U of L baseball: Top newcomers

The start of baseball season is just a day away and the University of Louisville team has a lofty preseason ranking with some experience back from the College World Series team. But there will be a few newcomers who play key roles with the Cardinals. Cardinal Authority takes a look at the top newcomers on the roster:

1. Drew Harrington, Central Hardin High School, P: The Kentucky Mr. Baseball and Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, Harrington went 10-1 with a 0.26 ERA and 126 strikeouts last season. The lefty has a bulldog mentality and really competes on the mound. U of L coach Dan McDonnell said "he's going to get the ball flipped to him." Harrington is expected to work himself into the pitching mix. He also hit .465 with three home runs and 50 RBI as a first baseman in high school.

2. Will Smith, Kentucky Country Day, Utility: Two-time All-State performer and Seventh Region Player of the Year last season in Kentucky, Smith could play multiple positions. McDonnell said Smith could play seven of the nine positions on the field, including catcher. He's very versatile and very mature for his age with McDonnell saying he's "kind of that Ryan Wright mentality of punch the clock as a freshman; he just doesn't act or look like a freshman."

3. Grant Kay, Iowa Western Community College, DH: U of L lost three JUCO players from last season - Coco Johnson, Nick Ratajdkez and Matt Helms - but McDonnell said Kay is a "combination of all three of them." After helping Iowa Western to a national title in 2012, Kay was limited with injuries last season but he's very offensive-minded and can play several positions. McDonnell said he's U of L's "swing guy" early on in the season.

4. Jake Sparger, Eau Claire, Wis., P: The No. 1 player from Wisconsin and a Rawlings All-American, Sparger is the right-handed freshman who will get a shot early in his career. He had a consistent fall and pounds the strike zone as a youngster. In four years on the varsity level in high school, Sparger was 20-4 with a 1.22 ERA and 194 strikeouts.

5. Corey Ray, Chicago, Ill., OF: A speedy, athletic freshman with a ton of potential. He was selected in the 33rd round of the June Amateur Draft but opted to come to college. Ray was ranked as the No. 4 player in Illinois and a top 200 prospect overall last season in high school. McDonnell called him "one of those super talented kids."

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