Louisville returns seven of its school record 10 All-Big East performers from last season and is the preseason pick to win the program's fourth conference crown in five years. Four Cardinals earned preseason All-Conference honors - junior outfielder Adam Engel, junior designated hitter Jeff Gardner, junior right-handed pitcher Jeff Thompson and sophomore righty Jared Ruxer.
Ranked 4th by Baseball America, who described Louisville as "a legitimate championship contender," the Cardinals will open it's highly anticipated season on Friday evening against Indiana in the Big East/Big 10 Challenge in Dunedin, Florida. Louisville holds an 11-2 series advantage against the Hoosiers during McDonnell's tenure and have a narrow 20-19 all-time series lead.
Facing three opponents in three days will provide a post season type setting for the teams participating in the fifth annual event.
"It's like a regional atmosphere," said McDonnell, who begins his seventh season at U of L. "Right now we are concerned about winning that first inning."
Louisville will face South Florida on Saturday and Purdue on Sunday to close out the annual event.
The weekend starters were announced on Monday, with junior right-hander Chad Green, who was 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 46.1 innings of work in 2012, getting the starting nod for the season opener against the Hoosiers. Junior Jeff Thompson will start on Saturday against South Florida, with sophomore Jared Ruxer, a Freshman All-American last season, taking the mound against Purdue on Sunday.
In the video below, Friday's starter Chad Green talks about being selected as the season-opening starter during Monday's media day. He also provides a scouting report on fellow starters Jeff Thompson and Jared Ruxer. Thompson returns the favor and provides a scouting report on Green and Ruxer.
BIG EAST/BIG TEN CHALLENGE OVERVIEW
The fifth BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge has a different look than previous seasons as only five total teams (three BIG EAST, two Big Ten) will participate in the event. Louisville is 8-1 all-time in the event after winning two of three games last season. Games in Dunedin, Fla., will be played at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Games in Clearwater, Fla, will be played at Bright House Field, spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Games in St. Petersburg, Fla., will be played at Al Lang Stadium, former spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets and New York Giants.
2013 BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge Schedule
Friday, Feb. 15
4 p.m. - Purdue at Connecticut (Dunedin)
7:30 p.m. - Indiana at Louisville (Dunedin)
Saturday, Feb. 16
4 p.m. - Louisville at USF (Clearwater)
7:30 p.m. - USF at Purdue (Clearwater)
7:30 p.m. - Connecticut at Indiana (St. Petersburg)
Sunday, Feb. 17
10 a.m. - Louisville at Purdue (St. Petersburg)
1 p.m. - Purdue at Connecticut (St. Petersburg)
1 p.m. - Indiana at USF (Dunedin)
LOUISVILLE 29-6 OVERALL AGAINST BIG TEN CONFERENCE SINCE 2006
Since head coach Dan McDonnell was hired prior to the 2007 season, the Louisville baseball team has been dominant against the Big Ten Conference holding a 29-6 record overall. UofL was 5-2 last season against the league with wins over Indiana (2), Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State while dropping games to Minnesota and Purdue. Louisville is 20-19 all-time against Indiana, 31-39 all-time against USF and 5-6 all-time against Purdue.
POSSIBLE POSITION STARTERS
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. B/T AVG HR RBI SB-ATT C 14 Kyle Gibson 5-9 205 Jr. R/R .285 0 23 3-4 --OR-- C 41 Shane Crain 6-2 204 Jr. R/R .240 0 6 0-1 1B 26 Zak Wasserman 6-6 241 Sr. L/L .297 6 27 1-1 2B 1 Nick Ratajczak 5-10 177 Sr. L/R .343 0 25 6-11 3B 30 Ty Young 5-11 178 Jr. L/R .344 6 42 15-19 SS 2 Zach Lucas 6-0 186 So. R/R .259 1 28 6-7 --OR-- SS 4 Alex Chittenden 6-0 192 Jr. R/R .303 1 19 5-7 --OR-- SS 17 Sutton Whiting 5-8 163 So. R/R .000 0 1 3-3 LF 20 Coco Johnson 5-11 205 Jr. R/R - - - - CF 10 Adam Engel 6-1 208 Jr. R/R .308 1 18 37-39 RF 15 Cole Sturgeon 6-0 178 Jr. L/L .321 1 45 8-8 DH 42 Jeff Gardner 6-2 218 Jr. L/R .299 2 34 2-5 Other Likely Position Contributors: 1B 5 Anthony Kidston 6-2 190 Fr. R/R - - - - 3B 8 Danny Rosenbaum 6-1 200 Fr. R/R - - - - OF 18 Mike White 6-1 207 So. L/L .294 0 5 0-0 OF 43 Matt Helms 6-0 200 Sr. L/R .271 0 10 1-2