Louisville Stumbles Across Finish Line in Marathon Game Against Clemson
Eleven innings is a lot of innings for a baseball game. It is even more innings for a softball game. That's how long Louisville and Clemson went before the Tigers finally pulled ahead in the top half and Louisville was unable to match. Ten innings of scoreless softball, punctuated by great pitching and sometimes not so great baserunning had many fans just hoping for the Cards to somehow scrape across the plate to end it after three hours. It was Clemson that ultimately drew first blood and took home a 4-0 win in the series opener.
Louisville had the opportunities in this one. Prior to Clemson's offensive explosion in the top of the 11th, Louisville led with seven hits compared to just two for Clemson. The Cards also benefitted from a pair of errors while only committing one themselves. Getting players all the way around to score was Louisville's issue, as they ultimately left 11 runners on base and struck out 14 times. If you're wondering whether or not that kind of offensive output was something Coach Holly Aprile would accept, I'd point out that there was no postgame interview for this one due to the intense conversations Coach was having with her players following the final out.
The Tigers came in at 16-2 and ranked in the top-25, so there could be not doubt that this would be a tough matchup. However, Louisville let their chances slip from the very beginning, a habit that will not lead to success against top teams and, if it continues, will prevent Louisville from becoming a top team themselves. The first inning saw the Cards sit the Tigers down in order with a groundout followed by two strikeouts. When Louisville stepped to the plate, Carmyn Greenwood led off with a walk and immediately stole second. Jordan Wolfe grounded out without advancing the runner, but Taylor Roby was walked on four straight pitches. With runners on first and second, the Cards struck out looking back-to-back to end the inning.
From the second inning to the top of the seventh, both teams combined for five baserunners. Neither team had more than runner on base at any given time and no runners advanced past second. It was a true pitchers duel, as strikeouts and groundouts abounded. The bottom of the seventh saw Louisville's next chance. From this point on, any Louisville score would win them the game. The seventh saw Cassady Greenwood reach on an error but she was out on a fielder's choice grounder by Elana Ornelas. Ornelas was able to advance to second on a passed ball, but she was stranded to end the inning. Onto extras they went.
The Tigers found new life and motivation in extra innings. Their best chance of the game to that point came in the top of the eighth, when they put runners on first and second with nobody out. Fortunately, Louisville was able to work out of the jam, following a foul out with two swinging strikeouts to end the threat. The bottom of the eighth saw Louisville get three runners on base, their most in any inning, but one of those runners reached on a fielders choice. A strikeout ended their threat with runners on first and second.
The ninth saw a runner reach third for the first time all night. Clemson's Ansley Gilstrap led off with a nine-pitch walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. The next batter struck out looking, but Gilstrap stole third to find herself 60 feet from home with two outs. Louisville got out of it with an infield pop-up. In the home half, another great opportunity slipped away from the Cards. Makayla Hurst led off with a single to the outfield but was tagged out at second trying to stretch it into a double. Tough baserunning choice for the lead-off batter in a walk-off inning situation. Cassady Greenwood followed that by reaching on a throwing error and Ornelas made it two-on with one out by singling up the middle. The runner on first to open the inning might have been pretty important to Louisville at this point. Unfortunately, Celene Funke popped out and Maddy Newman flew out to end the inning.
The tenth was the least eventful of the extras, as both teams went three-up, three-down. Clemson's were a lot more threatening, as all three players flew out. Louisville had a pair of groundouts and a strikeout. The momentum had pretty much fully swung at this point. The eleventh inning spelled doom for Louisville. Clemson led off with a single and followed it with an RBI triple. 1-0 might have been enough to end the game right then given Louisville's offensive issues last night. However, the Tigers weren't done. A strikeout was followed by a single to score the runner from third and extend the lead to 2-0. A 2-run homer stretched that lead to 4-0, and Clemson kept looking to pile on as a walk was followed by a single to give them two on and just one out. Thankfully, a popout and a groundout ended the nightmare inning.
Louisville's bottom half effort just couldn't match the big inning by Clemson. A lead-off single was followed by a strikeout and a walk. With runners on first and second and just one out, Louisville was in a position to try to claw back some runs, but they were destined not to score last night. Another strikeout was followed by a lineout to end the game. Cue the aforementioned Aprile anger and the look ahead to today's second game. The Cards will get another chance to get a big win and stay above .500 on the season as they take the field at noon today. It'll be available on ACCNX or, if you're up for it, it should be in the 50s and sunny by first pitch.
Tennis Can't Correct Slide
It's been a tough go of it for the Louisville women's tennis team recently. After a decent start in non-conference and back-to-back wins in the conference schedule, Louisville looked like they might be in a position to make some noise for the first time in conference play. Unfortunately, the Cards are 1-6 since those two conference opening wins, as they dropped their fourth straight yesterday against FSU. Raven Neely scored the sole point for Louisville as the Cards fell 1-4. They were swept in the doubles matches and trailed in one of the two unfinished singles matchups. After the hot start, Louisville is clinging on to try to salvage the season as they now sit at 6-8 overall and 3-6 in conference. The Cards will have one more road match at Miami tomorrow before they return home for a pair of non-conference matches against Xavier and UT Martin where they will try to rebuild their confidence before the final conference stretch.
Women's Swimming at NCAAs
The fourth and final day of the NCAA meet is today. Louisville's team currently sits in 13th overall. A pair of ACC teams in Virginia and NC State lead the meet, followed by Texas in third. Kentucky and UNC are tied ahead of the Cards in 10th. Louisville doesn't have any superstar names as we have grown accustomed to over the last few years, but the newcomers are showing a lot of improvement. The Cards scored two podiums in consolation finals on Thursday, but those are the only major items they've had to show to this point. Still, that 13th position is out of 34 teams to have scored so far, so they are keeping pace with some of the other teams despite a lack of showy finishes. The prelims for today begin at 10AM and finals begin at 6PM. Both will be available via watchESPN.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
We're back this week, but we'll be without Daryl as she preps for the noon first pitch at Ulmer. We've got plenty to discuss, as it has been a busy week for the Cards and the NCAA tournament is set to start (be sure to get those pick 'em brackets in!). Tune in to the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour live at 11AM via the Cardinal Couple YouTube page or check out the replay either on YouTube or as a podcast. We'll bring you the joy and excitement of UofL women's athletics as we do every week (and there might even be some spicy NCAA trash talk, given the week that was in San Antonio).
Until next time, Go Cards!