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Saturday, April 23, 2022

Softball Falls at VT; Lacrosse on Thunder -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Softball Loses Series Opener 4-3

Louisville softball is in Blacksburg this weekend taking on one of their highest-ranked opponents of the season, and they opened the weekend with a very strong performance. Though they may have missed out on their biggest opportunity to steal a win from the #3 Hokies, Louisville showed great determination and held on tight for the entire game. 

It was an inauspicious start for the Cards, who went 3-up, 3-down in the top half of the inning on just 9 pitches (pop-out and 2K, nearly an immaculate inning), but Roby rewarded them with three groundouts in the bottom half. Unfortunately, those three groundouts were precluded by a leadoff single and a walk, and the Hokies were able to make use of the productive outs to score a run. 

After another 1-2-3 offensive inning, Roby was on the ropes again after a 1-out double put two runners in scoring position. Fortunately, Virginia Tech didn't have a speedster on the paths, as a double will frequently score a runner from first in softball, and the Cards were able to make a play at the plate on the ensuing grounder. Another groundout ended the inning, and Louisville held onto a tenuous 1-0 deficit. 

That deficit was erased in the top of the third as Vanessa Miller opened the inning with a homer to straightaway center. After Ally Alexander struck out, Jenna Servi attempted to continue the good vibes with a triple, but the top of the order was unable to bring her in, as Carmyn Greenwood kept her bat on her shoulder to watch a strikeout and Korbe Otis flew out to center. Nevertheless, Louisville had tied the game. In the bottom half, Roby continued to work the defense and keep the ball out of the air. Though the pitch count was still climbing, the grounders also helped to keep Roby from being in the circle for too long, as she got out of the third with a groundout, single, and GIDP and moved her pitch count to 48 after three innings. That's still a pretty big number, but considering it's almost half the game and the softball pitch count can climb much higher without doing damage than baseball, it's not too bad. Comparatively, VT's Keely Rochard had 38 pitches through three innings, and she had given up just two hits compared to the four hits and a walk from Roby.

The top of the fourth didn't see Louisville continue their momentum, though, as a HBP put Kendall Smith on base with one out, but she stood out there for only four pitches while Louisville followed the HBP with a three-pitch strikeout and a first pitch popout. The bottom of the inning saw Virginia Tech ready to get their lead back. An eight-pitch walk opened the frame, and a steal following a flyout put the runner in scoring position. Putting runners in scoring position is a good way to win games, as a single brought the runner home. Smelling blood in the water, VT went for a pinch-runner with one out, but the aggressive attempt backfired when Louisville completed a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double-play, with Kendall Smith firing the ball to Ally Alexander for the tag. In those situations, we say thank you to the batter for watching the third strike and not slowing down the catcher with a swing.

With the lead once more, Rochard was inspired, and she struck out the side to show it. It wasn't easy, though, as all three batters worked the count. What could have theoretically been done in nine pitches took Rochard 22, with Alexander working an 11-pitch at bat. While we can't see whether she swung at pitches out of the zone in the at bat (she almost certainly did), she didn't watch any in the zone either. She took three balls and fouled off six pitches, including four money pitches on the full count. Unfortunately, the second of her two whiffs in the at bat was the third strike, but it was an impressive plate appearance. 

Once again, putting runners in scoring position paid off. The Hokies opened the inning with a double, and the runner advanced to third on a flyout. A walk gave the Cards a double-play opportunity, but the unusual FBFBFBB pitch sequence shows it wasn't intentional. It's unusual because she made contact with every pitch she swung at, but every pitch she didn't was a ball. You don't see that every day. Anyway, the runner on third actually didn't hurt Louisville, as a charging Jenna Servi snuffed out the suicide squeeze bunt attempt and Louisville found themselves in a much more advantageous position with runners on first and second but two outs. Unfortunately, a single up the middle was more damaging than the name suggests, as the runners advanced two bases and VT's lead extended by a run. A foul-out ended the inning with the Hokies holding a (now) 3-1 lead.

