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Saturday, March 18, 2023

Softball Sweeps Double Header; NCAA Tourney Underway -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Softball Secures Series Win Over Pitt

With a weather altered weekend schedule, Louisville softball hosted the first two games of their weekend series against Pitt yesterday. Though the schedule was changed for incoming cold weather, it was already cold enough in the area to impact it further. Originally scheduled to start at 3PM, the start of yesterday's double-header was delayed, and the entire series potentially in jeopardy, as the temperature of the field turf had not climbed above the required 30 degrees. The games finally got underway at 4:30, and Louisville made sure it wouldn't matter if the teams could play today by winning both games to claim the series.

The Cards didn't let the cold get to them as they opened the first game hot. After Alyssa Zabala got a 1-2-3 inning in the top half, Korbe Otis walked, Sarah Gordon doubled her in, and Hannah File scored a pair with a home run to straightaway center. Louisville would load the bases and score one more run in the inning to make it 4-0 after one. Not content with such a lead, Zabala put the Panthers down in order again (kind of; she hit the third batter but a groundout ended the inning), and Louisville went back to work on offense. This time it was Gordon who opened the inning with a walk, but File's shot to left field was caught. Taylor Roby, third up in the inning, matched File's first inning performance with a shot to the berm. Daisy Hess doubled and Easton Lotus reached and advanced Hess by forcing an error on the pitcher. Having both players on base proved important, as they executed a double-steal to score Hess. Rounding out the scoring in the second inning, Ally Alexander singled through the gap to right field and a throwing error allowed Lotus to come all around to score. Louisville led 8-0 after two.

Pitt would put another runner on base in the third inning. This time it was, again, the third batter of the inning, and it was still not a hit. After a pair of outs, a walk put a runner on first before a pop up right to Zabala ended the inning. The bottom of the third brought the top of the order back up, and it picked up where it left off for the third time. Otis singled, as did Gordon, and the pair stood at second and third after an errant throw from left field. File popped out, but Roby sent one down the left field line to score both runners. Holly Aprile replaced Roby with a pinch runner, as she often does, but it turned out to be moot, as Roby could have walked the bases after Hess's homerun ball joined the previous two. 12-0 Louisville after three.

Facing the end of the game if their offense couldn't do something, Pitt finally got to Alyssa Zabala. A strikeout opened the inning, but it was followed by a walk and a single. Louisville nearly got out of the inning on a ground ball double-play, but the connecting throw was too slow. They got the runner at second but put runners on the corners with two outs. A single scored the first Pittsburgh run of the game, and a passed ball put two runners in scoring position to extend the threat. A ground ball ended things there. After three straight innings of nearly batting around, Louisville finally cooled off in the fourth, with the 8-9-1 hitters going down in order. 

The fifth inning saw Sam Booe come in to close things out for Zabala, if only to give her some rest and ensure the run-rule. Booe, perhaps, could have used a bit longer to warm up, as she didn't miss any bats in the inning. She got a foul out to open things before a single, double, and walk loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly made the score 12-2 and a pop-out made that the final score. Cards didn't bat in the bottom half. Final game time was 1:50, and the second game was scheduled to start at 7PM, giving the teams about a 30-minute break.

Taylor Roby got the start in game two, and she was aces for five innings. Roby scattered one hit and one walk over those five innings, with the hit not coming until the fifth. In the meantime, Louisville's offense was back in action, scoring four runs in four innings. It's not quite 12 runs over three, but it was sufficient for the most part. Louisville took the lead in the first with a sacrifice fly, were quiet in the second, and saw Sarah Gordon add to the list of home run hitters on the evening in the third. The fourth homer of the evening was also a two-run shot, which was quite the coincidence. Gordon also picked up a two-out double to score the Cards' fourth run in the fourth inning, giving her quite the day between the two games.

The fifth inning saw Pittsburgh's first hit come at the expense of Taylor Roby. A line shot went right back at the circle and hit Roby directly on the hand before skittering toward third. There was a brief delay for medical before Roby elected to stay in the game. She seemed as though she was ok, forcing what could have been a double play immediately after the hit and then getting a grounder to end the inning one batter later. She also seemed to have fine control of the bat, flying out to center in the bottom half. All of that is to say that there was no real indication that Aprile should have pulled her. That notice came too late. 

Every batter in the Pittsburgh 6th made contact. There were eight of them. Two singles opened the inning and a flyout advanced the lead runner to third. A single to left put runners on first and second and made the score 4-1. A foul out to the catcher gave the Cards two outs and it seemed like they would be able to wrap things up. Back-to-back doubles slashed that thought before a pop-up mercifully ended the inning. Louisville's 4-0 lead was erased, and the game was all square. 

