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February 18, 2013

Baseball Notebook: Cards return from Florida 2-1

Louisville Baseball opens its home schedule - and a newly expanded Jim Patterson Stadium - Wednesday at 3 p.m. The Cardinals' new park holds twice as many fans.

Despite an opening day loss to Indiana, the Louisville baseball team had a successful trip to Tampa Bay finishing with a 2-1 record to go 10-2 all time in what is probably the last Big East/Big Ten Challenge. The Cardinals' high ranking in most polls seems well deserved based on the games against IU, USF and Purdue.

The Louisville staff had a 1.33 ERA after the three games. Nine pitchers were used during the weekend and the highest individual ERA were starters Chad Green and Jared Ruxer with a 4.50. They were the only pitchers with an earned run allowed.

• A slimmed-down Jeff Thompson (20 pounds) is the ace of the staff. He struck out 12 batters in five innings and gave up only one walk. He allowed four hits but no USF runner reached third base.

• Four first year pitchers saw action in relief: freshmen Kyle Funkhouser, Anthony Kidston and Adam Schemenauer and transfer Kyle McGrath. Combined they pitched 8.1 innings and gave up four hits and two walks while striking out eight.

• Dace Kime and Cody Ege will once again be the first out of the bullpen, at least early in the season. They pitched 4.1 innings and gave up no runs.

• Nick Burdi seems to have learned to better control his 100-mph fastball as he pitched one inning and struck out two Purdue batters. All of his pitches were near the plate including a walk.

• UofL pitchers gave up only one extra base hit, a double.

• Pitching coach Roger Williams has an abundance of riches as he did not use experienced pitchers Joe Ceja, Cole Sturgeon, Brandon Alphin and Joe Filomeno.

• Three freshman pitchers also did not see action. Four position players are also listed as pitchers.

After beginning the weekend with an anemic six hits against IU the Cards finished the series with 31 hits in 27 innings.

• Oddly, the No. 9 hitter, shortstop Sutton Whiting, hit .500 with five hits in 10 at bats. Alex Chittenden, battling Sutton for the starting shortstop position also hit .500 coming off the bench going 1-2. Whiting had an on base percentage of .615.

• 10 players hit over .300 for the series with catcher Kyle Gibson, sharing duties behind the plate with Shane Crain, also hitting .500 (2-4).

• The team batting average after the three games is .282. Leading hitter from 2012 Ty Young went 1-11 (.091) and DH Zach Lucas went 1-8 (.125). Both are sure to improve.

• This team will definitely play 'small ball' as only backup DH Jeff Gardner hit a home run. Gardner's homer was a towering shot over the right field fence at Brighthouse Field.

• Freshman Danny Rosenbaum was the starter at first base and hit .333 for the weekend. He had one of two triples for the Cards, the other was by Cole Sturgeon.

• Sutton, Sturgeon and leadoff batter Adam Engel each had three RBIs. No Cardinal hitter had more than one extra base hit.

• Rosenbaum and junior college transfer Coco Johnson are the only new players in the lineup. Johnson plays left field and batted .182.

Fielding was so-so as the Cards committed five errors in the series. Two were by outfielders and two were by shortstop Whiting, which detracted from his excellent hitting.

• Three players are vying for the starting shortstop position and coach Dan McDonnell will not accept errors from the infield.

• The Cards tried 11 steals during the three games and were picked-off three times. Eight stolen bases in three games will probably be the average during the season as six players had stolen bases during the series. Engel and Whiting had two. After going 37-39 last season Engel, the lead-off hitter, will steal a lot of bases this year.

• Once again the Louisville fans had the largest contingent, including twice as many as the hometown USF Bulls, despite the chilly weather (50s).

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