If you've kept track of the members of the University of Louisville roster over the summer, through fall and into preseason work, you had to see this coming. Blake Tiberi is having a nice start to the 2015 season at the Opening Weekend Challenge in Clearwater, Fla.
On Friday night in the Cardinals season-opener, the redshirt freshman drove in the team's first run of the year by driving in Corey Ray on a sacrifice fly. On Saturday against South Florida, he connected for his first collegiate home run, driving in two runs to give the Cardinals a 6-2 advantage after four innings.
His performance in the difficult New England summer league, where he hit .372 with 22 runs scored and 13 RBI, and landed a starting spot in the league's All-Star game, provided enough evidence that this type of start was in the making. His hot hitting continued into fall ball and preseason scrimmages, helping head coach Dan McDonnell make the decision to put Tiberi into the designated hitter spot.
“Blake had that big summer in the New England league,” McDonnell said following the Cardinals 7-3 victory over South Florida. “We know he can hit if you give enough him enough at bats, quality at bats. Obviously he put together a good swing there.”
Following a year watching from the bench as a redshirt, Tiberi is grateful just to have any opportunity to help the team win.
“It's such a nice feeling to be put in the lineup with this amazing team we have,” he said. “It's truly a blessing and something that I have worked so hard for and now I got my chance, so I'm just trying to do the best I can with it.”
The big night at the plate for the product of Covington (Ky.) Holy Cross began before his deep shot to right-center. He also singled and scored during the Cardinals four run third inning.
“He's just a good hitter,” McDonnell said. “When people ask me about Blake, he can handle velocity, left and right, and I feel like he's going to move the ball. He's a crucial spot, in that five spot where we need guys that can move that ball and I think Blake is going to be able to do that for us.”
Through two games, Tiberi is hitting .400 with a home run, 2 runs and 3 RBIs. He's not alone, the Cardinals offense has been impressive through two outings. Hits are coming from all spots in the lineup and they've combined to score 12 runs on 21 hits against quality competition.
The lineup top to bottom is just unbelievable,” Tiberi said. “We've got speed, power, guys that hit for average and everyone's contributed in some way. Even the guys off the bench have come in and had great at bats. I truly believe this team has a chance to make a run at Omaha again.”
The Cardinals finish their play in the three-day event on Saturday morning against No.19 Cal State Fullerton.