It was about this time last year when a somewhat used freshman became a key figure in the University of Louisville's run to the 2014 College World Series. As the regular season wound down, then rookie Nick Solak was given the opportunity to make an impact and he responded by becoming one of the hottest hitters on the team.
During last season's conference tournament, where the Cardinals lost to Houston in the AAC title game, Solak was the most dangerous batter in the league when he went 9-for-13 with 6 RBI's at the plate and earned All-Tournament honors.
His consistent hitting continued into the NCAA post season. His two-out two RBI double in the eighth inning against Kennesaw State capped the Cardinals 5-3 Super Regional opener. He struck again, hitting his second career home run in the College World Series clinching win a day later.
He completed his first year as a Cardinal with the type of statistics that would compare to some of the nation's best had he received enough at-bats. He'd finish with a .351 batting average, with two home runs, 25 RBI, 29 runs scored and nine stolen bases in 26 starts and 47 games.
As a sophomore with Omaha experience, Solak, a native of Woodridge, Ill., would be counted on for a similar type performance as an every day starter.
Despite a slow start in the early weeks of the season, a time when most of the team was struggling to find their bats, Solak has been one of the most consistent threats at the plate this season. He enters the NCAA post season with a team-high .327 average and joins Corey Ray as the only Cardinals to start each game.
“He comes every day to play,” U of L assistant and hitting coach Eric Snider said on Tuesday. “I've always told him that he is the best two hole hitter in the country. He always puts the ball in play, tough at-bats, can use the whole field, gets on base and can steal bases. With his approach and how he grinds every day, it's really helpful for the younger guys, as well as the older guys. This dude comes to play every day.”
Solak, who says to key to being a consistent hitter is by “just letting things happen,” credits his work during the regular as a primer for post season play.
“It kind of all builds up to the post season,” he explained. “Especially with a lot of the guys here, you have a lot of confidence going in because of all the work that you've put in throughout the year. It's a time that you can trust your abilities, you can trust your teammates and help everybody out. I think it just comes together at the end of the year for a lot of guys.”
Louisville will open Regional play on Friday evening against Morehead State. Stay logged on to Cardinal Authority for continuing coverage.