Cole Sturgeon has one of the toughest – and most unique - roles on the University of Louisville baseball team.
The junior from Owensboro Catholic High School is not only the everyday right fielder and second-leading hitter from the No. 6 hole for the Cardinals. But he's also a key left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen.
Sturgeon, who has started 51 games in right field, has come in to pitch in 12 games this season for the Big East champion Cardinals.
"It took me a while to get used to it," Sturgeon said of his role. "I did it a lot last year and it's working out better this year.
"It's a lot easier to do now."
As a regular at the plate, Sturgeon is batting .339 with seven doubles, two triples and 32 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .413 and on-base percentage is .420. Sturgeon is also second on the team with 19 multi-hit games.
"I always say, great lineups have a great six-hole hitter," U of L coach Dan McDonnell said. "I call it the second three-hole hitter. Look at out 2007 team is was (Chris) Dominguez and then a guy like Ryan Wright. We've had some good ones.
"Cole in that six hole gives us a lot of versatility. He can bunt, hit and run, get a double. He does a lot in that spot for us."
On the mound, Sturgeon has no decisions but does have a save. He has pitched 11.1 innings and allowed 11 hits, only three earned runs and struck out 15. His ERA is 2.38 and he could be called on for more action with pitcher Anthony Kidston out for the postseason.
"Talk about toughness," McDonnell said. "He doesn't spend a lot of time on his pitching. He just toughs it out and competes.
"Cole's the symbol of who we are as a team. It doesn't shock us that he's able to have that kind of success. He's a tough kid."
Sturgeon said he doesn't spend a lot of time on his pitching. Even during games, he's not in the bullpen a lot – like normal relievers – getting ready.
"(Pitching) coach (Roger) Williams has it down now," Sturgeon said. "He'll tell me two or three innings before I might come in to go try and get close. I just need to get close and get loose and then I am ready.
"I usually throw hard before each inning in the outfield to stay loose, just in case they need me. The biggest thing for me is just staying close (to loose)."
Sturgeon admitted it's something you don't see all the time, an everyday guy who can come in on the mound but noted, "anything to help the team."
"My arm is not built up to throw a lot," he said. "But if they need me, I am ready. We have it all worked out pretty good with coach Williams now."
Sturgeon will be a key player – in both positions – if the Cardinals are to continue the success. U of L currently has the nations longest winning streak at 16 games and will play Connecticut on Wednesday in the Big East Tournament.
Over the weekend Sturgeon hit safely in all three games in the sweep of Pittsburgh, which gave the Cardinals the Big East title.
"I've had a good year," Sturgeon said. "I'm just always trying to find it and trying to get it right (at the plate). It's been fun."