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Saturday, February 18, 2023

Softball Drops Game 1 of ACC/B1G Challenge -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Illinois Scores Early and Often to Down UofL 6-1

After Louisville dropped their second game on opening day to Kentucky, the Cards won out the weekend to sit at 4-1 on the season. They carried those positive vibes into Atlanta this weekend for four games against Illinois and Wisconsin over three days in the ACC/B1G challenge. On a day where the weather was "downright sad" according to the box score, the Cards' short win streak was ended by an Illini team that jumped on Alyssa Zabala early and kept the pressure on for the remainder of the game.

With Taylor Roby being rested for a start in today's double-header, Zabala started in the circle with Louisville playing as the home team. She got off to a good start, picking up a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout. Unfortunately, Zabala's counter in the game, Tori McQueen, would get off to a good start and then some. After a two-pitch groundout by Easton Lotus, Paige Geraghty struck out. McQueen hit Korbe Otis with a pitch, and Otis stole second, but a second strikeout sat down Roby and ended the threat. The second inning saw another great inning from Zabala as she struck out the side. Unfortunately, there was a minor blip amongst the strikeouts, as Illini's 5-hole hitter took a 1-2 pitch over the fence in right center. 

Down 1-0, Louisville looked to strike back quickly. A bunt single was followed by a single that just escaped the infield and another HBP to give Louisville the bases loaded with nobody out. With this golden opportunity, Louisville achieved one of the rare negative feats in the diamond sports: they didn't score off of it. In fact, Louisville's inability to score is even more painful than you might imagine, as the next three batters did not strike out and every out was scored individually. Instead, Louisville hit back-to-back infield pop-ups, the first on a full count, to flip the situation squarely in the favor of the Illini, who now just needed an out anyway possible to keep Louisville off the board. Lotus obliged with a first pitch fly ball to center field to end the inning. Two hits, no strikeouts, three left on base. Ouch.

Nevertheless, Zabala returned to the circle in the top of the third intent on keeping Louisville in the game. After a foul out and a ground out, though, Illinois strung together a double and an RBI single before Zabala got her fifth strikeout of the game to end the inning. Louisville now trailed 2-0. Unlike the previous inning, Louisville's threat was short-lived. Geraghty singled to open the frame, but was caught flat footed when Otis popped up (perhaps on a bunt; it's not listed) to the pitcher. McQueen fired over to first to pick up the double play and Roby grounded out to end the inning. 

In the fourth, things came unglued. It started just like the previous inning had ended, with Zabala picking up another strikeout (six in ten batters, for those keeping track). After a single and a sacrifice bunt, it looked like Louisville would stay in it. Like the previous inning, though, Illinois took advantage of their runner in scoring position with two outs. It was a single this time, coming on the third 0-2 pitch, but the hit was deep enough for the runner, who was going on contact, to make it home. With the batter advancing to second, an error on the following play (on the 9th!! pitch) kept the inning alive and put runners on the corners. After a passed ball, a double scored two unearned runs to end Zabala's day. Gabby Holloway took the circle and, in honor of the strong performance by Zabala, struck out the third batter to end the inning.

Louisville responded to going down by more than a grand slam with another quiet inning, splitting a pair of pop outs with a single and a strikeout. The top of the fifth inning saw a lead-off single score despite the next four batters technically grounding out. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second while a productive ground out advanced her to third. As the grounders went around the horn (1B fielded the first and 2B fielded the second) the grounder to third resulted in a throwing error, scoring an unearned run. Keeping the pattern alive, the next batter grounded out to the shortstop to end the inning. 

In the bottom half, down 6-0, Louisville was sent down in order once more. Nothing spectacular happened in the inning, but a weird quirk is in the box score. Ally Alexander is listed as "out at first p to 2b to 1b". Without having seen this play, I can't describe what happened, and my brain can't quite decide what might have resulted in that scoring. Either way, the result was an out, but I just thought you might find it interesting like me. In the top of the sixth, Louisville retired Illinois in a 1-2-3 inning for the first time since the opening frame. After a grounder to third, Holloway struck out two on seven pitches to prevent the Illini from pursuing a run-rule.

The sixth inning saw Louisville's bats get to work a bit, although it was much too late for small ball. A full count single by Otis was followed by a Taylor Roby walk. Since the line was BFBBB, I think it may be safe to say that Illinois was just trying to prevent a big hit and Roby fouled one away. Roby was replaced by a pinch runner, and Daisy Hess advanced both runners with a single down the left field line. Otis scored on the play to get Louisville on the board, but Madison Winkler was held at second. That turned out to be impactful, as Sarah Gordon rocketed a liner straight to third base. The line drive was quickly returned to second to double up Winkler, who couldn't get back in time. Vanessa Miller grounded out to end the inning with Louisville trailing 6-1. 

Having held Illinois for the most part, Holloway was pulled to preserve for future games on the weekend as Taja Felder replaced her to open the seventh. It was an inauspicious start for Felder, as she gave up a second pitch single followed by a first pitch single. The defense came to her rescue, though, as the next two batters grounded into force outs at third base. With runners on first and second and two outs, Felder induced another grounder, this time to third base where Alexander stepped on the bag for herself. Down to their last three outs and needing five runs to tie, Louisville produced their third 1-2-3 offensive inning of the afternoon. Final score 6-1.

The Cards won't have much time to lick their wounds, as they're back in action starting at 10AM today. Louisville will face Wisconsin in the first game, before getting a rematch against Illinois at 12:30. Illinois, by the way, moved to 3-3 with their win over Louisville, but their three previous losses were to Tennessee (13th), Texas (6th), and Auburn (21st). They could turn out to be a strong team, but Louisville will get a chance to level the score this afternoon. Wisconsin should give Louisville the opportunity to get back on track. While two of their losses are to #24 Oregon and #23 Ole Miss, Wisconsin's first win of the season came yesterday against Georgia Tech after the Badgers started 0-4. Their other two losses were to BYU and California Baptist. Despite today's games being hosted by Georgia Tech, they won't be carried on ACC Network Extra, so check out tomorrow's recaps by Jeff.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

This week's show should be quite full as we have the big lacrosse win from Sunday to cover as well as the softball happenings and the... unfortunate... events in South Bend Thursday evening. We'll do our best to keep it light, though you might plan for some officiating rants. 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!


1 comment:

  1. It's silly that GT won't even show these on the ACCNX, but it speaks volumes on how some of the ACC schools treat their women's programs.

    Nick O.


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