Ty Young is Louisville's top hitter again

University of Louisville junior third baseman Ty Young wasn't in the starting lineup at the beginning of last season but he's been the Cardinals' top hitter for two years. Young has a .400 average heading into Tuesday night's game at Kentucky.

University of Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell believes Ty Young will eventually make it in professional baseball as a second baseman.

But that's not where Young plays at U of L.

A junior from Coatesville, Pa., Young was locked in a battle with junior-college transfer Nick Ratajczak prior to last season for the starting position at second base. Young lost the battle and wasn't in the starting lineup on opening day.

"It was tough and I was very disappointed," Young recalls. "But I think the biggest thing for me is that I never lost focus."

Young lost that job but has been U of L's top hitter for two years now, finding his way into the lineup at third base and becoming an All-Big East performer.

"Ty lost the battle and we probably had visions of his freshman year when he struggled," McDonnell said. "He didn't start the first couple of games. But as soon as he started playing every day, we saw the consistency and the swing.

"He has the ability to do everything in the middle of our lineup. He has the versatility to bunt and he can steal bases. He's just so consistent."

As a junior, Young has started all 35 games for the Cardinals. He's only had five games without a hit and has 15 multiple-hit games.

Young is batting .400 with five triples, three home runs and 39 RBIs with a .600 slugging percentage in all games. He's hitting .429 in Big East games.

"It's weird sometimes you know if you are going to get a hit or not before you step into the box," Young said. "Sometimes you just feel extremely focused up there and that's how it's been for me."

But it's not always been that way for Young.

After hitting .509 and being named a three-time All-League and All-Area performer as a senior at Malvern Prep, Young struggled as a freshman. He hit just .209 with 15 RBIs in 52 games for the Cardinals two years ago.

"He had a really good spring training his freshman year and showed he had a lot of ability," McDonnell said. "But it's really hard when the season starts. You get thrown to the fire and have to grow up quickly in college baseball."

Young said his freshman year was "very tough" and said he never "really figured it out until last year," after making the transition into college baseball.

And that's when he battled with Ratajczak to start at second.

"I figured we were pretty even but in the end his defense won out," Young said. "He's a great defender out there and a great hitter in the two hole."

Young didn't last on the bench long. After a pinch hit RBI in the opener against Minnesota, Young started the third game at third base and went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs scored in a win over Michigan State.

"It just kind of took off from there," Young said. "Once I got the chance, I just had to take it from there. To be honest with you, it wasn't that much of a transition.

"I played some third my freshman year and coming into college I was a shortstop, so it's just as long of a throw. The biggest adjustment were double-play turns to second and having the ball come at you pretty hard at the hot corner."

McDonnell said while Young would likely go back to second once he gets to the professional ranks that he's been a solid player for the Cardinals at third.

"It's been fun to see him mature and grow as a player," McDonnell said. "He's played out of position for two years, so as a coach that's satisfying to see."

As a sophomore, Young led the team at .344 and had 62 hits in 180 at-bats on the season. He also had six home runs, 42 RBIs and a .539 slugging percentage.

Young has picked up where he left off this season. He was named Big East Player of the Week on April 1 after going 8 of 14 the previous week. He had 5 RBIs on March 28 against Notre Dame and four last Saturday against Elon.

"My freshman year, when I struggled it was because I didn't have the right mind set going to the plate," Young said. "I have pretty much same swing. I just go up with different mind set now. I come up now with a lot more focus."

Young hopes to keep his hot streak going this week. The Cardinals (28-7) will play at Kentucky on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before a three-game series beginning on Friday night at St. John's.

"I am excited," Young said. "This is the best team I have played on my whole life. We have a chance to do some special things."

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