Softball Loses Opener at 15/16 Clemson
Holly Aprile's squad hit the road for the first time in conference play for a weekend series at Clemson. Oddly, even though they play NC State next weekend, they'll travel back to Louisville on Sunday so they can host a midweek game and then head back that direction on Thursday. Don't look at me: I don't create the travel plans for collegiate athletics. At any rate, Louisville hung tough with the top-25 ranked Tigers, but they were ultimately upended by late inning defensive breakdowns that set the final score at 5-2.
Taylor Roby was in the circle for the first game of the series, and she was locked in a pitcher's duel for much of the game. Louisville offense was stifled completely by Clemson's Millie Thompson, who struck out five of the first six batters. The Cards finally got on base in the third inning, putting runners on first and third with two outs for Roby, but a high pitch enticed her on a 3-1 count and she popped out. The fourth saw Louisville return to a 1-2-3 inning with a hit being followed by a double-play and then another groundout.
On the other side, Roby was effective early. Though she wasn't striking out as many as her counterpart, she was getting through innings fairly easily. Clemson left one on base in each of the first three innings, but finally struck in the fourth. After a strikeout, a walk and a steal put a runner on second with one out. A grounder looked to at least keep the runner at just third with two outs, but a Louisville fielding error allowed the runner to score. A second consecutive error put runners on first and second before Roby induced a lineout and a foulout to end the inning.
With the lead, Holly Aprile made what I would consider a puzzling decision to pull Roby in favor of Chardonnay Harris. I have nothing against Harris, as she is a fine pitcher, but Roby was not struggling and the previous run scored had not been her fault. Harris picked up a lineout to open the inning then gave up a walk and a single. A strikeout gave the Cards two outs before a passed ball moved the runners to both in scoring position. An intentional walk set up the force out at any base, but an unintentional walk on a full count scored the tying run. Harris was able to force a popout to strand the bases loaded, but the game was back to square.
Louisville fought hard, but ultimately couldn't string together enough offense and defense at the end to pull out the win. Chardonnay Harris finishes with the loss after it was her runner that scored the go-ahead (and winning) run, but the pitching decisions yesterday were odd. I don't know that Taylor Roby wasn't asking for a break, but to go out and back in seems like it is almost never a good idea from a flow perspective. The Cards will get two more chances to get a top-25 win, and if they can take the series, they'll move back to .500 in conference. Today's game is at 5PM, and tomorrow's is at Noon. Both are on the linear ACCN channel.
Exciting Day 1 of Sweet Sixteen
It was almost all chalk yesterday in the first four games of the Sweet Sixteen, but the games were all exciting nonetheless. Each was decided by fewer than ten points, but the bigger oddity is that the total range of scores in each of the four games was just 15 points. The lowest scoring game yesterday totaled 129, while the highest was just 144. That highest scoring game was also the only upset, as Creighton knocked off ISU to become just the fourth double-digit seed to advance to the women's Elite Eight in history. On the same night, the Peacocks of St. Peters became the not just the first 15-seed to advance to the Elite Eight on the men's side, but also the first team seeded higher than 12th to ever do so.
It was a tough second quarter for UNC that saw the Tarheels fall to the hands of the overall 1 seeded South Carolina. The Heels led by one point after the first quarter before being held to single digits in the second quarter. The 17-8 quarter gave the Gamecocks an 8-point halftime lead, which would match the final deficit. UNC trailed by 11 entering the fourth quarter and managed to win the final frame by three to close the gap once more, but South Carolina was too much. Strangely, South Carolina has now ended UNC's season in three different postseason matchups this year: football, women's soccer, and now women's basketball. While we were frustrated when Mississippi State kept doing that to the Cards, at least Mississippi State wasn't one of our major rivals.
The Cards get Tennessee today at 4PM on ESPN. It's the third of four games, as NC State and Notre Dame get things tipped off at 11:30. Following today's games, Jared will run the numbers on the bracket challenge, so be sure to check out Jeff's article tomorrow for a full update of the standings. My bracket went out the window quite some time ago.
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Until next time, Go Cards!