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Monday, May 20, 2019

Softball Cards fall twice to Northwestern in Evanston Regional -- MONDAY CARDINAL COUPLE


A tough Sunday for the Louisville Softball Cards and their fans in Evanston,IL yesterday. 

Northwestern needed to win two games on Sunday to win their regional and they were able to do that. One of those wins was very solid...the other was greatly aided by a blown call on the diamond. 


After a two-hour delay because of rain in Evanston, the squads finally took the field for the first game. Louisville was facing freshman lefty Danielle Williams and the Big 10 Freshman of the Year was on her game in the circle during the first contest. 

The Wildcats put together two walks and a sacrifice fly in the top of the first inning for a run against Cardinal starter Megan Hensley and that lead held for three innings in a pitcher's duel. Hensley had a no-hitter going, despite trailing 1-0 when she was replaced by freshman Taylor Roby in the circle. 

(Yes...I got your texts, Cardinal Couple readers and fans. I can't tell you why the change in the circle happened. It might have been pre-planned, since Hensley hadn't thrown in two weeks. I am definitely not the one to question any coaching decision in any sport. Coach Aprile certainly must have had her reasons, so you need to trust in your coaches and their decisions and I won't second-guess them.) 

The change in throwers didn't go well. Northwestern responded with a four-hit, four run inning to take a 5-0 lead. 

With Williams continuing to keep the Cards off-balance at bat with her deceptive and effective change-up. Louisville never put a run across the plate. Williams struck out 10 UofL batters in six innings of work and the Cards produced just two hits for the game. Hensley eventually returned to the circle for Louisville and Northwestern added runs in the sixth and seventh innings in the shutout. 


Williams returned to the circle for Northwestern in game two and the Cards countered with a Danielle of their own...sophomore Danielle Watson. Watson had handled the Wildcats on Saturday with a 2-1 win and, despite the turn in momentum, you had to feel good about Louisville's chances in the seventh game of the regional. 

And, we saw a pitcher's duel for the first three innings. Due to a lack of communication from ESPN on where the game was being shown, I missed the Cards first at-bat. Eventually finding it on my television and on ESPNU instead of my laptop (where I had watched the first game) I picked up the action in the bottom of the first inning. 

Thanks...four-letter network...for throwing me and other fans unable to attend the game a change-up.

Northwestern struck first, in the bottom of the fourth, when Morgan Newport connected on a two-RBI double. Watson was beginning to show a little discomfort in her throwing hand (she mentioned later it was a blister on her finger) but got out of the jam, allowing just two runs. 

The Cards had an answer in the top of the fifth. Caitlin Ferguson worked Williams for a walk. Kyra Snyder singled to center and Rebecca Chung got hit by a pitch. Bases loaded, no outs. Pinch-hitter Darrianne Hale went down on a strike-out, but the last pitch eluded the Northwestern catcher and Ferguson scored. Celene Funke laid down a sacrifice bunt, trying to score Snyder, but the play at home resulted in Snyder being called out. Sidney Melton's single brought Chung home and the Cards had tied it up at 2-2. Megan Hensley drew a walk to load the bases again, but Williams got out of the jam by getting an inning-ending strike out.

It was Northwestern's turn in the bottom of the fifth. With Watson having trouble finding the strike zone because of the blistered finger, the Cats benefited from two walks, a hit batter and two RBI single to center. It was now 4-2 after five. 

The Cards threatened again in the top of the sixth. Maddy Newman beat out an infield single and moved to second on Ferguson's single to center.  Snyder followed with a single to left, but, in a totally-blown call...Newman was called out at third on the relay throw. 

Video evidence, shown time and time again on ESPN U, clearly showed that the Northwestern third baseman's foot was OFF THE BAG when she caught the throw from left field. Newman should have been called safe. The third base umpire blew the call. Holly Aprile charged onto the field, protested the call, asked the home plate umpire for a reversal, but the call was upheld. Aprile was furious and had every right in the world to be. 

There is no video replay in college softball. Newman was safe, video evidence backed that up and the archaic NCAA Softball rules that don't allow video reviews hurt the Cards badly. Instead of the bases loaded and no outs, the situation now stood at runners on first and second and one out.

Talk about a situation-changer!  A back-breaker, for sure. The Cards still had at-bats remaining but couldn't get Ferguson or Snyder home and left the inning scoreless. 

Celene Funke made an incredible catch in left-center in the bottom of the sixth to prevent any further Wildcat damage but fell awkwardly on her shoulder during the diving grab and actually popped the shoulder out of socket. She was able to get it back in place after a very nervous-for-Cardinal fans and players stoppage of action and did not have to leave the game. It was still 4-2 when the Cards came to bat in the top of the seventh. 

