U of L baseball: Weekly notebook

Jeff Gardner

Here are a few notebook items from the University of Louisville baseball team as the Cardinals head into the NCAA Tournament this week. U of L will play Kent State in the opening round on Friday night at Jim Paterson Stadium.

GARDNER LOSES THE PLAYOFF BEARD

University of Louisville senior left-fielder Jeff Gardner said he's not superstitious or anything. And then he smiled.

Gardner had a beard for much of the season, only shaving it "after I went 0-for-4 against Kentucky with the golden sombrero (striking out four times)," in April.

Gardner had let the beard grow since the loss to UK until after a 10-4 loss to Houston in the AAC Tournament final on Sunday.

"I decided when I got home, like 2:30 this morning that I was going to shave it," Gardner said. "Sometimes you need a fresh start."

Gardner, who was named AAC Player of the Year, went 1-for-3 with an RBI in the loss to the Cougars but said he "wanted that new start."

"It was so hot in Clearwater, I just wanted to get (the beard) off as soon as I could," the clean shaven Gardner said.

ROTATION CHANGE COMING THIS WEEK?

U of L will play Kent State on Friday night at 6 o'clock in the opener of the Louisville Regional. Kentucky and Kansas play at 2 p.m.

One would assume sophomore ace Kyle Funkhouser (12-2) would get the opening-game start but he said that's not necessarily the case.

"We don't know the rotation just yet," Funkhouser said. "We all got a little extra rest last week, so we'll just have to wait and see what coach (Roger Williams) says.

"If I get the ball, that will be a great honor to pitch the opening game. But I'm ready for whenever coach says he needs me out there."

U of L coach Dan McDonnell said junior Jared Ruxer, the Saturday pitcher for much of the season, was still questionable for this weekend. Ruxer (7-1, 2.27 ERA) has missed the previous two weekends with a strained forearm. He will be evaluated later this week.

Freshman Josh Rogers has pitched two solid games in place of Ruxer, while Anthony Kidston (7.0, 3.40) has been the Sunder starter for the final two-thirds of the season.

U of L could also use freshmen Jake Sparger and Drew Harrington to start a game.

SOLAK HAS A HUGE WEEK

Freshman Nick Solak has seen limited at-bats for much of the season. But in the final two weeks, Solak has been one of the hottest U of L players at the plate.

Solak went 3-for-3 with an RBI and a walk in the title game against Houston. He was hot for the weekend, finishing 9-for-13 (.692) with six RBI, five runs scored and two stolen bases.

On the season, Solak is batting .360 and has 19 starts in 40 appearances. He has 27 hits, 25 runs, 17 RBIs and 11 walks on the season.

GAME TIMES UPDATED

U of L updated the game times for the regional this weekend on Sunday afternoon.

The games on Friday are as originally scheduled at 2 and 6 p.m.

But the losers' bracket game is not slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday with the winners' bracket game at 5. The Sunday games are noon and 5 p.m.

An if necessary title game on Monday is scheduled for 7 o'clock.

FUTURE CARDS STILL PLAYING

Several future U of L players are still competing in the Kentucky playoffs.

Shortstop Devin Hariston, a 2014 signee, had a two-run triple and a two-run home run on Monday as Tates Creek waxed Berea 18-2 in the 11th Region opening round. Tates Creek is ranked No. 1 in Kentucky plays Western Hills on Tuesday.

U of L signee Grant Schreiver helped Covington Catholic to a 3-0 win over St. Henry on Monday. The Colonel will play Conner in the Ninth Region semifinals on Tuesday.

Zeke Pinkham, one of the top 2015 commitments, helped Elizabethtown to a 10-0 win over Nelson County in the Fifth Region. The semifinals are tomorrow for E'town.

St. Xavier advanced into the Seventh Region semifinals but catcher/third baseman Austin Clemons is sidelined with a knee injury.

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