Louisville Baseball: Preseason Notebook

The start of the 2015 season is less than a month away for the nationally-ranked Cardinals.

Less than a month

The 2015 baseball season will be underway in less than a month. Ranked No.12 in Collegiate Baseball newspaper preseason poll, the Cardinals open their season on Jan. 13 in the three-day Clearwater Tournament. Louisville will face Alabama State (Feb. 13), South Florida (Feb. 14) and No. 17 Cal State Fullerton (Feb. 15) at Bright House Field.

The players are currently participating in individual instruction, with full team practice slated to begin on Friday, Jan. 23.

Did You Know?

The University of Louisville baseball program was making strides, but had never come close to fully experiencing the unique college baseball postseason experience. That was until Dan McDonnell was introduced as the program's 18th head coach in June 2007.

The Cardinals made the school's first-ever trip to Omaha for the College World Series in McDonnell's first season as skipper. Returning back to the present day, the U of L program is now among the nation's elite and is striving for a third consecutive trip to college baseball's largest stage.

So, here's the did you know. On Aug. 25, 2012, McDonnell challenged his program and players to make it to Omaha for three consecutive seasons. With back-to-back trips in 2013 and 2014 under their belts, the realization of accomplishing that challenge becomes an amazing and real possibility.

Stay tuned...

Starting Rotation

While the Cardinals did lose a number key contributors from last season's College World Series team, the bulk of the starting pitching is back for U of L pitching coach Roger Williams.

Kyle Funkhouser established a new U of L single season record for wins in 2014, finishing 13-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 122 strikeouts. He is joined again by fellow junior righty Anthony Kidston, who finished 9-1, with a 3.40 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched last season.

“There's always competition and we always emphasize that you can't rest on what you did in the past, now with that, on the plus side for us is the fact that we do have two starters that are very well proven in Funkhouser and Kidston,” said Williams.

Sophomore lefty Josh Rogers made 9 starts for the Cardinals last season and leads a group that are competing for the remaining spots in the starting rotation. Fellow sophomores Jake Sparger and Drew Harrington started multiple games and a few in the freshman class could push for a spot.

“Josh Rogers did a very nice job last year; obviously gave us some big starts late in the year,” Williams said. “He just doesn't have the body of work, or the resume, as the other two guys, but he is a capable starter. Harrington started some games for us last year and Sparger, too. So, we have some older candidates in there where we maybe don't have to force a freshman in there, although if we have one that's ready and he wins the job, whether it be a weekend or midweek, I'm certainly not afraid to put a guy like that in there if we think he can handle it.”

Finding a Closer

The loss of All-American closer Nick Burdi to the Minnesota Twins leaves a void that must be filled. Pitching coach Roger Williams has a number of candidates to select from, including the Nick's younger brother.

“The big thing in the bullpen in finding a closer,” said Williams. “Zack Burdi and a few other guys are candidates for that, but it's a work in progress.”

Zack, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound righty, made 13 appearances last season and finished with a 4.35 ERA for 10.1 innings thrown.

Sell Outs

In what is becoming an annual occurance, the program's preseason Leadoff Dinner is sold-out. Held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Louisville, the event welcomes U of L alumni Chris Dominguez, Adam Duvall and Justin Marks as the featured guests.

The Jan. 23 event is the primary fund-raising event for the Louisville baseball program.

Perfect Game Selections

Baseball scouting service Perfect Game announced their Top 100 professional prospects in the junior and senior class on Wednesday and the University of Louisville is well represented.

Junior Kyle Funkhouser was listed as the No.2 prospect in his class. Perfect Game tabbed Funkhouser as a preseason All-American earlier this month.

A pair of Cardinal seniors made the list, with infielder Zach Lucas at No.20 and outfielder Mike White checking in at No.68.

Meet the Team

Fans attending the men's basketball game against North Carolina on Jan. 31 have the opportunity to meet the team. Players will be signing autographs and giving away schedule posters at the KFC Yum! Center prior to tip.

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