Roby and Otis Deliver Milestone Homers in 5-3 Win
In a game that saw both teams hit two home runs to provide the only scoring, Louisville came out ahead with a 5-3 victory over Virginia in the opening game of their three game weekend set. As Jared mentioned yesterday, this series is critical for Louisville to stay in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid and to stay ahead of Virginia Tech (1.5 games back) for fourth in the ACC. A win last night helps to get the weekend started in a positive way.
The second saw Louisville get a runner on base but leave none stranded in a 4-up, 3-down situation. After a ground out by Sarah Gordon, Daisy Hess laid down a bunt single. Pickle Winkler hit a line shot to center field that was caught, leaving Hess on first with two outs. That's not so odd, right? Except Ally Alexander wouldn't see an official at-bat. Hess was caught stealing to end the top half of the inning. After settling in a bit during the break, Zabala sat Virginia down 1-2-3.
In the third, Alexander stepped back to the plate just as she had the inning prior. She snagged a lead off single and was bunted to second by Paige Geraghty. Otis sent another liner into the outfield, but her hit was also right at a fielder, just like Winkler's. Easton Lotus delivered a single, but it stayed in the infield, advancing Alexander only to third. A ground out ended the inning, stranding two on base and leaving the Cards down 2-0. Still going strong, Zabala retired her fifth, sixth, and seventh straight batters.
Louisville was quiet in the fifth, earning just a walk, but it was moot with Zabala continuing her fantastic start after the first inning home run. Six pitches retired the side in the fifth inning and five pitches was all it took in the sixth. The sixth inning for Louisville showed a lot of promise. The Cards threatened by loading the bases with a two-out rally (with the help of an error), but they couldn't capitalize and the teams headed to the seventh with the score still 5-2.
Louisville got another pair of runners on base in the top of the seventh but one negated the other. Neither came around to score, meaning Virginia needed three runs to keep the game going and four to win. Zabala reentered for her seventh inning of work, having thrown only 63 pitches in the first six innings. Just as she had over the previous five innings, Zabala retired the first two batters. Abby Weaver was committed to not going down without a fight, though, and she matched Roby's fifth inning solo shot with one of her own to break Zabala's out streak at 17. The home run made it 5-3, but that was the final as a pop out ended the game.
In the win, Taylor Roby hit a solo home run to set a program record with 18 homers in a single season. Already the owner of the career home run record, Roby has eight regular season games remaining to extend her single season record. She seems likely to do so and it seems like a record likely to stand for quite some time. We talked a lot about how last season saw her struggle at the plate and in the circle due to the overwork and steep expectations at both positions. It didn't manifest right away this year, but it seems clear that Roby has thrived by not being depended on as the only arm and the biggest bat.
Korbe Otis held an on-base streak of 35 games prior to the win at Western Kentucky earlier this week. While it was unfortunate for her to miss out, she didn't let it cloud her play going forward. Otis had three hits in four at-bats in this one, with the aforementioned grand slam being the big one. Her run scored from the homer moves her alone into fifth on Louisville's single season runs scored list. She's now two behind Carmyn Greenwood's 2022 season for fourth and just 12 away from tying the record of 64 set by Melissa Roth in 2009.
Louisville and Virginia will face off again tonight at 6PM. The game will be streamed on ACC Network Extra. A 4PM start wraps up the series tomorrow on ACC Network proper. Louisville will look for a pair of big wins before returning to Ulmer next weekend for their home finale series against Boston College. The Cards wrap up the regular season on the road against league-leading Florida State on Derby Weekend, so wins this weekend and next are key.
Sydney Taylor Commits to Louisville
Another day means another roster addition for Jeff Walz and the Louisville women's basketball squad, apparently. After getting a commitment from Nina Rickards Thursday, last night saw a commitment from Sydney Taylor, a transfer from UMass. Taylor, a 5-9 guard out of Long Island, will officially be a grad transfer. She played in 17 games during her freshman year and started in all 90 games she played over the next three seasons. She was on the All-Championship team for the A-10 as a sophomore and as a junior, and she was named to the A-10 All-Conference Second Team in her junior year. As a senior, Taylor was First Team All-Conference and made the All-Academic Team as well.
Taylor's pickup now gives Louisville enough players to play 5-on-5 in practice without the volunteer practice squad, but I expect she won't be the last addition to the 2023-24 roster.
No Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
With today being the start of Louisville's holiday season (Thunder Over Louisville), we'll be taking the week off from the show. Looking ahead, we're planning to record an episode next week before also having Derby Day off. It should be full steam ahead into the summer after that, with hopefully plenty of post-season softball to discuss.
Until next time, Go Cards!