University of Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell has a stellar freshman class with several options for him to get guys on the field.
Earlier in the season, Colin Lyman, Will Smith and Logan Taylor were guy who had key at-bats and time in the field for the Cardinals, while Corey Ray is another newcomer who has adjusted well and is putting up good numbers.
But in the past two weeks, it's been freshman infielder Nick Solak who has been tearing it up for the Cardinals.
The native of Woodridge, Ill., has the hottest bat on the team heading into the NCAA Tournament this weekend. Solak has hit safely in six consecutive games, batting 13-for-21 during that time – all starts for Solak.
"He's been a total stud," senior left-fielder Jeff Gardner said.
Added McDonnell: "It's been a good time for Nick. It was Colin and Will and Logan Taylor earlier in the season and now it's his turn. It's hard for freshmen to sustain it for such a long season, but we have some good ones.
"He's very mature and seems very on top of it. He's focused."
Solak has at least two hits in the last six outings, including a 3-for-3 performance during the Houston loss in the AAC Tournament championship game. He has a total of eight RBIs in those games.
In four AAC Tournament games, Solak was 9-for-13 (.692) with six RBIs, five runs scored and two stolen bases.
"I was just trying to see the ball and not try to do too much," Solak said. "I was just trying to stay relaxed and trust it and I had a good weekend."
Solak had played in 34 games but had just 13 starts prior to the final regular-season series of the season when he got the nod against Cincinnati. He finished 2-for-5 with two runs scored in the second-to-last regular-season game and then went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the finale to get things going.
"It can be tough as a freshman but it's just a different kind of feeling," Solak said. "You just have to make the most of the opportunities you are given. I am just trying to make the most of it right now."
Solak, who is batting .360 now for the season, has 27 hits in 75 at-bats and has 17 RBIs, while scoring 27 runs on the season.
"As far as swinging it and stuff, I have kept with it all year," Solak said. "I keep sharp every day and just had to stay ready. I've grown a lot mentally from just the whole season and watching the older guys. I've really learned a lot.
"You have to be mentally prepared each and every day."
Solak was prepared and delivered in the AAC with McDonnell noting his numbers were "worthy of being the MVP" of the event.
"I'm from Chicago, so I played hockey growing up," Solak said, "Pretty much my entire life, but now I love baseball and just competing. The rush of coming out here and playing this game, it's just so much fun to me."
Solak said he hopes it will still be his turn this weekend when the Cardinals host the NCAA Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium. The first game is slated for Friday night at 6 o'clock against Kent State.
"I'm ready," he said with a smile. "I'm always ready but we have so many good players out here competing, it's a good competition within the team and it makes everyone else that much better. It's a lot of fun."