Sun. May 26th, 2019

Three takeaways from baseball’s season opening games

Sophomore Lucan Dunn at the plate.

By Matt Bradshaw —

Baseball has started its season with a 5-2 record. Louisville lost two of three against No. 20 UConn before returning home and winning four straight games.

While obviously too early to make any lasting predictions, it’s fun to see how the Cardinals shape up early in the year. Here are three takeaways from baseball’s season opening games.

Dunn rises to key role

Two key players were lost to the MLB draft among last year’s starters: Josh Stowers and Devin Mann. Both were key contributors at the plate and left holes at centerfield and second base, respectively.

Head coach Dan McDonnell mentioned several players in the running to succeed Mann as the season drew closer. So far, sophomore Lucas Dunn has distinguished himself as a solid replacement.

Dunn started 11 games as a freshman and continued raising his stock leading up to the 2019 season.

“All spring training, Lucas was really good with his eye,” McDonnell said. “He got on base a lot.”

Seven games in, Dunn has started every game at second base. He’s now batting in the leadoff position with a .375 average and .500 on-base percentage.

“It’s early, and we’re going to try some different guys at different spots and see if they get comfortable,” McDonnell said. “Hopefully it works out.”

Fitzgerald and Wyatt clean up the bases

As sophomores in 2018, Tyler Fitzgerald and Logan Wyatt grew into important roles. Shortstop Fitzgerald became the leadoff man and first baseman Wyatt the clean-up hitter.

Both players started the same places in this year’s season opener, though changes have been made since then. Fitzgerald now bats third, right before Wyatt, as the shortstop leads the team with 10 RBIs.

“Fitz looks really locked in, so let’s try him in the three hole,” McDonnell said. “We have to get the right pieces around Wyatt. We have to make sure we’ve got some consistency in the lineup.”

Wyatt looks to be picking up where he left off last year. The junior is batting .435 with a .696 slugging percentage, eight RBIs and a home run.

Bullpen providing solid work

With 11 pitchers returning from 2018, alongside seven incoming freshman, McDonnell was confident about his bullpen as the season began.

“You can never have enough pitchers,” McDonnell said. “We don’t want to get comfortable, but I feel really good about the options we have on the mound.”

Overall, the bullpen has combined for a 2.25 ERA after seven games. Senior Bryan Hoeing, juniors Nick Bennett and Luke Smith, sophomore Reid Detmers and freshman Jared Poland each have wins on the mound.

Detmers has stepped into the important role of Friday night starter. He and freshman Jack Perkins nearly combined for a no-hitter against Brown last week.

“We’ve seen flashes of it last year,” McDonnell said of Detmers. “He was dominant in fall and spring training. It’s why he’s throwing on Friday’s.”

Also distinguishing himself is Smith, who transferred to Louisville from Parkland College this year. The junior throws with versatility as a starter and reliever.

“He’s aggressive. He’s efficient,” McDonnell said of Smith. “He’s easy to play behind. The one thing we know about Luke is that he’s going to compete.”

As tougher opponents approach later in the season, McDonnell will need his pitching staff to stay sharp and consistent against more talented bats.

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

Photos by Matt Bradshaw / The Louisville Cardinal

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