U of L baseball: NCAA Regional notebook

Dan McDonnell

The University of Louisville baseball team will begin NCAA Tournament play on Friday at Jim Patterson Stadium. Here are a few notes as the Cardinals prepare to play Kent State on Friday night at 6 o'clock.

THREE CARDS NAMED ALL-AMERICANS

On the eve of opening the NCAA Tournament, the University of Louisville baseball team received some good news on individual honors.

Junior reliever Nick Burdi was named a first-team Louisville Slugger All-American, while Jeff Gardner and Kyle Funkhouser were both tabbed as second-team members.

Burdi, considered a top pick in next week's June Amateur Draft, has appeared in 26 games this season. He has a 0.56 ERA with a 3-1 record and 14 saves, striking out 57 batters and walking just eight in 32 innings.

Gardner, the senior left-fielder, leads the team in hitting (.340), doubles (19) home runs (9) and RBIs (66), while having a .572 slugging percentage for the Cardinals.

Funkhouser is the Friday starter for the Cardinals and has a 12-2 record with a 1.81 ERA. He has 100 strikeouts in 99.1 innings.

MCGRATH 'READY TO GO' FOR CARDS

After missing a month with a torn oblique, Kyle McGrath returned two weeks ago and is "ready to go" in the postseason.

"It was a long time coming," McGrath said of the return. "It took a lot of hard work to get back out there but I'm glad I'm ready."

In 19 appearances this season, the Butler High alum has a 1-1 record and 1.54 ERA in 35 innings. He has struck out 38 and walked nine. He's pitched three times since his return.

"They were originally telling me four weeks but that they had seen it last a half a year," McGrath said. "So there was a doubt (in making it back) but in my mind I always just imagined that I was going to be back by the end of the regular season. I did two or three rounds of rehab a day just to make sure I got back."

McGrath said he suffered the injury in the second meeting against UK, noting that "I felt it before and I think I tweaked it then."

"My command has been kind of shaky, but that's expected when you haven't thrown for a month," he said. "But overall, I feel good about it."

WHITING IS 'BACK' FROM HIS SLUMP

U of L junior shortstop Sutton Whiting has been in a slump for much of the latter part of the season with three hits in 15 games.

But McDonnell said Whiting is "back" after getting two hits in the AAC Tournament final against Houston, including a home run.

"We moved him down in the order but he's back and we could hit him lead off again," McDonnell said. "Nobody goes through a college career without a slump but he's back."

Whiting is hitting .210 in 54 games this season after his average had been as high as .265 in the middle of the season.

He does lead the team with 33 stolen bases.

WHO WILL BAT LEADOFF?

McDonnell said he would likely keep catcher Kyle Gibson in the leadoff spot during games that he catches, which will include Friday.

Gibson has batted leadoff the final two weeks of the season when he was in the game, with McDonell noting he's "done a really good job."

Gibson is hitting .327 this season with hits in nine consecutive games. He's had multiple hit games in the past six games, all in leadoff.

Cole Sturgeon, Nick Solak and Mike White have also batted in the leadoff spot late in the season.

Kent State WILL START LEFTY

U of L is 15-9 in games against left-handed pitchers and will see another on Friday.

Kent State is expected to start left-hander Eric Lauer, who is 8-4 with a 3.26 ERA. He has 64 strike outs and 36 walks in 80 innings.

The Golden Flash are 36-21 this season.

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