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2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 5 Louisville

2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 5 Louisville

Last season: 42-21-1 (18-11-1 ACC); lost in super regionals
Final ranking: No. 12
Coach (record at school): Dan McDonnell (646-266, 15 seasons)

The good news: The Cardinals return three of their leading hitters in catcher Jack Payton (.350), shortstop Christian Knapczyk (.346) and outfielder Isaac Humphrey (.328). Sophomore infielder Noah Smith is back after a solid freshman year and will have a bigger role both on the dirt and at the dish. McDonnell also gets back 6-foot-5 third baseman William Cook, who missed last season due to injury. Riley Phillips and Tate Kuehner make for a formidable 1-2 punch at the front of the Cardinals’ rotation, while any of Carson Liggett, Greg Farone and Ryan Hawks could round out the rotation. The most intriguing development for the Cardinals, however, could be a trio of talented freshmen—infielder Tucker Biven, righthander/infielder Patrick Forbes and infielder Gavin Kilen. All three received rave reviews for their production this fall and could immediately play significant roles. Forbes could be the club’s closer, while Kilen could join Knapczyk in the middle of the infield.

The bad news: The Cardinals have an intriguing blend of veterans and newcomers, but replacing catcher Dalton Rushing (23 home runs) and third baseman Ben Metzinger (19 home runs), as well as do-it-all dynamo and 2022 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Levi Usher, is no small task. Taking over for Rushing will be Ryan McCoy, who is coming off an all-American season in junior college, while Forbes or Logan Beard will likely take over for Metzinger at the hot corner. Beard hit a respectable .310 last spring, and although he doesn’t possess the power that Metzinger had, he will consistently move the baseball and play solid defense. McDonnell has a couple of weapons he could use to take over for Usher in center field, with senior Tyeler Hawkins and redshirt freshman Eddie King Jr. as the likeliest options. While losing righthander Jared Poland and lefthander Michael Prosecky to the draft would in some years leave a gaping hole in the pitching staff, the depth on the mound will help ease the blow.

Player to know: Eddie King Jr., OF.

A highly touted prospect out of Chicago, King Jr. missed the entire 2022 season before exploding onto the scene this summer in the Prospect League, taking home MVP honors. He possesses a tantalizing power-speed combination, having slugged a whopping 15 home runs and stealing 31 bases in 49 games this summer. He also…

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