Softball, Lacrosse Face Questions After 1-2 Start on Day 1
I can't imagine yesterday, after both of their first games of the season, that Holly Aprile and Scott Teeter were where they wanted to be. It's a fresh start for softball, and I'm willing to call this season 1.5 for Teeter after having the team thrust upon him shortly before the season started last year. Teeter didn't have time to truly recruit, and the team had to learn his style on the fly while he made due with what he had. It was very similar to the men's basketball situation with David Padgett. The primary difference is that Teeter is back to build on what he had.
Teeter's squad faced the bigger test to open their season, as lacrosse went on the road to Evanston, Illinois to take on a top-ten Northwestern team. Northwestern has been, and remains, a thorn in Louisville's side. Last night was no different. The Wildcats scored in just 12 seconds to take a lead they would never surrender. Louisville was able to tie it up at 1-1 a little over a minute later, but after scoring their second goal to make it 3-2 with 24:24 remaining on the clock in the first half, Northwestern left the Cards behind for good. NU rattled off 9 goals in the next six and a half minutes to make it 12-2 with just under 18 minutes remaining. The first half would end at 15-4.
There was promise for Louisville, though, as they came out and won the second half. How much of that was to do with Northwestern rotating players, I can't be sure as they did go up 20-6, but Louisville outscored the Wildcats 7-6 over the last 30 minutes. The Cards were led by the usual suspects on offense, as Tessa Chad scored three and both Blalock sisters scored two apiece. Sophomore Kayla Marshall added two of her own with an assist, and freshman Paige Richbourg scored and assisted sophomore Alex McNichols for the other two goals.
It was thumping for the Cards, to be sure, but it was also 18 degrees outside for the first game of the season, with a still newish coach, and against a top ten team. I'm not ready to count this team out for an unfortunate opening performance like this. However, the next couple of games should tell us a lot more about the team. Louisville stays on the road for a game on Sunday against Marquette and then next week against Denver before finally coming back to Louisville to take on Mercer on the 23rd of February. Marquette has been a team that Louisville has been able to beat in the past, while Denver has proven very challenging. Both of these are road games so we will see if the Cards can get past their road woes quickly.
The Diamond Cards, led by a new skipper for the first time ever, also had a rough start to their season. Louisville is playing in Fullerton, this weekend as it is above freezing there. Their opening game came against an Idaho State team that is generally not very good. The Bengals finished 13-34 last season and are 1-2 early in this year. That one win came as a 3-0 victory over our Louisville Cardinals yesterday afternoon. Louisville struggled offensively yesterday, despite putting together a .440 on-base percentage against only 3 strikeouts. The Cards simply were unable to get runs home.
Megan Hensley got the start against Idaho State and looked much more controlled than last season. She struck out 10, while walking none and hitting none. If you remember, control issues were rampant last year for the Louisville pitching staff, so hopefully that has been a focus for improvement. The Cards struggled with errors, racking up 5, which led to two of the three runs yesterday being unearned. Since the Cards were unable to score a single run, and the opening run by Idaho State was earned, it is hard to say that the errors led to the loss, but they certainly didn't help anything as they turned what could have been a 1-0 game going into the bottom of the seventh in 3-0.
Louisville bounced back quickly, though. Taking on the hosts, Cal State Fullerton, who had already knocked off Idaho State on Thursday, Louisville looked to rebound from a very lax start. Danielle Watson got the start in the second game, and was electric. She pitched only 5 innings, which was all the Cards needed as they won 9-0, and finished with just 1 hit versus 9 strikeouts, 0 walks, and 0 HBP. Two games in a row with no walks from the pitchers? Maybe that could turn into a trend. The offense took everything they couldn't do right in the first game (namely get runners home) and did it right in the second. Their OBP was only .04 points higher at .480 in the second game, and they actually had fewer hits, but they turned them into 7 RBIs and scored 8 earned runs (1 unearned).
Louisville was led offensively by Sidney Melton and Darrianne Hale with 2 RBIs apiece. Also chipping in were Kara Snyder, Riley Schindler, and Maddy Newman. Newman also scored two runs on two at-bats (although the walk doesn't count as an AB). Despite scoring 9 runs, Louisville still managed to leave 7 runners on base, showing there is room for improvement offensively (as we could have guessed from the shutout in game one).
The Cards will play three more games in Fullerton this weekend, taking on Buffalo and Northwestern (get revenge for lacrosse) today, and Utah State tomorrow. After these three games, we should see a much clearer picture of the softball team that Aprile has on her hands.
Women's Tennis Remains Undefeated
The third spring sport that started earlier in the winter is women's tennis, and they remain on fire. The Cards moved to 8-0 after defeating Marshall yesterday. I'd caution against early celebration, though, as the Cards started last season at 12-1 before losing 11 of their last 12 regular season matches and crashing out in round 1 of the ACC tournament. Hopefully, they can use some lessons learned from last year and improve upon their ACC play this season. The talent is definitely there for this team, and I'm sure they are all eager to put last season behind them and finish stronger this year.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
Jeff remains Down Under, but Paulie, Jared, Daryl, and I will bring you the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour as regularly scheduled. We'll have more than one sport to talk about now and we'll get into lacrosse, tennis, softball, and still bring it home to basketball. The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour airs on WCHQ at 11AM. It can be found at 100.9 FM, the WCHQ App, wchqfm.com, or on YouTube live streaming (we're leaving Facebook behind) on WCHQ's YouTube channel. Tune in as we bring you the joy and excitement of Louisville women's athletics!
Until next time, Go Cards!