#9 Louisville Baseball 2014 Preview

Louisville Cardinals

Overall Rank: #9
Conference Rank: #1 American
#9 Louisville Baseball 2014 Preview
Louisville Team Page


Following a record year for Louisville, in which it made a return to the College World Series six years after its first appearance and won a program-record 51 games, the Cardinals are riding high, looking to stay on the national stage and make a third CWS appearance. Head coach Dan McDonnell has to go into 2014 with a deck of cards that are not-so-favorable, as he needs to replace some of the top talent from the record-setting season. However, with its one season in the American, competition won’t be too fierce and should help the Cards.

2013: 51-14, 20-4
2013 Postseason: CWS
Coach: Dan McDonnell

Field Players:
The number of losses from last season outweighs the number of returners. However, those returning bring high-quality to the field. The team’s top two hitters from 2013, Cole Sturgeon and Jeff Gardner return for Louisville. They hit .339 and .337 respectively a season-ago. Sturgeon posted a .420 on-base percentage, second-best on the team while driving in 33 runs, which led to a third team All-Big East selection. Gardner, a senior, had an impressive junior season as he posted a .632 slugging percentage, which easily led his squad. The outfielder/center smacked a team-high nine home runs and drove in 43 plus led his teammates with 15 doubles, all which led to a first team All-Big East selection and a spot on the Regional All-Tournament Team.  The Cardinals will see a drop off in terms of returners following the return of its top two hitters as the third, fourth; sixth, seventh and eighth best hitters in terms of average have departed. The fifth best hitter, Sutton Whiting, from last season does return. The junior posted a .308 average with 30 RBIs, 41 runs scored and 24 stolen bases, which got him a second team All-Big East selection.

On the mound is where Louisville is hurting as it has to replace all three of its best pitchers, all which were leaders in starts. However, the back end of the bullpen sees the return of its closer, who was also a first team All-America selection. Nick Burdi grabbed 16 saves with a 0.76 earned run average with 62 strikeouts. The junior also was named second team All-American and was selected to the All-Big East First Team. His saves ranked 11th nationally and he earned the second highest save total in school history. Coach McDonnell will be leaning on some returners who posted impressive stats in limited action in 2013 to fill in the losses. Some of those pitchers include Anthony Kidston, who had a 5-0 record with 1.31 ERA in 48 innings worked and Kyle Funkhouser, who had a 2.14 ERA in 54.2 innings worked. He also struck out 55 while posting a 5-1 record.

Who to Watch:
Burdi is considered one of the top prospects for this year’s Major League Baseball Draft. The Illinois native has reached 100 miles per hour previously, which makes him attractive, along with his impressive stats. His potential is unlimited and he could be better than last season. Teams trailing at end of the games by three or less runs may have their thoughts of a comeback dashed as Burdi takes the mound.   

Final Projection:
Competition in the American Athletic Conference will not be strong and should allow Louisville to have another impressive year in conference before moving to the ACC next year. The taste of the CWS last year was pretty good and the Cardinals want to continue tasting that. However, the loss of the top pitchers is a tough one and will likely be what hurts Louisville from reaching Omaha again. A run into the Super Regional round is likely and still equates to a quality year.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Cole Sturgeon, OF/P, 221
Hits: Cole Sturgeon, OF/P, 75
Home Runs: Jeff Gardner, OF, 9
RBIs: Jeff Gardner, OF, 43
Runs: Sutton Whiting, IF, 41
Stolen Bases: Sutton Whiting, IF, 24

Wins: Anthony Kidston, IF/P, 5; Kyle Funkhouser, P, 5
Innings Pitched: Kyle Funkhouser, P, 54.2
Strikeouts: Nick Burdi, P, 62
Saves: Nick Burdi, P, 16

Madness 2014 MLB Draft Rankings:
#31 Nick Burdi


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