5 key players for Louisville baseball in Bucknell series sweep

Louisville's Christian Knapczyk makes the throw to first during opening day against Bucknell on Friday, February 17, 2023Baseball13
Louisville's Christian Knapczyk makes the throw to first during opening day against Bucknell on Friday, February 17, 2023Baseball13 /

The Louisville baseball team opened their season this weekend with a series sweep against Bucknell University. Friday and Saturday’s games resulted in lopsided scores favoring Louisville, 7-1 and 11-2. The Cardinals played a closer game Sunday, but finished the day with a close 5-3 win to seal the sweep. You can check out a great recap of the weekend here, but let’s dive into individual performances from this weekend.

Last season’s lineup will be hard to match with the power that guys like Dalton Rushing and Cameron Masterman brought to the team, but Dan McDonnell will use what he has well just like he always does. For example, putting up 23 runs in three games is something to take note of.

Louisville batters were able to draw pitchers into deep counts and waited for the right pitches to swing at. They are showing signs of discipline at the plate, which is a positive takeaway this early on in the season. The Bucknell pitching staff throw at a slower velocity than the Cardinals are used to, but yet they still had great success at the plate, which is also a good sign of things to come.

Eddie King Jr.

Outfielder Eddie King Jr is someone who already showed fans what he can contribute for the team this year. The sophomore started the first two games in the series and had a plate appearance in the last game of the series. King went 4-7 on the weekend with three RBI’s, a double, a triple, and was also able to draw three walks. He out last season due to an injury, but showed positive improvements from his recovery early on.

Christian Knapczyk

Shortstop Christian Knapczyk is someone who picked up right where he left off from last year, going 5-11 at the plate over the weekend. The junior infielder was able to steal three bags and also had four runs during the series. Coach McDonnell is a coach who enjoys having players that can do a little bit of everything, and Knapczyk is one of those people. If you need a hit, he’s your guy. If you need a steal, he’s your guy.

Last season, the Illinois native finished with a .346 average and stole 17 bases. He is already proving his ability to have good jumps on pitchers, while at the same time stealing bases, so this is a great sign for the rest of the season.

Pitching Staff

Three games into the season, the pitchers have showed strong outings, allowing only six runs during the series. Senior right-handed pitcher Ryan Hawks led the way with a dominate performance to open the series, throwing 6.1 innings, allowing only three hits, striking out nine batters, and allowing only one run.

Junior Riley Phillips was the starter for the game Saturday showing a stat line of 3.1 innings pitched, four strikeouts, and four walks. It is assumed that this was not the start Phillips wanted to have due to struggling with secondary pitches, but he did show qualities of a good starter. In his defense, pitchers may not be able to throw all of their pitches the best they can this early on in the season. But, Phillips did get the chance to go into his bag as he was able to go almost two times around the lineup in that time.

Fellow junior Greg Farone came in for a relief appearance in the closing game of the series for three innings. He allowed only one earned run, struck out eight batters, and walked three. The lone earned run allowed was a pitch down in the zone where the hitter made good contact, but the wind seemed to carry it out of the park. Outside this bad luck, Farone showed dominance in throughout his appearance by getting eight of the outs by himself. If there is anything to criticize, it would be to see if he can have more control of his counts consistently.

Overall, the Cardinals looked strong over the weekend all throughout this series. Although, it is unusual for the hitters to look more prepared than the pitchers, but we will see if this continues. Next up for Louisville is a one-game matchup with Xavier this Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium beginning at 2:00 PM EST.