bases on 39 attempts. His excellent speed is not only valuable on the base paths, but also critical in defense, giving him great range. He can track down any ball hit and haul it in. He also can use his speed to cut runners off and hold them on base.  Fellow outfielder and junior, Cole Sturgeon also had a great sophomore season. He hit .321 and started in 62 games. He drove in 45 runs, knocked one ball out of the park, and collected five triples. He was a perfect eight for eight in stolen bases and had a great on base percentage (.400).  He has seen time on the mound the past two seasons, and improved each season. This year, these outfielders will be once again be relied upon to pace this lineup for the Cardinals. Both being juniors this season, the Cardinals are hoping that they will be able to increase their power numbers, which could make this lineup extremely potent. Helping to ensure this offense is potent is second baseman Nick Ratajczak. He hit .343 a year ago and drove in 25 runs. He does a great job getting on base, helping to set the table for the big bats.

The staff will turn to their ace, Jared Ruxer to guide them to another Big East title. The Big East Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-American, impressed everyone last season. He compiled an 8-3 overall record in 14 starts. He had an outstanding ERA of just 3.38 in his 77.1 innings of work. He does not over power hitters, striking out just 32 batters last year, but relies on pinpoint accuracy to get batters out. He walked just 15 batters all season and held opponents to a weak .262 batting average.  Last season Matt Koch closed the door four times and had a solid 3.41 ERA. He has a dominate arm and was able to ring up 30 opposing hitters in just 32.1 innings of work. That type of live arm usually fits the profile of a closer, and with Derek Self graduated, Koch may step into that all important closer role.

Who to Watch:
Junior infielder Ty Young was probably the best hitter on the team last season and walked away with third team All Big East honors. He brings a new definition to the term Louisville slugger. Pacing the Cardinals lineup last season, he owned a team high .344 average. He swatted six homeruns, drove in 42 runs, and had 97 total bases. His on base percentage was an off the charts .467. He is truly the catalyst to this lineup and will have a tremendous season, especially if outfielders Adam Engle and Cole Strugeon are able to get on in front of him. He not only has a bright future at Louisville but also at the Major League level. Ty Young is certainly a player to watch closely as he tries to guide the Cardinals to another conference title.

Final Projection:
Returning 21 players from last season’s roster and as the team that won the Big East, there is no reason to believe Louisville will not win their second straight Big East title. This is a dangerous squad that has everything you look for in a national contender. They have star power, depth, experience, up and comers, and a fantastic coach guiding them all the way. This team has been in this position before, and will not get caught up in the pressure and should excel with the target on their back and the spotlight on. Expect this team to make a run in the postseason tournament.  

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Nick Ratajczak, IF, 245
Hits: Nick Ratajczak, IF, 84
Home Runs: Ty Young, IF, 6
RBIs: Cole Sturgeon, OF, 45
Runs: Nick Ratajczak, IF, 64
Stolen Bases: Adam Engle, OF, 37

Wins: Jeff Thompson, RHP, 9
Innings: Jeff Thompson, RHP, 78.2
Strikeouts: Jeff Thompson, RHP, 73
Saves:  Matt Koch, RHP, 4


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