2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Louisville Regional Preview
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 4 Illinois-Chicago (6 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 2 Indiana vs. No. 3 Illinois State (2 p.m. ET)
No. 1 Louisville (43-15)
Season In A Sentence: With a 43-15 overall record and 21-9 mark in ACC play, the Cardinals joined Georgia Tech as the class of the conference in 2019, earning their place as the No. 7 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Best Pitcher: LHP Reid Detmers, So. — Just the second Louisville pitcher to earn ACC pitcher of the year and first-team all-ACC honors, Detmers went 11-3, 2.80 this season. After taking over the Friday starter’s role at the beginning of the year, Detmers has 145 strikeouts and only 22 walks in 93.1 innings. He led the ACC in wins, ERA and strikeouts, winning the conference’s triple crown of pitching.
Best Hitter: 1B Logan Wyatt, Jr. — A second-team all-ACC selection, Wyatt has an advanced approach at the plate. He leads the Cardinals with a .498 on-base percentage and 64 walks. A force in the middle of Louisville’s lineup, Wyatt has a .969 OPS to go alongside a career-high nine home runs and 51 RBIs.
Outlook: The Cardinals have been pretty consistent all season long and again won the ACC regular season title to earn a home regional. They’re tough to beat at home at this stage of the tournament, having won 15 straight home regional games. No matter how coach Dan McDonnell aligns his rotation of lefthanders Nick Bennett and Reid Detmers and righthander Bobby Miller, he can feel good about the matchups. The Cardinals have a solid offense, and they’ll be looking to win their sixth consecutive home regional this weekend.
No. 2 Indiana (36-21)
Season In A Sentence: Under first-year head coach Jeff Mercer, the Hoosiers rode 90 home runs and steady performances from a rotation of Pauly Milto, Tanner Gordon and Big Ten pitcher of the year Andrew Saalfrank to a Big Ten regular season title and a regional appearance for the sixth time in seven years.
Best Pitcher: LHP Andrew Saalfrank, Jr. — The 2019 Big Ten pitcher of the year and a first-team all-conference selection, Saalfrank set Indiana’s single-game strikeout record with 13 punchouts against Penn State. In total, Saalfrank is 8-1, 2.58 with 96 strikeouts in 69.2 innings.
Best Hitter: UTL Matt Lloyd, Sr. — Lloyd is the most dangerous hitter in the Hoosiers’ lineup, leading the team in home runs (16), RBIs (54), total bases (122) and slugging percentage (.592). An experienced senior who started all 54 games for Indiana, Lloyd was a first-team all-Big Ten selection this spring.
Outlook: Only Arizona State (92) has hit more home runs this season than Indiana, and the power throughout the Hoosiers’ lineup makes them dangerous. They’re an older team and are very familiar with Louisville thanks to their annual midweek matchups. Indiana has a strong rotation of its own, and it’ll need that group to step up this weekend. To win this regional, the Hoosiers are going to need good pitching and a power show.
No. 3 Illinois State (34-24)
Season In A Sentence: Similarly to Indiana under Mercer, Illinois State enjoyed immediate success under first-year head coach Steve Holm, going 34-24 and earning its first regional appearance since 2010.
Best Pitcher: LHP Brent Headrick, Jr. — The 2019 Missouri Valley Conference pitcher of the year, Headrick is 9-3, 3.50. He was even better in conference play, winning all seven of his decisions and pitching to a 1.31 ERA against MVC opponents. In 90 innings, Headrick struck out 101 batters, walked 27 and limited hitters to a .214 batting average.
Best Hitter: OF John Rave, Jr. — Rave was one of only four Redbirds to start every game this season, and he earned first-team all-MVC honors with a .304 batting average and team-high 12 home runs.
Outlook: Despite the strong first-year turnaround under Holm, this could be a tough weekend for the Redbirds. Illinois State went just 5-14 against top-50 competition this spring and just 3-12 against those same teams in weekend games during the regular season. The Redbirds did win a game at Vanderbilt, however, so they should come into this weekend feeling like they can hang with Indiana and Louisville if they play their game.
No. 4 Illinois-Chicago (29-21)
BA 500 Prospects: None
Season In A Sentence: The Flames fought their way past Horizon League regular season champion and tournament favorite Wright State in the conference tournament to earn the league’s automatic bid, the program’s second such bid in three seasons.
Best Pitcher: RHP Jacob Key, Jr. — Key was named first-team all-Horizon League and also won the conference’s pitcher of the year award. Key has a 3.50 ERA in 100.2 innings pitched, and he’s held opponents to a .244 batting average. He is tied for third in the Horizon League with 87 strikeouts, and at one point this season he had a streak of 27.1 consecutive innings without issuing a walk.
Best Hitter: C Ryan Hampe, Fr. — Hampe’s .369 batting average ranked third in the Horizon League this spring, and for his efforts he was named first-team all-conference as a freshman. Boasting a .965 OPS, Hampe has hit five home runs, 14 doubles and driven in 47 runs while striking out only 18 times.
Outlook: Illinois-Chicago is always a well-coached team with a strong pitching staff under head coach Mike Dee, and it won’t be phased this weekend. The Flames don’t have the talent to matchup with Louisville, but they could make things difficult for someone this weekend.