Louisville baseball regional-01.jpg

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Except for a strange twist in 2021, the University of Louisville baseball program has been a constant presence as a host site for NCAA Regionals in the Dan McDonnell era.

Kentucky has not competed in the NCAA Tournament since 2017. Indiana came to Louisville in 2019 and was eliminated in three games.

This season, the Wildcats and Hoosiers appear primed to take it up a notch with the Cardinals:

According to a projection at 11point7, a college baseball podcast, all three programs are tracking to host NCAA Regionals next month.

The latest forecast by 11point7 (which signifies 11.7, the number of scholarships a baseball program can distribute) has Kentucky the overall No. 9 tournament seed, Louisville No. 14 and Indiana No. 15. (Sixteen schools are chosen to host regionals.)

That forecast differs from the rankings at Baseball America or Division1Baseball.com. Baseball America ranks Kentucky 12th and Louisville 13th, with IU unranked. D1Baseball calls it Louisville 12th and Kentucky 13th with the Hoosiers also unranked.

If you trust the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) you can rank the schools in another order: Kentucky sits first nationally in RPI with Indiana 14th and Louisville 25th.

This is what is safe to say: All three teams are tracking to make the 64-team NCAA field but have work to do to secure the opportunity to host on the opening weekend.

Louisville is 26-10 but only 8-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference after losing two of three to powerful Wake Forest last weekend. The Cards can upgrade their resume this weekend during a three-game series at Duke, which is 24-12 and also a projected NCAA Tournament team.

McDonnell’s team ranks eighth in the ACC in on-base percentage and ninth in runs scored.

Louisville averaged 6.3 runs in its eight ACC victories, but only three runs in its seven conference defeats, enduring a pair of shutouts.

The Cards’ pitching staff ranks fifth in earned run average. Only Wake Forest, which has the ACC’s best staff, has allowed fewer hits. But walks have been an issue for the Cards as the U of L pitching staff has issued more than all but four ACC staffs.

Kentucky sits 29-7 and 10-5 in the daunting Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats have won three of five SEC series, sweeping Mississippi State and Missouri.

Last weekend in Baton Rouge, Kentucky lost two of three to the top-ranked Tigers — and gained in at least one poll by bouncing back from a 16-6 defeat to win 13-10 and then lose the rubber game, 7-6. Kentucky will host Texas A&M, another likely NCAA team, this weekend.

Coach Nick Mingione has built a team with a solid blend of offense and pitching. The Wildcats rank fourth in the SEC in batting average and earned run average. UK excels at small ball leading the SEC in stolen bases as well as sacrifice hits.

Second baseman Emilien Pitre, a native of Quebec, Canada, has become an on-base machine, reaching base in nearly 52% of his plate appearances, which ranks second in the SEC.

Indiana leads the Big Ten with a 9-3 record with the Hoosiers sitting at 27-11 after beating Louisville (7-3) and Cincinnati (11-9). IU has won four straight games as the Hoosiers take a break from league play to host Ohio University this weekend.

Coach Jeff Mercer’s team ranks fifth in the Big Ten in on-base percentage and third in earned run average.

Devin Taylor, the Hoosiers’ first-year outfielder from LaSalle High School in Cincinnati, has energized the IU lineup while earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week recognition three times. Taylor is batting .370 with a team-high nine home runs as well as 35 runs batted in.

With the Big Ten only projected to put three teams in the NCAA field, the Hoosiers cannot afford a backslide in upcoming series against Maryland, Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan State.

Not if they want to hold their projected spot as an NCAA Regional host with Louisville and Kentucky.

Copyright 2023 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.