Ratajczak looks to extend Cardinal career

Louisville second baseman Nick Ratajczak has made 116 consecutive starts at second base and the senior plans on continuing the streak deep in the post season. The 10th-ranked Cardinals host 16th-ranked Pittsburgh, beginning on Thursday, with the conference title on the line.

Following two seasons at Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College, where he earned First Team All-Conference honors, Nick Ratajczak brought his hard-nosed style of play to Louisville and now two years later is preparing for his final regular season series at Jim Patterson Stadium.

During the past two seasons, the second baseman has been a staple in the Cardinals lineup. The Illinois native has started every game since he arrived on campus and quickly proved to be an excellent defender and a tough out at that plate.

"I've started every game since I've been here and that's an honor," he said. "I came from a junior college and had the hard-nose mentality. It's a blessing that I've played every single game here and I don't plan to stop now."

As a junior, Ratajczak earned All-Big East honors and was named to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team. This season he ranks among the nation's toughest to strike out, only doing so once every 25.3 at-bats and ranks 23rd nationally with 17 HBP's.

With Louisville set to battle Pittsburgh for the 2013 Big East Conference regular season title and the possibility of U of L hosting an NCAA Regional, Ratajczak hopes to extend his college playing days.

"It's bittersweet, I'm not going to lie," Ratajczak said. "It's sad in a way and also exciting. It's a big weekend for conference and we have so many goals that we are trying to accomplish. The possibility of being here for the postseason is an unbelievable experience, so whatever it takes to do that, we are capable of doing it. Like I said, it's bittersweet. Last year I knew I had another year, but now this is it. It's go time, this is it. You just have to enjoy it and I've enjoyed every second on this field."

Winners of 13 straight, the Cardinals remain focused on the task at hand and not dwelling on the possibilities.

"Our focus is on [Thursday], it's not on Friday or Saturday," he said. "Coach challenged us to play good baseball for the last couple weeks and lately we have. If we take one game at a time and don't look at the big picture and focus on the little things we'll be alright."

First pitch for the series opener on Thursday is scheduled for 6:00p.m. at Jim Patterson Stadium and admission is free. The series will also be broadcast on ESPNU.