Funke was the first batter for UofL and heroically drove a one-handed shot down the right-field line for a triple. She scored on a Melton grounder to get Louisville back within one run. Unfortunately, the Cards could not muster another base-runner or run in the rest of the inning and Northwestern took the 4-3 win.

A tough way to end the season, for sure. We usually try to stay away from ref-baiting here, as a rule...and maybe I ranted a bit too strongly, so I blame the system. A system set up by the NCAA, for not having the simplest of solutions in play. 

Video review.

It's readily available and the wrong call was clearly demonstrated on national TV.

Video review is used in many other NCAA Division I sports. It was certainly there for the asking yesterday. I blame the NCAA, but, hey...I guess I'm going to be standing in a long line to register a complaint like that. 


An incredible season ends for the Louisville Softball squad. For the first time in history, the Cards won their first two games in NCAA Regional action. Credit to this team that embraced new coach Holly Aprile, bought in to her style and philosophy and pulled some very nice upsets of nationally ranked teams this season.

A magnificent job by Holly and her staff in getting this group of student-athletes together, getting them to believe in themselves and their abilities and...despite a couple of season-ending injuries to key players...the team rallied around each other and fulfilled their mission to create an unforgettable 2019 season. 

Hensley and Melton will be greatly missed next season, no doubt, but both had fantastic careers as Louisville Softball student-athletes. The future looks very bright for 2020 UofL Softball, with seven starters depth in the circle and on the bench.

It's up to Funke, Roby, Watson, Snyder, Newman, Ferguson and the other returning Cards and the incoming freshmen to carry the torch now. Based on what we saw in 2019, there is no doubt that fire will continue to burn brightly and softball success for Louisville will continue to grow. 3/4th of the infield returns, 2/3rd of the outfield and  strong arms in the circle and behind the plate are back. The future looks quite bright, indeed.  

It's been a wonderful pleasure and honor to follow and report to you this season the successes of these battling "Ulmer" Cards and I truly look forward to next season. 


Post game remarks below from Danielle Watson, Celene Funke and Holly Aprile.




  1. Cards got screwed, Paulie. I won't hold back. A horrible umpiring crew. The NCAA can "piss off" video replay allowed in the NCAA Tournament? Are you kidding me? Morons.

    Curtis "Nuts and bolts, we got screwed" Franklin

  2. Umpiring is a tough job, and that was a close bang-bang play. Easy to blame the umpire, but like Paulie said the real blame lies with the NCAA. All of the required video evidence is available. This is a championship event. Let's get the calls right. The players and coaches deserve it.

  3. Blown call easily reversible on video replay. Dumb rule not allowing video. Could have made a HUGE difference.
    All said, still a very good season for the swinging Cards.

  4. I have several years of umpiring under my belt... nothing above 18-year olds though. It’s tough to make calls live here and there but at that level and in the NCAA Tournament that’s an inexcusable call to miss. And shame on the rest of the crew for not stepping in to make the correct call.

    Baseball allows video replay and so should Softball. It’s dumb they don’t offer it.

    Coach had every right to go out there and argue. The home plate umpire knew the call was missed. That’s why he let her blow off steam instead of sending her off the field for the game.

    Great season for the Cards and amazing careers for Melton and Hensley. I will miss watching them play.

    1. Maybe. But doesn't the home plate umpire have the power to reverse a call made on the bases?

      I don't buy it Jared. He (IMHO) was in cahoots with that third base umpire. If he disagreed, if he knew it was the wrong call, as you suggest, he cheated the game and the principals it stands for by not reversing it.

      The real issue here is video review. So many games in college softball are on some sort or type of viewing scheme? I would venture that all of the almost 300 schools participating in DI Softball are videoing even if the game is not on-line or televised for teaching purposes for the players. How hard would it be for the umps to go to the press box, or have a laptop brought down to them, so they could review and then make the correct call.

      The NCAA must change this. We are in the 21st. century and have been for 20 years. It's time to climb out of the 1950's, NCAA, for college softball.

      -- The Real Joe Hill --

      I watched it. That foot was off the bag. All the announcers agreed. The NCAA just doesn't want to spend any additional money on a women's sport, and that is the sad truth.

    2. I was expecting Holly to get tossed just based off the language and how much she was yelling and coming towards the umpire. Typically officials and umpires will ‘let stuff slide’ when they know they’re in the wrong so I figured that’s what he was doing. Officials are weird about wanting to overturn a partner or coworkers call and I’m thinking that had to do with it. But maybe he just missed the call as well from where he was standing.

  5. it's Louisville. What do u expect. Like the Cards are ever going to get an even break from officials or the NCAA. U know better than that.

    1. Well, based on a small sample size (WBB Final Four vs Miss State, WBB regular season game at Notre Dame, this softball game) the evidence does tend to support your opinion.


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