University of Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell didn't hold back when talking about expectations for senior Cole Sturgeon.
"We feel like he's the best right fielder in the country," McDonnell said.
But Sturgeon, a senior from Owensboro Catholic High School, isn't just a right fielder. Sturgeon plays a dual role for the Cardinals and will be one of the key players as U of L tries to make a run at a third World Series appearance.
Sturgeon will be the everyday right fielder but will also be available as a relief pitcher for the Cardinals again.
"He's so valuable," McDonnell said. "He's worked hard with Roger (Williams) to be able to give us some good innings. We expect a lot from him this year as a captain."
Sturgeon, who started 60 games in right field last season, had to pitch 14 times for the Big East champion Cardinals.
As a regular at the plate, Sturgeon is batted .339 with nine doubles, two triples and 33 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .412 and on-base percentage is .420. Sturgeon was also second on the team with 19 multi-hit games.
On the mount, Sturgeon didn't have a decision but had one save and allowed 11 hits, while striking out 16 batters in 13 innings.
"It comes a lot easier now than when I first started doing it," Sturgeon said. "Me and coach Williams have worked it out pretty good where he gives me a little heads up, so I can get loose. It was a little hectic at first.
"But it's really not that bad anymore. Anything to help the team win."
Sturgeon has bounced around the lineup, filling in for guys with injuries, but this year is expected to bat second in the order. He's batting .306 in 166 career games, including 150 starts. He has made just eight career errors.
"I'm excited for the season," he said. "I got my taste of the top of the order when Adam (Engel) was hurt my sophomore year. I've batted in a few spots, so it should be fun."
And McDonnell and staff certainly have high hopes for the senior.
"We believe the corners can sometimes be trickier to play (in the outfield)," McDonnell said. "We're very confident we have one of the best out there in Cole."