TAYLOR ROBY'S WALK OFF SINGLE PUSHES CARDS PAST CATS 8-7
This Louisville Softball team has a flair for dramatics, it seems.
|Patron saint of photographers Scott Utterback does work.
Another instant classic, from these softball student-athletes.
In a back and forth, see-saw slug-fest against UK last night at Ulmer Stadium, the Cards struck last -- and best -- when they broke a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the seventh. Celene Funke raced home from second base on a Taylor Roby single to center with two outs to end the contest -- before a screaming, on-the-edge of their seats crowd of over 1200. Someone call a producer, a director and let's get a made-for-TV movie out on this "three hour" tour of drama, intrigue, fright, mystery and...ultimately, triumph.
ACT I -- THE STORM.
The Cats were the first to rattle the fences in the newly named Don Dobina Field (more on that later). Louisville pitcher Danielle Watson was having trouble negotiating terms with the strike zone and UK used two walks and a single from protagonist Katie Reed to grab a 2-0 lead before the stands were halfway full.
Undaunted, the UofL players turned the firm of Funke, Melton and Hensley loose on the case and they evened the feud at 2-2, aided by associate Rebecca Chung, who performed a magic act with a perfect bunt that allowed Melton to outfox the UK infield and score.
The second inning brought more gripping moments, thunder and lightning action. Watson saw the bags fill up with Cats and a run scamper home after two walks, two singles and just one out. It looked dangerous on the horizon, so skipper of the boat Holly Aprile went to the galley and brought Roby to the circle to bail water. UK batter Alex Martens wasn't quite ready to produce her lightning bolt yet and Reed allowed the bailing to gather up her offering to get Louisville out of the inning trailing 3-2 -- in a situation that could have been much, much worse.
In the bottom half of the second, Maddy Newman worked UK starter Grace Baalman for a walk, Funke decided that it was time to take the nation's lead in triples and smacked one to center...and then playfully danced home on Melton's slow infield roller that no one in the UK infield could seem to figure out what to do with.
Tired of this Three Stooges comedy, UK head coach Rachel Lawson entered stage left and went for a change of channels and performers...sitting Baalman and turning to Autumn for relief (as in pitcher Autumn Humes). The final two piles of leaves were eventually raked up, but UofL held a 4-3 edge after the second inning.
The storm front slightly weakened in the top of the third, with UK managing just one run at that at-bat. Right fielder Lauren Johnson pounded a "nearly outta here" triple to right center that got Keisee Henson around those square white things in the dirt for a home plate touch. Roby coolly gloved a line shot right back at her from Jenny Schaper to prevent "no more soup for Blue" but the Cats had managed to even out the see-saw at 4-4.
Louisville decided that, if runs were guns, they were going to bring an arsenal to the affair in the bottom of the third. They decided to hold the "gunfight at the Ulmer corral" with two outs, as well. Funke produced a single to center, stole second and touched the plate on a booming Melton double.
Remember those two actors, they come into play later.
Not to be outdone, right fielder Megan Hensley rides her horse to the right center wall for a triple and motions for Roby to bring the rest of the cavalry. Roby responds and her triple to center clears the bases. The wide-eyed citizens of "Dobina-ville" emerged from the twister to see a 7-4 Cardinal lead on the main billboard in town.
ACT II -- THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
The plot changes after Martens takes the microphone for a solo performance of "How far was the home run I hit to right field?" in UK's top of the fourth.
After her four-bagger, the clouds clear, the pitchers are sending the batters back to the dugouts with dust in their pockets. and "0-fers by their names and we see just one hit combined from both teams in the next five at-bats for the squads.
It's quite the different pace, this smooth sailing. The chatter on the berm in the outfield is relaxed and the Louisville Fire Department, with two trucks and ten guys, takes in the action from right field, off Arthur Street. Aprile decides to rest Roby after 75 pitches, brings back Watson to the circle...but still no threat of impending stormy weather. It's almost like Jimmy Buffet concert on a sunny day in the park. Where are the beach balls and frisbees? Red #1 Louisville foam fingers dance in the breeze. Those UK clouds forming on the horizon? Forget about them, it's nothing.
