University of Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell said Monday his coaching staff had several options when it came to who would start on the mound for the Cardinals during the opening weekend of the season.
And McDonnell also said there are five or six players who could start games early weekends.
But on the eve of the first game of the season, McDonnell and pitching coach Roger Williams will go with senior righty Ryan Hawks on Opening Day. U of L posted game notes on its website that listed Hawks, a native of Bowling Green, Ky., as the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Hawks pitched in 27 games last season and will open the 2023 season on Friday against Bucknell at 3:00 p.m. at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Cardinals will send junior lefty Riley Phillips to the mound on Saturday in game two of the series, while sophomore Carson Liggett is expected to start Sunday in the series finale. Both weekend games will kick off at 1pm
“We want these guys to know that we trust them, that we believe in them, and that’s why we’re giving them these opportunities,” McDonnell said during team media day Monday. “They earned it. They earned the right to run out there and compete.”
Hawks, who excelled at Warren East High School, pitched in five games during the 2020 season before it was cut short due to Covid-19. Lui missed the entire 2021 season with an injury, but returned last season and led the Cardinals with 27 appearances at the Mt.
A multi-inning reliever in ’22, Hawks finished with a 5-3 record and 4.96 ERA. He struck out 65 in 49 innings and only six of his 27 starts resulting in three outs or fewer.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Phillips had a tough freshman season with a 15.43 ERA in just 4.2 innings in 2021. But he had a breakout second season and went 5-1 with a ‘ERA of 4.34 in 15 appearances with 13 starts.
Liggett is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound sophomore from Overland Park, Kan., who appeared in 18 games last season and made four starts. He was 3-0 with a 4.68 ERA.
McDonnell spoke highly of the depth of the mound during the media day. Seven of the 15 pitchers who started for Louisville last season return, while the Cardinals have 11 pitchers back who saw 10 or more innings on the mound last season.
“Coach (Roger) Williams does a great job opening weekend hey guys, this is what we’re going to do and that could change in the second weekend,” said McDonnell. “And obviously the third weekend. The great thing is that we have four non-conference weekends before we play (in the ACC). We have some options because we have some depth.”