By Derek Brightwell–
The start of the 2015 season for the Louisville Cardinal baseball team has been a rough one. Cold weather at home has caused three games to be postponed, and lead to three double-headers in the first month of the season. While traveling, the Cards have only managed a .500 winning percentage on neutral sites. Heading into their first ACC series, the Cards sit at 10-5; that record isn’t terrible, but for a team with aspirations of a third straight College World Series appearance, it’s far from where they want to be.
The team has pitched well, with sophomore Drew Harrington and freshmen Brendan McKay standing out early in their careers. Harrington has posted a 2-0 record and a .66 ERA in his five games. He’s also struck out 20 batters in only 13.2 innings pitched. Harrington was projected to be a weekday starter at the beginning of the season, but still hasn’t started a game so far. McKay has yet to allow a run this year and has an impressive 17 strikeouts in nine innings pitched. He’s also posted three saves.
McKay has also had an impact in the line-up. So far, he has a .529 average with nine hits and four RBIs. In the series clinching victory over Xavier, he had a breakout performance, going 3-4 and driving in a run as well as getting the save. The hot start has earned the young player praise from coaches and fellow pitchers.
Ace junior Kyle Funkhouser has continued to put up impressive numbers, but it hasn’t translated to wins, as he is 1-2 on the year. His individual performances have been stellar, as he has a 1.93 ERA and 26 strikeouts in three games and 18.2 innings. Lack of run support, and defensive woes has plagued his early games, as five of the four runs he’s allowed have been unearned and the Cards have only scored a combined three runs in his two losses.
Anthony Kidston and Josh Rogers started the season in a bit of a slump, but looked good in their games against Xavier. Rogers, who entered the game with a 15.95 ERA, pitched 6.2 shutout innings and recorded nine strikeouts in route to his first win of the year. Kidston set a personal best with 10 strikeouts in his 5.2 innings against the Musketeers, allowing three runs, but left with a no decision.
For offense, freshman Devin Hairston has started off strong. He has recorded an RBI in every game he’s started, with 11 in only 10 games played. Sophomore Corey Ray has built off a good finish from last year and has already hit two home runs in the young year. Combined with the strong play from McKay, the Cards have a good-looking young nucleus.
As the lead off batter, senior captain Sutton Whiting has been impressive, hitting .390 and also drawing 13 walks to bring his on base percentage to .554. Once he gets on base, he’s been electric with seven stolen bases.
Zach Lucas, the other captain, has had a tough beginning of the season. He hasn’t been hitting well: his .200 batting average puts him right at the dreaded “Mendoza Line”. In addition, only a third of his plate appearances have landed him on base. If the Cards hope to make it back to Omaha, they’ll need for him to get out of the slump.
Defense has been a point of concern this season for the Cards. Already, they’ve committed 22 errors. Shortstop Sutton Whiting has committed the most, with eight. On three separate occasions, they have committed at least three errors in a game.
This season, the Cards have been plagued by slow starts. In the first inning of games, they have been outscored nine runs to one. However, they have managed to close out games strong, In the seventh and eighth innings, they have combined to outscore opponents 29-5. All in all, Dan McDonnell’s squad has outscored opponents 66-46.