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May 6, 2014

Baseball Cards rolling into Nashville

The Louisville baseball team is on a roll. The Cardinals have won 10 straight games and have skyrocketed in the RPI national rankings heading into Tuesday night's showdown with Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Since Louisville lost the first two games of the UCF series in Orlando on April 17, the Cardinals have been on a tear. They beat UCF 3-2 on April 18, beat WKU 3-1 on April 22 and Morehead State 7-3 the next day before sweeping Connecticut in a three-game series. A 7-3 win vs. Ohio State on April 30 helped and then UofL won all three games at USF last weekend.

Louisville seems to be playing its best baseball at the right time of year, and it reminds many program observers of last year's team. UofL had a rough patch in April last season before finishing the season on a 16-game winning streak and playing their way into the College World Series for the second time in school history.

"It becomes part of your team culture," UofL coach Dan McDonnell said of recent win streaks at the end of the season. "Certainly we ask our players to make their own mark on the program, but they also know there is a tradition and a culture of winning here that they need to continue."

Can Louisville continue that win-streak in a tough game Tuesday night. The Cardinals, 37-11 and ranked No. 5 in the nation, will face No. 10 Vanderbilt (36-12) at 7:30 p.m. ET at Hawkins Field in Nashville.

In a rematch of last season's Super Regional, the two regional powers are playing for the traveling barrel trophy. Vandy, which has retained The Bourbon Barrel in the first two seasons of the trophy's existence by virtue of regular-season wins over Louisville, will throw sophomore righty Walker Buehler (8-1, 1.49 ERA). Louisville will throw freshman lefty Josh Rogers (1-2, 3.45 ERA).

"Every game late in the season is a big deal, but this game is special because we always seem to see these guys in the post-season," McDonnell said. "Anytime Louisville and Vanderbilt play in baseball you know it is a big game."

Louisville is 6-22 all-time against Vanderbilt in a series that dates back to 1971. The programs have met in the postseason three times in the last five seasons with the Cardinals beating Vanderbilt last season, spoiling their shot at the College World Series.

First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m., ET at Hawkins Field where the Cardinals defeated the Commodores in back-to-back games in 2013 to earn the program's second College World Series berth. Live play-by-play can be heard on News/Talk 1570 AM (WNDA) while live audio will be available to subscribers of CardsTV at GoCards.com. Live scoring will be available through the Gametracker feature at GoCards.com.

- Louisville is 33-0 this season when leading after the eighth inning and has won 88 straight games when entering the ninth with the lead going back to May 2012.
- The Cardinals are 28-2 this season when out-hitting their opponents and 8-7 when being out-hit.
- Louisville has won 44 straight games dating back to last season when scoring five runs or more including a 28-0 record this season.
- The Cardinals are 23-3 this season against righty starters and 14-8 against lefties.
- The Cardinals have allowed two or fewer earned runs in 29 of 48 games this season (including nine of the last 10), something they did in 36 of 65 in 2013.
- During the current 10-game winning streak, the bullpen has allowed just five earned runs in 34.2 innings. Overall, the pitching staff has a 1.66 ERA in the last 10 games with 80 strikeouts in 92.0 innings.
- Louisville enters the week ranked second in the nation in stolen bases with 102 and third in stolen bases per game at 2.13.
- The Cardinals are also 12th nationally in HBP (81), 16th in runs (316), and 23rd in scoring (6.6 per game).
- The Louisville pitching staff is ranked 13th nationally in hits allowed per 9 IP (7.33), 14th in strikeouts per 9 IP (8.2) and 22nd in ERA (2.79).
- Sutton Whiting is ranked fourth in the nation with 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts while also ranking 26th nationally in walks per game at 0.79.
- Senior outfielder/designate hitter Jeff Gardner is 14th nationally in RBI with 52 and Cole Sturgeon is eighth in triples with six.

Gardner was one of 10 finalists announced on April 30 for the prestigious 2014 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate baseball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

Finalists were chosen by national media from the list of 30 candidates announced in March. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner. Fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website through June 9. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches' votes to determine the winner. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2014 College World Series® in June. To vote for Gardner, visit http://www.seniorclassaward.com/athletes/jeff_gardner/ and click on the "Vote Now" button.

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