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Saturday, March 30, 2024

Softball Splits in Pitt -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Cards Take 1 of 2 in Double Header

Louisville softball entered a weekend series with a chance to get back to near .500 in conference against the struggling Pitt Panthers. Instead, they'll head to a rubber match Sunday after gifting Pittsburgh their first conference win of the season in Game 2 of yesterday's double header. The Cards won Game 1 3-2 before allowing nine runs in the second game to fall 9-4. They'll have today off and will wrap up the series at 1PM tomorrow afternoon. 

Game 1

Louisville looked poised to jump on the Panthers early when Daisy Hess singled to open the game and Chelsea Mack walked behind her. Unfortunately, Riley Frizell grounded into a double-play and Gabby Holloway's flyout in the cleanup spot ended the inning. Instead, it was the Panthers who took the lead in the first. Alyssa Zabala, who ultimately settled into a very good game, hit the first batter she faced, and the runner stole second to put someone in scoring position with no outs. Zabala got a pair of pop outs, one on a failed bunt attempt, to put the inning nearly to bed. With two outs, the runner was moving on contact, which was not great when the cleanup hitter sent a ball to center field that was dropped. An unearned run scored and Louisville trailed 1-0.

The top of the second again saw Louisville put two runners on base, but both were stranded on a fly out and a strikeout. Pitt homered to open the bottom half of the inning to put the Cards in a 2-0 hole, but Zabala went 1-2-3 afterwards to limit the damage. As I mentioned, Zabala turned in a very good outing following the bad luck in the first. After giving up the HBP and a walk in the first and the solo home run in the second, Zabala went the final five innings with just three hits, no walks, and no HBP. She didn't allow another run, meaning she gave up just the one earned on the homer, and she came away with the win. It's easy to see why Coach Holly Aprile can get drawn into the trap of leaving pitchers in overlong. They give her good reason to think they'll get out of jams when needed. 

Pitt ultimately didn't threaten again. Their three hits were scattered across innings, and two of the three were erased by double plays. The sixth saw a "ball don't lie" situation after the leadoff batter reached. The second batter bunted, and Zabala fielded it cleanly and fired to second. Louisville tried to get the double play but couldn't turn it to first in time. They challenged runner's interference, but the call stood that the runner was safe at first. The next batter lined it straight to second, who tossed it to first to double up the runner who couldn't tag in time. 

That left Louisville's offense. Where we last saw them, they trailed 2-0 entering the third. As they rolled back to the top of the order, Daisy Hess again gave the Cards a golden opportunity, doubling to open the inning. Louisville's hitting woes with runners in scoring position continued, though. For the third straight inning, they failed to capitalize on having a runner on second with one or no outs. The fourth gave them another shot. Vanessa Miller was plunked to open the inning, and Bailey Richardson shot one right back at the pitcher to pick up an infield single. Ally Alexander stepped in and laid down what was likely intended to be a sacrifice bunt, but reached first to load the bases with nobody out. 

Kylie Goff was first pitch swinging, but fouled out to shallow right. Katie Thatcher was called on to bat for Paige Geraghty and worked a single through the left side on a 2-strike count. As Miller came home to score easily and Richardson followed her, the left fielder booted it just long enough for Alexander to try her luck and rounding the bases. As she got caught in a run down, Thatcher wisely moved up to third. Alexander was called out at the plate, and the call stood after review. Hess couldn't score Thatcher from third with two outs, but Louisville had tied it at 2. 

The Cards put runners on the corners in the top of the fifth, but it was with two outs. A flyout ended the threat. Another HBP to open the inning greeted Louisville in the top of the sixth, and small ball paid off with another error. After Alexander reached, Goff laid down another sacrifice bunt that turned into more for Louisville. This time, Pitt's 1b airmailed the throw, sending Alexander all the way to third. Geraghty fouled out trying to bunt (Why? There were runners on the corners with no outs.), but Goff stole second anyway. Daisy Hess flew out to center field and picked up a sacrifice fly RBI when Alexander scored an unearned run. Another review double checked that Alexander tagged up, and confirmed it, giving Louisville the lead. With the chance to add insurance in the seventh, Louisville went down 1-2-3, but it didn't matter as they took the 3-2 win. 

Game 2

Remember how I said Aprile sometimes leaves her pitchers in overlong? What if I told you that it sometimes extended over multiple games? Alyssa Zabala was called on to take the circle again in the second game and it... didn't go great. After Louisville left two on in the top of the first, Zabala once more plunked the first batter for Pitt. This one didn't come around to score, though, so the two teams left the first 0-0. 

The Cards again put two on with nobody out in the second, and again, they failed to bring a runner home. Alarming trend in yesterday's games... That's when things went sideways for Zabala. After she got a groundout to open the inning, Pitt's Esparza homered to score the first run of the game. You're thinking, "Ok, Zabala hit Griggs to open the first game and gave up a homer to Esparza in the second and then settled into a great game." I'm here to tell you, it didn't go that way again. A single was followed by an error that scored a run, and another home run scored two more. Louisville trailed 4-0 and they wouldn't recover. 

After another uneventful offensive side for Louisville, Zabala gave up a single to open the third and got the hook. Sam Booe kindly allowed the runner to come around after a sac bunt and another single to tag Zabala with her fifth run of the game. The two teams went 6 up, 6 down in the fourth. In the fifth, trailing 5-0 and running out of outs, Louisville found some offense. Chelsea Mack fouled out to open the inning, but Daisy Hess doubled with one out. Ally Alexander singled to put runners on the corners before Riley Frizell flew out. How Hess didn't score on the single or fly out is unclear to me, but Vanessa Miller made it moot when she sent the first pitch of her at bat over the right field fence. Cards now trailed just 5-3. 

Louisville's rally was short lived. The fifth inning went single, single (throwing error), passed ball, strikeout (whoo), three-run homer, single, pitching change (Holloway), double, RBI single, ground out, fly out. Woof. Louisville trailed 9-3 to a team that averaged just under three runs per game entering the second half of the double header. Gabby Holloway opened the top of the sixth with a home run, but the Cards left the bases loaded again to leave the inning down 9-4. Louisville loaded the bases again in the seventh, this time with one out, and couldn't score a run. The Cards left 11 runners on base in the game. 

Another opportunity to get back on track comes tomorrow.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

There will be three on the call today, as Daryl attends to wedding planning and I woke up feeling quite unwell. Paulie, Jeff, and Jared will hold down the fort and bring you all the joy and excitement of the week that was (including a Spring win for volleyball yesterday). 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. Have y'all pretty much abandned the WBB Tournament here? I will add the winners so far in the Sweet Sixteen....NCST, South Carolina, Oregon State and Texas....I am surprised on Oregon State, even thoigh i did pick at 47-5, am I in the lead? Oh Bracket czar, are you still out there?

    Blue Lou


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