Two-Run Cardinal 1st Thwarted by Two-Run Knight 6th
Louisville traveled to Orlando this week to take part in the Knights Classic hosted by UCF. Though their first game against the host team (ranked 23/25) was scheduled to begin at 7, Florida weather had other plans. A fairly lengthy rain delay meant this game was pushed to an 8:40 PM start time. Adding on a game time of two hours and forty minutes meant it was quite a late night for two east coast teams. Unfortunately for the Cards, their bodies must have been locked onto the previous game time as they were in the zone for the first four innings before it all came apart late.
Taylor Roby's start was a bit better, but mostly because the defense helped her out. Coincidentally, UCF's leadoff hitter grounded to the shortstop on a 1-1 count, just the same as Daisy Hess had. Unfortunately, it wasn't a true mirror as the Knights' second baseman leads off, not the shortstop. So close to greatness. At any rate, Roby allowed a single to the second batter, who advanced to second on the subsequent groundout. Another ball in play followed, with this one sneaking straight through the middle of the infield. Rather than take runners at first and third, though, UCF sent the runner home, and Otis connected with Gordon to prevent the run from scoring and end the inning. Why did UCF send their 3-hole hitter, rostered as a C/3B, home on a short single to center? Your guess is as good as mine.
Louisville's top of the second was an eventful one, despite only seeing four batters. Ally Alexander walked on four pitches to open the inning. Not much more you can ask from the 9-spot, really. Unfortunately, Hess lined a 2-1 pitch straight at the center fielder. Lotus erased Alexander with a fielder's choice, and that set up an odd line in the box score: "Lotus out at second p unassisted." The Cards weren't charged with a caught stealing in the game and no action came from a batter. Lotus couldn't have rounded first and been tagged out after the fielder's choice because that wouldn't have been unassisted. Your guess is as good as mine as to what happened as I don't have ESPN+ and couldn't catch this one.
Regardless of weird scoreline quirks, Louisville went to the bottom of the second still leading 2-0. That lead was halved in short order by a leadoff home run. Roby continued to struggle missing bats, as all five batters she faced in the second put the ball into play. A single split three ground outs to leave the inning otherwise unharmed, but it's quite unlike Roby to allow 9 straight batters to put the ball in play. After she opened a 1-2-3 offensive inning with a strikeout, she returned the favor to the top of the UCF order. A 1-out double became a runner on third with two outs after a sacrifice fly. An intentional walk set up an easier force out, but the idea was cut down by a steal. Fortunately, Roby turned in her second strikeout of the inning to strand the runner and maintain the 2-1 lead.
Louisville, unfortunately, would go cold at the plate. Their next seven batters went right back to the dugout on four straight ground outs followed by three straight strikeouts. In the meantime, UCF came alive. A strikeout and a pop-up opened the bottom of the fifth for Grizzard, but a double and RBI single followed. Grizzard's third strikeout in two innings ended the inning, but Louisville's two-run lead was down to one. Despite solid play for most of the game, Louisville's defense had one blip that was quite costly. After a single split a ground out and a strikeout, UCF had a runner on first with two outs. That became a runner on second with a wild pitch and it became two runners when the eighth pitch of the at bat was a ball. The next batter singled to center field, and the tying runner scored from second easily. Unfortunately, in her haste to get the ball back in, Otis was unable to field it cleanly. The error allowed the runner from first to score unearned and Louisville's game-long lead was now a deficit. Alyssa Zabala relieved Grizzard and forced a groundout to end the inning.
Louisville's top of the seventh had promise, but it just didn't quite work out. After the opening strikeout, Hess singled at the top of the order. Lotus grounded into what should have been a double-play that would have ended the game, but she was able to leg it out to make it a fielder's choice and keep the Cards alive. Roby showed great discipline as she watched three straight balls after falling into a 1-2 hole to put two on and a pinch runner replaced her. A passed ball moved the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position, but Otis laced a 3-1 pitch right at the right fielder to end the game.
It was a surprisingly short outing for Roby, as she pitched just three full innings. She gave up one run on six hits and a walk, but she had two strikeouts with no wild pitches and had thrown just 51 pitches total. Grizzard, who started out well, struggled on the final line: 2.2 innings with three runs (two earned) on four hits, a walk, and a wild pitch. Four of her eight outs were strikeouts, though, so she can miss bats. Louisville dinged around the first two pitchers they saw, getting three runs on four hits and five walks in 3.1 innings combined. They just couldn't make it happen against Sarah Willis, though, as they managed just one hit and one walk while striking out four times in the last 3.2 innings.
Louisville is back in action with a pair of games today. The first is against Columbia at 11:30 with the second scheduled for 2 PM against Bradley. Both games will be available on ESPN+. Louisville will wrap up the event with a game against Purdue tomorrow morning and a rematch against the hosts in the afternoon. After that, the Cards will return to Louisville to open Ulmer against Bellarmine Tuesday evening before hosting the Cardinal Classic next weekend.
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I'll be out this week, but the crew will have plenty to discuss with the exciting Louisville vs Miami WBB game this week and the upcoming rematch against Notre Dame. There's also softball, lacrosse, and more to cover, so be sure to tune in. 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!