Still 7-5 Louisville as the teams go to the top of the seventh. Three outs to go and the Cards are victorious. I should really know better, by now...after watching this team all season...to think that's going to come about with ease and no drama involved.
ACT III -- HANG ON FOR YOUR LIVES !!
Who gave UK Freddy Kruger, Jason and Chucky's phone numbers?
Unwilling to traipse quietly back to the buses waiting to haul them back to Lexington, the Cats brought in a threatening storm front. Vick singles, Johnson nearly puts one out for a double and it's 7-6. Schaper blasts a high, deep rocket to center and in what I'll call "the catch"...Funke sprints to the wall and makes an amazing catch for the second out...but the runner tags and scores. We got a ball game. 7-7. The Cards get Cheek to ground out, but the damage has been done. The UK fans in attendance are creating a ruckus. Louisville, backs to the wall, staring at extra innings....has one last chance.
After Newman grounds out. Funke decides she is not in favor of playing bonus ball and singles to center. Melton embraces the "end-it-here" concept and smacks an opposite field, solid single to left to move Funke to second. The Cats stop the action, huddle around Humes in the circle and Melton and Funke are high fiving and chest bumping on the base paths. One'll do it. Two chances.
Hensley digs in, works the count but chases a high one, misses and there are two outs.
It's down to this at bat to end it or continue it.
Enter the redshirt freshman from Mt. Washington. Roby strides to the plate. A tired Roby, after hurling 3.2 innings of ball, throwing 75 pitches and facing a "it's now or extras" scenario. On a 0-1 pitch, she taps a shot up the middle of the diamond, that flies by Humes in the circle, eludes middle infielders Reed and Martens and rolls into center-field. UK center-fielder Sarah Rainwater comes dashing in to retrieve it. She knows a throw to home to get out Funke is the only thing that can save UK now.
Celene Funke has one speed. One notch on the gear-shifter and that is "D". She drives around third, no hesitation or thought of stopping -- and accelerates toward home. Schaper waits at the plate for the throw, the throw arrives but Funke's speed gets her to the plate ahead of the tag and....BOOM! ...it is over.
8-7 Cards! The Cards win, the CARDS win !!! Victory secured
Pandemonium and celebration erupts from the Cardinals on the field. The Cardinal fans are going crazy and this Oscar-type performance has drawn to a close.
Somewhere, Don Dobina is smiling. Roby, the gal who carves his first name in back of the pitching circle with her toe before throwing, has sent him a tribute.
Hollywood couldn't have written this one any better. Somewhere, Don is smiling and raising an "L" in celebration.
A mid-week, out of conference win. Yeah, sure...some will view it only as that. In terms of the in-state rivalry and with emphasis on how this Cardinal Softball team refuses to yield and never stops fighting, though -- it was much, much more.
(PHOTOS BY JARED ANDERSON AND GREATLY APPRECIATED!)
THEY SAID IT
Holly Aprile discusses the win over UK LINK below
HOLLY POST GAME
Taylor Roby and Celene Funke discuss the 8-7 win LINK below
FUNKE AND ROBY
UofL highlight footage of the win LINK below
LOUISVILLE 8 - UK 7
REMEMBERING DON DOBINA
Prior to the game, a field ceremony and dedication was held for Don Dobina and the field was named Don Dobina Field as a tribute to the softball pioneer who passed away in 2016.
Don founded and was president of the Louisville Lady Sluggers Softball Club. He worked tirelessly toward the development of fast pitch softball. Dobina made it possible for hundreds of girls to have the chance to get scholarships and attend more than 70 universities. Seven players in last night's contest, representing both squads, benefited under the tutelage and teachings of Don.
A fitting tribute to "Cardinal Forever" Don Dobina. His work shall not go unforgotten.