by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)
After a sweep at NC State, who was previously ranked #20, Georgia Tech (6-1, 3-0 ACC) returns home to Atlanta to host Louisville (6-2) for an ACC showdown. In just a few short weeks, the Yellow Jackets have jumped all the way to #7 in the polls and certainly looked the part against the Wolfpack in Raleigh over the weekend. This will be their second consecutive top 20 matchup, as Louisville comes into the series ranked #3 but has yet to play an ACC game.
Glenn Albanese, who was announced as the Friday night starter for the Cards, missed his last start and his status is still uncertain for this weekend against Georgia Tech. Adam Elliott, a second-year senior, made his first career start on opening weekend after 67 career appearances from the bullpen. Fast forward to the second weekend and Elliott made an appearance out of the bullpen, rather than being used in a starter role. Michael Kirian, the Cardinals closer for the past few seasons, started a game this weekend, but was used in relief situations in the first few games. All this to be said, the Cardinals weekend rotation is still very much in the air after two weeks of play.
Even though the rotation has not been set, the Cardinals pitching staff has been dominant in its first eight games, although it has not been up to the level of competition they will be facing this weekend. The Louisville staff currently has an ERA of 2.38 and has 95 strikeouts over a 72-inning span, led by Elliott and Kirian who have combined for 13 innings without surrendering a run. Luke Smith, the Cardinals lone weekend returning starter, currently sits at 2-0 after tossing 9 innings in his first two starts with a 2.00 ERA.
At the plate, the Cardinals are led by Cameron Masterman and Henry Davis, a preseason All-American. Masterman has been on a tear, batting .478 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI. Davis has added 2 home runs with 10 RBI with a .407 average through 8 games. The biggest surprise has been preseason All-American Alex Binelas, who has struggled settling in this year after a breakout 2019 season. Binelas currently has a .065 average with just 2 hits on the season. Louisville is going to need his numbers to improve in order to make another run towards an ACC championship.
The Yellow Jackets have been led by Brant Hunter and Sam Crawford, two of their weekend starters that both have a sub-one ERA after two starts. The pitching staff has looked impressive this year, allowing just 24 earned runs in 63 innings of work with a .201 opponents batting average. One area the Yellow Jackets need to clean up is their defense. They currently rank 193rd in the country in fielding percentage, already with 12 errors on the season. Coach Danny Hall, entering his 28th season at Georgia Tech, knows this is something that will need to be corrected if the Yellow Jackets are going to make a run this season. During the offseason, Zeke Pinkham joined Coach Hall’s staff as a volunteer assistant after a successful career behind the plate for Louisville, which could come into play this weekend as Pinkham had the opportunity to catch many of the Cardinals pitchers during his career and is very familiar with the Louisville program.
College Baseball Nation Freshman All-American Kevin Parada, who was just named ACC Player of the Week for his performance against NC State, is leading the way for the Yellow Jackets, batting .524 during his first 7 collegiate games. Parada, Drew Compton, and Luke Waddell are each above the .300 line and have two home runs apiece, on a team that has a .302 average. Opponents have only attempted seven stolen bases against Georgia Tech this season, which is sure to change as Louisville is 25 for 29 in stolen bases in just seven games. Parada will be tested this weekend behind the plate against an ultra-aggressive Dan McDonnell team that will put a lot of pressure on him.
Matt's Prediction: Louisville lost a midweek game to Morehead State on Tuesday, who was 1-5 entering the game, by a score of 5-2 after stranding 19 runners. Not the tuneup game Coach McDonnell wanted to see heading into a hot Georgia Tech team. I think Louisville will have the better team at the end of the season, but they have not been tested to date, whereas Georgia Tech already has a sweep against a Top 25 team. The Cardinals rotation still has a little bit of uncertainty, so I give the edge to the Yellow Jackets this weekend in Atlanta.