As the team prepared for the season-opener against Indiana in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Florida, U of L head coach Dan McDonnell had yet to settle on a starting shortstop. As the team was going through pre-game stretching, McDonnell made his pick, selecting Sutton Whiting to fill the opening.
"It was just blessed to get the opportunity from Coach," said Whiting. "I remember I was out stretching the day of the game and we still didn't know who was going to start. [Coach McDonnell] looked at me and said, "have fun." I looked up at him and was like, so what's the lineup and he told me that I was at short. After that, I was so happy and then the nerves started kicking in."
Eight games later, Whiting has become one of the teams top performers. The sophomore is one of five players to start all eight games and his .522 batting average is second on the team. His 12 hits and 9 RBI's tops the Cards, as does his .739 slugging percentage and .600 on base percentage.
"I'm seeing the ball real well at the plate right now," he told Cardinal Authority. "I'm trying to make the most of my opportunity and staying hungry."
Whiting, the younger brother of former Cardinal outfielder Boomer Whiting, is also a key figure in the Cardinals running game, notching 4 steals on the young season.
Led by junior Adam Engel's 12 stolen bases, the Cardinals have swiped an astonishing 39 bases on the season, an average of 4.9 thefts per outing. To give the U of L base stealing rate a comparison, Dayton, 2012's NCAA national leader, averaged 2.7 stolen bases a game.
"It all started in our speed training," said Whiting. "It was so competitive with all the guys and we just make each other better. It's hard to stop. Now we don't have to give up an out to move a guy over, because he could steal at any time and in any situation. That's why it's such a big threat for us. Even our power guys can steal bags."
Juniors Coco Johnson and Ty Young are second on the team with 7 stolen bases, while a total of nine different players have recorded at least one stolen base.
"Coach Mac loves to run," Whiting explained. "It puts so much pressure on teams. The pitchers aren't able to focus only on the hitters because they are worried about any guy in our lineup stealing a bag. It gets in the pitchers head."
Louisville welcomes 2012 College World Series participant Kent State to Jim Patterson Stadium for a weekend series, with the series opener on Friday at 3:00 p.m. Admission is free.