LATE INDIANA RALLY DEFEATS CARDS
Louisville Softball led for most of this regional elimination game in Knoxville Sunday, and got a masterful performance from Taylor Roby in the circle. Unfortunately, a couple of late-inning errors and some timely IU hitting allowed them to erase a 2-0 Cardinals lead with four runs in the final two innings.
The Cards did their damage at the plate in the bottom of the second inning. Daisy Hess started the at-bats by drilling a pitch into right field for a single and a Vanessa Miller walk gave the Cards "two on, no out". A throwing error by the Hoosiers catcher allowed Hess to score and Miller to go the second. With two outs, Korbe Otis doubled to center and Miller scored easily. 2-0 Cards and the inning ended with Easton Lotus grounding out to short.
With Roby in the circle, the lead held. It was still 2-0 after five and, neither team was showing much in terms of getting runners on base and scoring them. Louisville simply couldn't hit IU relief pitcher Heather Johnson, who took to the circle to begin the third inning and IU had mustered just two hits off Roby in five frames.
Then, things changed.
IU greeted Roby with two singles to start the sixth inning. Next, a couple of ground ball fielders choice plays advanced a Hoosier runner to the plate. The damage ended there, but IU had cut the Cards lead in half. 2-1 and Louisville needed to reawaken their bats.
It was three up, three down for Louisville in the bottom of the sixth, though, but all the Cards had to do was hold IU scoreless in the top of the seventh to advance and play Tennessee.
IU had different plans, though. They got a break to start the seventh when Hannah File mis-judged a popup to first and failed to catch it for an out. The next IU batter worked Roby for six pitches before singling to left. Holly Aprile had seen enough and the decision was made to remove Roby and put Gabby Holloway in the circle.
The strategy failed. An IU bunt moved the runners to second and third. Another IU bunt resulted in a wild throw to first by the Cards, and the ball skipped into right field. Both IU players on base reached the plate and the bunter advanced to third base.
It was suddenly 3-2 IU.
Holloway got the next batter to fly out to center, but the runner that had been on third tagged and scored to increase IU's lead to 4-2. Holloway struck out the next batter to end the inning but the damage had been done. IU used six batters, two hits and two Cards errors to grab a two-run lead and Louisville was down to their final bat, needing two runs to tie it.
Daisy Hess led off and hit a screamer down the first base line to start the bottom of the seventh, but it was right at the first baseman, who caught it for the first out. The next two Cards were victims of strike outs, one swinging and one looking.
It was over and IU was advancing to play Tennessee in the reginal finals. 4-2.
A tough way to end the season. Would have leaving Roby in the circle made a difference? We'll never know, of course, but...regardless...that didn't happen and IU capitalized on the runners that had reached base on Roby.
The Cards battled proudly but ended up on the short end of the score. Only four total hits for UofL, and none in the final five innings of the game, was costly.
POST GAME HOLLY APRILE:
"It was a hard-fought game. I'm really proud of our team. We showed a lot of heart and fight throughout the season and we got so much better from the beginning to the end. There's only one team that wins a national championship, so there are a lot of teams that lose along the way. I thought we battled today and I thought Taylor Roby was brilliant on the mound. was proud of her and all our seniors. It was a tough loss but I'm proud of our team."
Louisville ends the season 36-20, the most wins since 2014. As I finish this article...I see that Tennessee defeated Indiana 7-3. Not saying that Louisville would have gotten any closer in a match with the Lady Vols, but I wish they'd had the chance...
Oh, well They'll get 'em next year.
A lot of talented underclass(wo)men on this Cardinal squad and I'm confident Holly and the staff will bring some more portal dwellers and some talented freshmen.