LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Mid-week action between the University of Louisville Cardinals (4-0) and the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels (1-3) at Jim Patterson Stadium Tuesday, ended with the Cards on top by the score of 14-2. This marked the first in-state matchup for both squads in 2016.
Entering today’s game Louisville finds its No. 2 ranking secure in the national polls after a three-game sweep of SIU Edwardsville at Jim Patterson Stadium over the weekend. The Cards put on a clinic, as their 43-5 run differential against the Cougars was the highest scoring three-game series in head coach Dan McDonnell’s 10 seasons.
Junior outfielder Corey Ray was named ACC Player of the Week after his monster 6-for-9 performance, batting .667 along with two home runs, seven RBI, and 6-for-6 stolen bases. It’s clear that Ray, will be a focal point for McDonnell moving forward, as the preseason All-American blasted home runs and was 3-for-3 on stolen bases in each of the last two games against SIUE.
EKU was 21-29 last year and crossed the finish line in eighth place over all in the Ohio Valley Conference standings with a 12-17 league record. Last weekend first year head coach Edwin Thompson saw his club drop two of three games at Lipscomb. Coming in to the 2016 season EKU was picked to finish eighth in the OVC by the leagues head coaches.
UofL holds a 64-48-1 advantage in the all-time series against EKU. A rivalry that dates back to 1927, the Cards have won seven straight and 15 of the last 16 games against the Colonels. Some recent highlights being their 7-6 and 5-2 home wins in 2015.
Sophomore RHP Kade McClure (1-0) got the start on the mound for the Cards, and put in a solid days work picking up the win. McClure worked 5.0 shutout innings allowing only two hits and striking out two. The 6 feet 7 inch 235 pound Mentor, Ohio native showed promising innings in 2015, and continued his projection in good fashion, as his stuff looked sharp and kept EKU hitters off balance for the stint of his time on the bump.
“I’ve just been trying to come in here knowing that eventually one day I am going to be a starter,” McClure told College Baseball Central. “I have finally been given that opportunity, so I am just trying to do as much as I can with it and run with it.”
At the plate, it was most assuredly junior backstop Will Smiths day. Smith jacked two home runs (2), and his six RBI paced the Louisville offense as once again – with the past weekend’s dominance of SIUE — the OVC failed to produce a worthy competitor for McDonnell and company.
“I think as a team we are just each going up there and individually staying in our approaches.” Smith said. “We are doing a really good job in situational hitting right now, and then for me, I’m just looking to get a pitch to hit hard.”
Ray continued his exploits at the plate as well. His 5-for-6 day with a triple (1) and a home run (3) producing two RBI is indicative of an early POY favorite performance. Ray’s five runs scored this day has brought his total to 14 runs this year in four games. Enough can’t be said about Ray and his ability to play baseball really good. After today’s performance Ray is now batting .733.
“Part of my game is if you get a strike hit a strike,” Ray told CBC. “I have been working on zones a lot, and when I get a pitch in the strike zone, I am going to just let my swing open up.”
Louisville heads to Ole Miss this coming weekend for a three-game series in which McDonnell’s club will see a more seasoned South Eastern Conference ball club led by head coach Mike Bianco. This road series will be a measuring stick for UofL, as moving forward, challenges will increase as opposed to an OVC slate that just doesn’t really field a team that can put a team like Louisville to the test.
“I tell these guys there is a right way to play this game and then of course individually there is a lot of pro eyes on them,” McDonnell said. “I am happy for our kids. The offense is really clicking, and we are getting a lot of good starts on the mound and we are playing good defense. It’s been a really great four games overall.”
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