The University of Louisville baseball team opens conference play this weekend with a three-game series against Pittsburgh at Jim Patterson Stadium, where Louisville has won their last 28 regular season games. The No. 4 Cardinals roll into ACC play without a blemish on their record, starting the season 12-0.
Pittsburgh enters the weekend on a two-game skid with an overall record of 7-4. Louisville has won the last five matchups against the Panthers and will be looking to remain the only undefeated team in the conference.
Led by Preseason National Player of the Year, Brendan McKay, U of L ranks second in the nation in scoring (10.4 runs per game). The two-way standout leads the team in batting average (.613), on base percentage (.689), and home runs (4). On the mound, McKay holds a 2-0 record with 14 strikeouts and a 0.82 ERA.
Louisville has accumulated 10 or more hits in 11 of the first 12 games, while allowing two or fewer earned runs in eight of those 12 games.
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The Cardinals will look to carry this momentum into conference play as they try to win their third consecutive ACC Atlantic Division championship. With seven ACC teams ranked in Baseball America’s latest top 25 poll, the Louisville baseball team looks forward to the increased competition that the deep Atlantic Coast Conference offers.
“It’s a grind,” Coach Dan McDonnell said. “We have 30 opportunities to play against some of the best players, best programs, and best coaches in the country. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Junior shortstop Devin Hairston is no stranger to the stiff competition of conference play. The 2016 All-ACC performer has six multi-hit games this season and is coming off of a career-high 5 RBI game against Fort Wayne on Wednesday.
“It’s a new season. We’ve got 30 ACC games,” he said. “…Every single weekend we know it’s going to be a dog fight. That’s why we came here, and that’s what we want out of a long season.”
After winning back-to-back ACC Atlantic Division championships Louisville was picked to finish second in the division this season behind Florida State, but Hairston says the Cardinals are just concerned with “competing every single day.”
“They can pick whoever they think is going to win the conference,” he said, “but at the end of the day, it’s who goes out on the field and shows it.”
Hairston says that the team’s success this season comes down to their ability to remain focused through the grueling conference schedule.
“Last season we had a lot of older guys who were big names who could really play the game,” Hairston said. “This year the question was, ‘how focused can we be? Are we going to be a team that wants to piggy-back off of last year’s team, or do we want to make a name for ourselves this year?’ ”
The opening pitch is set for Friday at 4 p.m. Louisville and Pittsburgh will continue the series with games on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.