Louisville junior outfielder Corey Ray has played a key role in the Cardinals success since he arrived on campus three years ago. A product of Chicago's Simeon Career Academy, Ray has come up with multiple key hits for the Cardinals, including many in the postseason.
During his 13 NCAA Championship starts, Corey Ray has a .346 (17-for-49) batting average with four doubles and 11 RBI. During his All-American career, 12 of Ray’s 27 career home runs have either tied the score or given Louisville a lead. Moved to the leadoff spot as a junior, Ray continued to produce. When taking the plate in the first inning, he's hitting .339 with three home runs and 14 runs scored.
The guy is clutch.
As NCAA Regional play begins at Jim Patterson Stadium on Friday, Louisville will need Ray to continue the production that has played a integral part in Louisville's success the past three seasons and this time around he'll need to do it while attempting to not focus on the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft.
Ray, who was named a Louisville Slugger All-American earlier in the week, has climbed near the top in nearly all mock drafts, with projections ranging from the first overall pick through any of the top ten selections.
The draft, which begins June 9, will be riddled with Cardinals once again, but Ray is expected to be the first selection from Dan McDonnnell's team. Staying focused on the postseason and the team goal of reaching the College World Series is a must.
"Around this time if you're not focused on the task at hand, you won't get there," Ray explained. "I'm giving this team my all, whether its my last time or not, I'm giving it everything I have to help us reach our goal."
One of three Cardinals to start all 59 games this season, Ray enters the postseason hitting .321 and is the team leader in runs scored (54), RBI (58) and home runs (15). He's fourth nationally with 38 stolen bases.
His secret for keeping his attention on the upcoming games is leaning on those close to him.
"Try to stay within the program and lean on guys, my brothers," he said.
He plans to reach out to MLB veteran and Chicago native Curtis Granderson, along with Dansby Swanson, the top pick in the 2015 draft, for guidance on how to handle the buzz of being selected in the draft during the postseason.
While potentially a distraction, Ray admits that the numerous features on him leading up to draft day is a neat, yet humbling experience.
"It's pretty cool," he said. "I don't think that you ever think you're that good. I don't think I'm that good, not yet at least, but I'll get there. It's exciting, and I thank the coaches and everyone that's been behind me."
Louisville will face Western Michigan on Friday at 6:00 p.m. in the second game of the Louisville Regional.