Despite their offensive effort on the day, the Cards had no answer to the big inning, as they went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth. Having been pulled for rest in game one, Alyssa Zabala was called on to start the new game in the seventh inning. She picked up a ground out to open the inning but a single threatened to give Pitt life. Fortunately for the Cards, the defense was ready to react. The next batter flew to left, and Pitt decided to try to advance the runner on the out. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but the throw into second was in time and the Pittsburgh runner was tagged off the bag to end the inning. With the Cards needing just one run to end it and the heart of the order up, they promptly gave themselves a pair of outs with a strikeout and a ground out. Small ball prevailed. Daisy Hess singled, and Vanessa Miller reached on a fielding error to keep the inning alive. The error proved costly, as Easton Lotus singled up the middle and Hess rounded third to score, unearned, and give the Cards the walk-off win. 

The two teams will be back in action this afternoon with a scheduled start of 1PM. After an overnight freeze, we'll see if they can get the game going on time. Regardless, coverage will be on ACC Network Extra, and Louisville will look to finish the sweep and extend their winning percentage to .667. Zabala is unlikely to get the start today, but, if she does, be on the lookout for the same pitcher to earn three wins in two days. UPDATE: Today's game has been postponed to tomorrow at 2PM in an effort to find warmer weather. It will still be streamed on ACC Network Extra.

Louisville Set to Face Drake in NCAA Round 1

Louisville pulled a five seed in this year's tournament, and, as a result, will play the first (and potentially second) round outside of the friendly confines of the Yum! Center for the first time since 2015. Nevertheless, that five seed is higher than many thought the Cards would get with some of the performances they had this season, so it could certainly be worse. Louisville drew Drake in the opening round, and it will be the first ever meeting between the Cards and Bulldogs. Drake was an automatic qualifier, winning the Missouri Valley Conference Championship after finishing fourth in the league. 

The winningest player in ACC
history looks to extend her lead.
Louisville's defense will be put to the test in this one, as the Bulldogs (22-9 overall) average 79.1 points per game. Their average scoring margin is 13.6. If you're doing the math on that one, it means they've won a bunch of games by a lot, and their losses have been close. One of those losses came in overtime to then fourth-ranked Iowa in their third game of the season. Iowa ended up being victorious 92-86. Drake followed that game  up with an 18-point victory over then 22nd-ranked Nebraska. To continue the odd series of results, Drake's fifth game was an 83-100 loss (in overtime!!) to UMass before they beat Howard by 37 two days later. The Bulldogs played just one more game against a ranked team, a 75-71 loss at Creighton on December 10th. They were scheduled to play Iowa State on the 22nd, but that game was canceled. 

Drake played just three games in which they scored fewer than 63 points. Those three all came in a two week span in the middle of conference play, and they were all road losses. Louisville will look to get that team instead of the one that averaged 82 ppg in their other 28 games. The Cards will have to force some of that themselves if they want to keep their 13-0 first round record under Jeff Walz intact. Tonight's game is at 7:30PM and will air on ESPN2.

Cardinal Couple NCAA Pick 'Em Update

Jeff will have more tomorrow after the first round has wrapped up, but the opening day of games was unfriendly to most of our entrants. The final tally of participants this season is 26, and Daryl leads the pack at 14-2. She was nearly undefeated on the day, but the SDSU upset gave her one loss and jinxed her for the rest of the evening. After Daryl come David, Karen J, Thomas, Jared, Vivian, Curtis, and Mike D at 13-3. Eleven brackets are tied at 12-4, and it seems we may be in for a close battle as the tournament continues.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We'll be back this week with what should be a full house after the thinner broadcast last week. There's plenty to discuss, as lacrosse and softball have had busy weeks and, of course, basketball looks to get underway. 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. That was a first day better than I expected. Watching IU roll past TENN TECH makes me wonder if Berger goes straight pro or portals for a year? Wouldn't the Cards love her? Or, am I missing something?

    Curtis "Bee Kind" Franklin

    1. Berger is playing her fifth season at IU. She will not ave any eligibility left.

  2. Just to answer a question on podcast today...Drake and Louisville were never in the MVC at the same time. The Cards have never played Drake -- until today, of course


    1. Paulie, Louisville and Drake were both in the MVC during Louisville's 1963-75 tenure in that conference. Several memorable MBB games in the late 1960s while I was a student - Willie McCarter, Dolph Pulliam and Coach Maurice John.

    2. Guessing the MVC had no women's bball.

    3. It took some digging but here's the answer on the MVC and women's basketball. The Missouri Valley Conference did not recognize women's basketball until 1982.


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