Louisville Regional preview

After a slow start to the season, No. 1 Louisville has hit their stride at the right time entering NCAA Regional action.

The Cardinals, led by All-American third baseman Chris Dominguez and pitcher Justin Marks, have won 15 of their past 17 games. Louisville also swept both the Big East regular-season and tournament championships.

Now, the Cardinals are ready to host their first regional ever as the top-seed. Louisville will play No. 4 seed Indiana in the opening round Friday night at 7 pm at Patterson Stadium. The Cardinals were 22-6 this season at Patterson Stadium and are a tough out on their home field.

If Louisville defeats Indiana in the opening round they will play the No. 2 Middle Tennessee-No. 3 Vanderbilt winner Saturday night at 7 pm.

Louisville is making its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Cardinals advanced to Omaha for the College World Series two years ago and hope for a return appearance this time around after being sent home after regional action last year.

2009 NCAA Regional Schedule
Jim Patterson Stadium - Louisville, Ky.

Friday, May 29
3 p.m. ET - Game 1: No. 2 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 3 Vanderbilt
7 p.m. ET - Game 2: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 4 Indiana

Saturday, May 30
3 p.m. ET - Game 3: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2
7 p.m. ET - Game 4: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2

Sunday, May 31
3 p.m. ET - Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4
7 p.m. ET - Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5

Monday, June 1
7 p.m. ET - Game 7: Winner of Game 6 vs. Loser of Game 6 (if necessary)

Here's a look at the Louisville Regional:

No. 1 Louisville (44-15)
How the Cardinals got here: Louisville enters the 2009 NCAA Regional as a No. 1 seed for the first time in school history after earning their second straight automatic bid with Sunday's 11-3 win over Connecticut in the Big East Championship title game in Clearwater, Fla. The Cardinals are making their third straight NCAA Regional appearance overall.
Cards vs. No. 4 Indiana: Louisville and Indiana met twice during the 2009 regular season with the Cardinals earning a 15-1 win over the Hoosiers on April 7 in Louisville and a 10-8 win on April 21 in Bloomington, Ind.
Star Watch: Junior third baseman Chris Dominguez and left-handed pitcher Justin Marks. They've been the stars all season for the Cardinals. Both Golden Spikes Semifinalists, Dominguez led the Cardinals in home runs and RBI, while Marks is UofL's career leader in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
Why they can win the regional: Louisville can win because of their balance and defense. The Cardinals have six starters batting over .300 for the season, a defense that boasts a .969 fielding percentage and an improving pitching staff led by Justin Marks. The Cardinals should also have plenty of confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament having won 15 of their past 17 games, including four of five in the Big East Tournament. Louisville also is tough to beat at home, going 22-6 this season.
No. 2 Middle Tennessee (43-16)
How the Blue Raiders got here: Middle Tennessee earned the automatic bid from the Sun Belt Conference thanks to a 3-1 win over Louisiana-Monroe. The Blue Raiders also won the Sun Belt regular season title and are making their first NCAA Regional appearance since 2004.
Cards vs. No. 2 Middle Tennessee State: Louisville and Middle Tennessee did not play this season.
Star Watch: Bryce Brentz. Brentz is a dangerous out at the plate. He hit .482 this season with 28 home runs and 72 RBI. His slugging percentage of .968 and on base percentage of .552 are also off the charts.
Why they can win the regional: If Brentz gets hot he could carry the Blue Raiders offense – a dangerous proposition for the other teams in the Louisville Regional. MTSU ace pitcher Kenneth Roberts is also a force on mound, racking up a 10-1 record this season with a 2.98 ERA and 61 strike outs.
No. 3 Vanderbilt (34-25)
How the Commodores got here: Vanderbilt earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Regional after an impressive final week of the season, which included three wins at the SEC Tournament and a championship game appearance against LSU. The Commodores are making their fourth straight NCAA Regional appearance.
Cards vs. No. 3 Vanderbilt: The Commodores earned a 4-3 win in 10 innings over the Cardinals on April 22 in Louisville.
Star Watch: Senior outfielder Jonathan White and pitcher Mike Minor. White was the star on offense for the Commodores in the SEC Tournament, batting .438 (7 of 16) to help lead Vanderbilt to the SEC Title. Minor, the team's top pitcher, downed LSU in the SEC Tournament and opposing batters hit only .255 against him this season.
Why they can win the regional: Vanderbilt is a dangerous team in this regional for one reason: They beat both teams seeded ahead of them this season. The Commodores split a pair of games this season with No. 2 MTSU, including a 15-7 win last month and beat Louisville on the road last month 4-3 in extra innings.
No. 4 Indiana (32-25)
How the Hoosiers got here: Indiana is making its first NCAA Championship appearance since 1996 after winning the Big Ten Tournament title on Saturday night with an impressive 13-2 win over Minnesota. The Hoosiers rolled through the Big Ten Tournament winning all four of its games in decisive fashion, outscoring its opponents 47-9 during the tournament.
Cards vs. No. 4 Indiana: Louisville and Indiana met twice during the 2009 regular season with the Cardinals earning a 15-1 win over the Hoosiers on April 7 in Louisville and a 10-8 win on April 21 in Bloomington, Ind.
Star Watch: Junior pitcher Matt Bashore. Bashore was named the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player after throwing a seven-inning shutout against Minnesota in the second round. Bashore and Eric Arnett form a dangerous one-two punch on the mound for the Hoosiers.
Why they can win the regional: Indiana is playing their best baseball at the right time. The Hoosiers won four straight games to win the Big Ten tourney and did it in impressive fashion out-scoring opponents 47-9. Indiana delivered at least 15 hits in every game and limited their opponents to just 26 hits on the way to the title. The Hoosiers, to say the least, have a strong combination of pitching and hitting heading into NCAA regional play.
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