As Paulie broke down in yesterday's article, Louisville softball's season came to an end over the weekend following a rough seventh inning against Indiana. But the season is far from defined by just that seventh inning. The season should be defined by a fourth place finish in the ACC; by the most wins in a season in nearly a decade; by one of the best home run hitting teams in program history.
Louisville finished the year 36-20. The last time the Cards had 36 wins in a year was in 2014, when they went 36-22. The 2014 team went 14-7 in the American Athletic Conference. This year's team went 16-7 in the much-stronger ACC.
The Cards hit .319 as a whole with 470 total hits and 64 home runs, twice as many home runs as opposing teams hit against them. Seven Cardinals hit above .300 and five players recorded at least 50 hits.
On the defensive end, Louisville had a 3.17 ERA as opposed to opposing teams having a 5.51 ERA. The Louisville pitching staff struck out 259 strikeouts while walking only 115 batters.
Where Louisville struggled on the defensive end was the .957 fielding percentage while logging 66 errors. In games where Louisville had multiple fielding errors, they went 6-11. They went 30-9 in games where they had one or fewer errors.
The Cards had win streaks of six, seven, and nine games. Their longest losing streak was five games. Louisville scored 10 or more runs 10 times while giving up double-digit runs six times. They run-ruled opponents 14 times.
Who is Leaving?
With the NCAA entering its final year of COVID-19 extra year eligibility this upcoming season, the confusion of "who is coming back for another year" is nearly gone.
Taylor Roby, Hannah File, and Makayla Hurst all utilized their COVID-19 year this year. Elana Ornelas and Taja Felder are both graduating but neither have hinted at returning next year.
Louisville has relied on Roby a lot in her time with the Cards. One of the nation's best home run hitters, Roby ranks high in the UofL record books in home runs and RBIs. She also has appeared in the record books in pitching.
File spent her final three seasons with the Cards after some time at James Madison and spent much of her time in a Louisville uniform at first base as well as being a factor at the plate.
Hurst, Ornelas, and Felder all filled in needed gaps at times for the Cards. Hurst's on base percentage of .577 was a team high.
Who is Returning?
Most of the starters are back. ACC Freshman of the Year Sarah Gordon is back at catcher. The middle infield will be back in second baseman Easton Lotus and shortstop Daisy Hess. Hess is using her COVID-19 year next season. Ally Alexander, who commanded third base a good chunk of the season, will be back. The entire outfield will be back. Korbe Otis was command the outfield from center field. Paige Geraghty will be back and most likely hold down left field. Vanessa Miller and Pickle Winkler battled it out for right field much of the season and both are returning.
In the circle, plenty of Cardinals will be back. Alyssa Zabala, the freshman ace, will be back and most likely be the go-to pitcher. She will have Gabby Holloway, Sam Booe, and Cassie Grizzard in the bullpen with her.
Louisville's top pinch runner, Mia Forsythe, should be back as well. Maddi Grant, who made an impact as a pinch hitter late in the season, should also be returning.
The entire coaching staff should be back again next year. Holly Aprile took over as head coach in the summer of 2018 with her first season with the Cards being in 2019. A majority of her tenure at Louisville has been during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has helped lead Louisville to a pair of 35+ win seasons and two NCAA Regional appearances.
Griffin Joiner has been with Louisville since Holly Aprile took over as head coach and specializes in the pitchers. She has been responsible for helping develop both Megan Hensley and Taylor Roby.
Bryce Neal just wrapped his second season as an assistant coach for the Cards. He specializes in the offense, and Louisville's offense has already improved in that short span.
Casey Bonk followed Holly Aprile from Pitt and has been the Director of Operations since. She is responsible for anything ranging from travel plans, to scheduling, to organizing teams to join the Cards on the field prior to home games, and so much more.
With a heavy amount of the starters returning who feature plenty of firepower, expectations will be high next season for the Cards. A 35+ win season should be within reach again.
While the home run totals might drop significantly due to the departure of Roby and File, the batting averages and multi-base hits should still be there. Louisville has plenty of speed returning next year in Otis, Lotus, Alexander, Hess Geraghty, Miller, Gordon, and Winkler. That group was a combined 78-89 (.877) in stolen base attempts They also combined for 87 extra base hits.
The returning group of pitchers combined for 229 innings pitched, 893 batters faced, and 195 strikeouts. Roby won't be around to fall back on anymore so Zabala should command the top spot while Booe, Holloway, and left-handed pitcher Grizzard should all see an increase in innings pitched.
There's plenty of time in the offseason to see what freshmen and incoming transfers will join the Louisville roster for next season, but the addition of new players should just help increase expectations. If you're looking for a women's program on the rise, Louisville softball is the place to go to.
Happy Tuesday and Go Cards!