College Baseball Countdown: 4 Days to Go- Louisville Cardinals

Corey Ray - Courtesy Louisville Athletics

Corey Ray - Courtesy Louisville Athletics

Programs don’t get much more consistent than the Louisville Cardinals have been since 2007, Dan McDonnell’s first year on the job.

That 2007 team went to the College World Series, and since then, they’ve missed regionals just once, they’ve been to four more super regionals, and they’ve made two additional appearances in Omaha. The final step for the program is to win their first national title, and the 2016 Cardinals will undoubtedly have the talent to do so.

The first thing that catches the eye about this year’s squad is the one-two punch at the front end of the rotation in Kyle Funkhouse and Brendan McKay. We discussed each of them separately (here and here) in the countdown previously, as both guys are among the premier starting pitchers in the country.

McKay returns after a fantastic freshman season that saw him become a key piece for Louisville both on the mound and in the lineup, while Funkhouser decided to make a bet on himself and return to school after being drafted 35th overall by the Dodgers.

The bullpen will be led by Zack Burdi, of the famous flame-throwing Burdi family. He has every bit of the fastball velocity that his brother Nick had at Louisville, but there’s a thought that he’s more of a complete pitcher, which has to be a frightening thought for the rest of the ACC. He’ll be joined in the bullpen by the reliable Lincoln Henzman, a workhorse as a freshman in 2015.

One wild card on the pitching staff is senior Anthony Kidston. In 2014, he was 9-1 with a 3.4o ERA as a full-time starting pitcher for the Cardinals, but last season, he struggled to a 6.48 ERA in a swingman role. If he can get back to his 2014 form, even if it’s in a lesser role, it would be a huge boon to the team.

Offensively, there’s plenty to be excited about as well, beginning with Corey Ray, who is really a Swiss army knife-type of player with all of the different things that he can do.

A season ago, he hit .325/.389/.543 with 15 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs, 56 RBI, and 34 stolen bases, flashing a power/speed combination that you just don’t see all that often. He’s clearly on the short list of favorites to be named National Player of the Year.

He’ll be supported in the lineup by Nick Solak, who is quietly an incredibly productive hitter in his own right. He was overshadowed by Ray in the order last year, and understandably so, but did hit .324 with 15 doubles, 40 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. The aforementioned McKay, who hit .308 last year with 14 doubles, four homers, and 34 RBI, will be a key piece as well.

With Miami also looking like a potential elite team, and others such as North Carolina State, Virginia, Florida State, and North Carolina all not far behind, it’s going to be a rough and tumble race in the ACC, but at this point, Louisville looks like the clear favorite to lead the pack and make a deep run into the postseason to challenge for their first national title.

Courtesty Louisville Athletics

Courtesty Louisville Athletics

About the Author

Joseph Healy
Growing up in Houston, Joe Healy was introduced to college baseball at a young age, and it was love at first sight. Like most good love stories, that love has only grown throughout the years. When he's not at the ballpark, he enjoys tacos, college football during the fall, and the spectacle that is American politics. He holds a B.A. in political science from Sam Houston State University and a Master's in Public Administration from Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville.