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Saturday, March 26, 2022

Softball Falls to Clemson; Sweet Sixteen Begins -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

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.

As if Clemson scoring woke Louisville's bats up, the Cards immediately took the lead back. After a strikeout, Dylann Cravens reached on a single. Jenna Servi grounded out but moved Cravens up a base. This brought up Carmyn Greenwood with two outs, and she promptly swatted a go-ahead two-run homer. Ally Alexander walked to bring up Roby, but a strikeout ended the rally at just two.

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.

As if on cue, Millie Thompson turned it back on and sat down the Cards in order in the sixth. Harris came back in for the bottom half and gave up an inning-opening double before Aprile put Roby back in the circle. Again, why take her out in the first place? A sacrifice bunt put the go-ahead run at third with one out, but Roby got a strikeout to put the Cards back in the driver's seat. A full-count walk was followed by a steal, putting two runners in scoring position with two outs. A big showdown loomed and it was Roby that blinked. A single down the left field line scored both runners and gave Clemson the lead. An error on the following play would result in one more run scoring before a strikeout stopped the bleeding. It was too late, though, as the bottom of Louisville's order went 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh inning and the game was over.

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.

Across the other three games, chalk prevailed with top-seeded Stanford and South Carolina and second-seeded Texas advancing. While Texas and Ohio State were back and forth all game long in what was ultimately a three-point win for the Longhorns, a six-point win looked much different for Stanford. The Cardinal looked a lot like we've seen the Cardinals of Louisville look a couple of times this season, as they watched a massive lead slip away. Maryland outscored Stanford 30-13 in the fourth quarter to close what had been a 23-point gap entering the fourth. Maryland picked up 12 steals on their way to turning over Stanford 18 times, making the Cardinal look quite vulnerable.

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.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

Louisville Lacrosse hosts Virginia today at Noon, so we'll be without our resident photographer on the show as he braves what seem to be very unfortunate conditions. We'll also be without Jeff this week, as car troubles have him away. As such, we'll be without the live show this week, but we will still have the podcast available after we record. We'll get the show started at around 11, like normal, so the show will be up before 1. 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. nc state the luckiest team in wbb

  2. That's what I'm talking about 💯

  3. Great win! Defense does it again and HVL is my hero !

    Curtis "Put Hailey on Jimmy Fallon" Franklin


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