Louisville and Vanderbilt will meet in one of the more intriguing NCAA Super Regional series this weekend, and both teams possessing very good rotations is a big reason for that.
Beginning with the Cardinals, they have a very good mix of pitchers entering the weekend. Right-handed pitcher Chad Green is more the pitchability type of arm for the Cardinals, and is very effective with a 2.22 ERA in 97 1/3 innings of work, along with 70 strikeouts and 21 walks.
Right-handed pitchers Jeff Thompson and Dace Kime also are headliners in the rotation. Both Thompson and Kime have very good frames, with Thompson sitting in the low-to-mid 90s with a good slider, while Kime is another 90-plus arm who has shined for the Cardinals this spring. Kime has a 3.14 ERA in 66 innings, along with 79 strikeouts and 20 walks.
For the Vanderbilt Commodores, they possess one of the nation's elite one-two punches in left-handed pitcher Kevin Ziomek and right-hander Tyler Beede.
Ziomek has good range on his pitches, with the ability to go anywhere from 88-93 with his fastball, while he also utilizes a good curveball and changeup. Meanwhile, Beede has made some strides with his command this spring, and that shows in the quality numbers he has tallied. Beede topped out at 96-97 at the SEC tournament a couple of weeks ago and has a 2.20 ERA in 98 1/3 innings, along with 101 strikeouts and 60 walks.
Rounding out the Vandy rotation this weekend will either be Walker Buehler or Philip Pfeifer. Buehler was up to 92-94 with his fastball at the SEC tournament a couple of weeks ago and has had a good campaign with a 3.14 ERA in 63 innings of work, while Pfeiffer has been impressive, striking out two batters and allowing just four hits in five shutout frames last weekend against Georgia Tech.
Both teams have plenty of solid options in this department, making this a fun series to watch from a starting pitching standpoint.
In not exactly a surprising development, both the Cardinals and Commodores also enter the weekend series with good bullpens.
The Cardinals have one of the nation's elite power arms in imposing right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi. Burdi has been clocked at 101 this spring and commands his stuff well despite throwing so hard. Burdi has appeared in 26 games and has an 0.83 ERA and 15 save sin 32 2/3 innings of work.
Fellow reliever Cody Ege has some funk to him with a good breaking ball. Ege has appeared in 34 innings and has a 1.26 ERA in 28 2/3 innings of work, while Jared Ruxer, Joe Filomeno, Cole Sturgeon and Kyle McGrath have all earned positive reviews from opposing coaches. Sturgeon leads the way out of that group with a .219 ERA in 12 1/3 innings of work.
For the Commodores, it's a very good mix of arms to throw at you throughout the latter innings. For starters, coach Tim Corbin absolutely loves Brian Miller, who has an outstanding slider and a 1.47 ERA and 16 saves in 55 innings of work, while freshman right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer has a huge arm, getting up to 96-97 with his fastball at the SEC tournament a couple of weeks ago.
I'd also keep an eye on Jared Miller and Steven Rice, who each have earned-run averages below three and have appeared in 20 or more games this season, while Adam Ravenelle has appeared in 11 games and has a 3.18 ERA.
We like the Cardinals and Commodores from an offensive standpoint, but we're definitely giving the overall edge to Vandy entering the weekend.
The Commodores have a very balanced lineup with a collection of good role players leading the charge. Second baseman Tony Kemp is the spark plug that guides the way for the Commodores, hitting a team-leading .398 with 33 RBIs, along with 32 stolen bases. Kemp has a strong collection of speed, good bat and instincts.
Freshman third baseman Xavier Turner is having an impressive campaign with a .324 average and 36 RBIs, while outfielder Mike Yastrzemski is a consistent, hard-nosed, hitter with a .322 average and three homers and 43 RBIs.
From a power standpoint, outfielder Connor Harrell has some good pop with 12 homers and 66 RBIs, while Vince Conde and Spencer Navin have a little pop, along with first baseman Conrad Gregor, who's hitting .314 with three homers and 47 RBIs.
Also keep an eye on Rhett Wiseman and Zander Wiel, both young and rising players who are hitting .299 and .304, respectively this season.
For the Cardinals, third baseman Ty Young is athletic and talented and leads the team with a .349 average, four homers and 57 RBIs, but Jeff Gardner is the pure bat that really makes the Cards go. Gardner has good pop in his bat, hitting .340 with nine homers and 43 RBIs. Meanwhile, powerful CoCo Johnson is hitting .332 with eight homers and 50 RBIs, and Cole Sturgeon is hitting .330 with 13 stolen bases.
I'd also keep very close tabs on Sutton Whiting, Nick Ratajczak, Adam Engel and Kyle Gibson. Whiting, Ratajczak and Engel might not have great batting averages, but they can cause all sorts of pain on the base-paths, especially Whiting and Engel, who have a combined 64 stolen bases. Meanwhile, Gibson is hitting .303 and has more athleticism than you'd expect out of a catcher.
Both the Cardinals and Commodores are very athletic, so in other words, we really like both clubs from a defensive standpoint.
Vanderbilt catcher Spencer Navin is athletic, has a good frame, and has a knack for picking off runners at first base, while Xavier Turner, Vince Conde, Tony Kemp and Conrad Gregor make that infield extremely steady going into the weekend.
In the outfield, Connor Harrell is solid, and corner outfielders Jack Lupo and Mike Yastrzemski consistently show good athleticism and instincts.
For the Cardinals, catcher Kyle Gibson is more athletic than most catchers, while left side of the infield can be a little iffy at times. Meanwhile, the outfield is filled with athletes with speedy Adam Engel and CoCo Johnson leading the charge.
Vanderbilt definitely gets the edge in the defensive category, but Louisville is no slouch with an impressive group of athletes and speed.