The top of the order finally came alive in the sixth, with Greenwood and Otis opening the inning with back-to-back doubles to recoup a run, but Rochard tightened the belt again, striking out the next three batters to strand Otis at second and to hold on to the lead. A single opened the bottom half of the inning, and a pinch-hit double scored the run to continue the seesaw of the 1-2 run advantage. Roby managed to return the favor from the top half and strand the runner at second but Louisville was down to their last scheduled plate appearance and trailed by two runs. With the bottom third of the order up, Louisville would usually not like their chances, but the bottom third had just as many hits as the top third in this one going into the seventh so anything could happen.

The Cards fears looked to be realized when they opened the inning with a pair of popups to dig a major hole. Down to their last out and needing two runs, the Cards dug in. Refusing Rochard the time to get settled in, Alexander and Servi were both first pitch swinging, each grabbing a single. Greenwood watched a pair of balls, presumably Rochard reacting and trying to get an easy out with an aggressive swing, before sending the third pitch down the left field line. Unfortunately for the Cards, the left fielder had it well defended, and, while Alexander scored, Servi could only advance to second. That set up Korbe Otis, who got down to her final strike before also sending a ball down to left field. Again, it was well defended, and Jenna Servi was tagged out at the plate trying to score the tying run. Louisville fell 4-3. 

It was a valiant effort, and a different outcome at the plate would have brought Roby up with Greenwood representing the go-ahead run at second. I don't blame the Cards for sending Servi, as  even though bringing Roby in with the bases loaded usually sounds quite threatening, but Rochard had not been particularly rattled on the day. That was especially true for Roby, who was 0-3 with a pair of strikeouts to that point. We'll never know what might have happened with Roby at the plate and the tying run at third, as VT surely wouldn't have intentionally walked that run in, but aggressiveness very often pays off. 

The Cards will get another shot today, with game two of the series getting underway at 2PM. Today's game will be on ACCNX, with tomorrow's noon finale getting the ACCN treatment. Louisville will look to stay at or above .500 in conference this weekend, which they can do if they can manage a split in these two games.

Lacrosse Hosts Notre Dame

Today is Senior Day for the Louisville lacrosse team, and they'll host the Fighting Irish from South Bend in Cardinal Stadium. The game starts at noon and the Senior Day festivities will happen before the opening draw. The Thunder Over Louisville Air Show isn't set to begin until 3PM, so you'd have plenty of time to get down to the Waterfront after the match if you wanted to turn out. Notably, the only way to access Cardinal Stadium for the game will be via Gate 2 on the Floyd Street side of the stadium, so keep that in mind as you make your way over.

Honored today will be seven players, a student assistant coach, and a manager. The players include the Blalock sisters, who are tied for the most games played in program history at 76. Caroline has been a captain throughout her time on the team, while Sarah holds a 55-54 advantage in games started. The two will be greatly missed. Also suiting up in Louisville for the last time are Hannah Morris and Paige Richbourg. Hannah was the 11th player to score 100 career goals for the Cards and Paige ranks 9th in program history in draw controls. Seniors Kirsten Parker and Abby Roskovich and RS Junior Kristen Pezzullo will also be honored, as will Kelly Coughlan and Courtney Jackson, the aforementioned coach and manager.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

After a much needed week off last week, I'll be back this week for the show, and we'll try to avoid critical recording failures. Such are the joys of internet broadcasting. This weeks show will cover the week that was in Louisville Women's Athletics, both on and off the field. There will be three of us to cover it, a throwback to the basement days on the hill. As always, you can check out the live stream of the show by going to the Cardinal Couple YouTube page and clicking on the live video. Jeff usually creates that about an hour before the show, which officially starts at 11 AM Eastern. If the live time doesn't work for you, there are plenty of playback options, so be sure to check out whichever is best for you!

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Until next time, Go Cards!

1 comment:

  1. LAX just can't seem to finish a game. I know, they play in the best Lacrosse conference in DI, and have some great players, but continuing to lose one or two-point games after building nice leads shows me tat they are in a rebuilding mode or they don't have team leadership that can rally them.

    Getting good student athletes should be a problem, but Louisville seems to end up with the ones that the Boston Colleges, Syracuses, North Carolinas and Duke pass on.

    Heck, first year Pittsburgh is on par with the Cards success.

    Nick O


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