While coaches and players will always tell you that they are focused on the present and taking the season one game at a time, make no mistake that when the University of Louisville 2015 baseball schedule was announced that the weekend series at Virginia was mentally circled by each.
The Cardinals and Cavaliers were among the eight that reached the College World Series last June, with Virginia falling to Vanderbilt in the 2014 championship. Similar to Louisville's rise – three College World Series appearances – under the direction of Dan McDonnell, Virginia has also enjoyed its greatest success in recent years. Now in his 11th season in Charlottesville, Brian O'Connor has led the Cavaliers to the program's only College World Series trips, making it to Omaha in 2009, 2011 and 2014.
The three game series pits a pair of top ten programs, No.7 Louisville at No.9 Virginia. The two teams have taken different routes to reach this point in the season. The Cardinals enter the weekend having won 10 straight ACC contests and with the best record in conference play at 11-1. Virginia, the preseason favorite to win the conference, has struggled to a 6-6 start and is currently two games back of Coastal Division leading Miami.
“Obviously the team is off to a great start in the league,” said U of L associate head coach Rogers Williams. “Virginia presents a great challenge and we have a lot of respect for them. I know their coaches well, but I haven't coached against them. They do a great job with a lot of talented players. It's another road test, it ought to be a good test for us, and hopefully we can continue our trend of playing well on the road.”
Two of the nation's top pitchers will open the series on Saturday afternoon. Junior Kyle Funkhouser will take the mound for the Cardinals, with junior lefty Nathan Kirby getting the call for the Cavaliers.
Senior shortstop Sutton Whiting leads the Cardinals with a .382 average through 29 games and is hitting .438 in ACC games. He ranks among the ACC's top five in batting average, on-base percentage and hits.
The series begins on Saturday at 4:00p.m. The two will meet at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon before closing the series on Monday at 7:00 p.m. for a ESPNU broadcast.