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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Cards Drop Series Opener; Ulrich Keeps Dominating -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Softball Can't Close Out Tigers in 6-5 Loss

Louisville softball held a 1-0 lead for four innings before surrendering that lead in the fifth. They scored four runs in the bottom half to take a 5-3 lead into the final frame. Unfortunately, visiting Clemson (ranked 22/21) added another three spot in the seventh which the Cards couldn't answer. Louisville fell 6-5 in the last home series opener of the season.

Alyssa Zabala got the start in this one and it looked like things might get sideways quickly. A single opened the game and a walk put two on. Zabala and the defense got out of the jam with an infield popup and a double play, though, and the offense went to work. Daisy Hess popped up to start, but Chelsea Mack beat out an infield single. Frizell grounded to short, but Mack was again too fast for the Clemson defense, who didn't even try to get her at second. Bailey Richardson made that pay off with a double down the line (confirmed fair on review) to give Louisville a 1-0 lead. 

Clemson won a challenge to open the second, getting an out call at first overturned, but Zabala got the next three batters out on just eight pitches. The Cards put two on base with singles from Katie Thatcher and Maddi Grant, but couldn't add to their lead. The third inning saw Clemson put together a massive threat, loading the bases with nobody out. Their third hit came on what was likely a sacrifice bunt attempt, but the Cards couldn't get the out. Again, Zabala and the defense buckled down with a three pitch strikeout and another double play, but their luck appeared to be wearing down.

The Cards and Tigers traded 1-2-3 sides in the bottom of the third and top of the fourth, but Thatcher's second single of the day prevented a third straight 1-2-3 offensive effort. The top of the fifth got off to about as rocky a start as possible. Zabala threw six pitches, none were swung on, and the Tigers loaded the bases. HBPs bookended a four-pitch walk, but Coach Holly Aprile decided to ride her ace. A foul out to left acted as a sac fly to tie the game, but it looked like the Cards might escape with minimal damage after a flyout gave Clemson two outs. A double ended that hope and scored a pair to make it 3-1. 

Louisville's offense responded in the bottom half, though, with Goff singling to open the side and Hess drawing a walk. Mack laid down a sac bunt, but a fielding error allowed her to reach and scored Goff unearned. Mack stole second to put two in scoring position (Hess also advanced on the error), and Frizell singled to score one. Pickle Winkler was called on to pinch run, and she stole second to put two in scoring position once more. Richardson hit a grounder to short, but it was sharply hit and Mack was out at home. On the throw, Winkler and Richardson both advanced, so the Cards had two in scoring position for the third straight at-bat. Vanessa Miller finally took advantage, singling down the line to score the pair and give Louisville the lead back at 5-3. A pair of fly outs ended the inning. 

After the shaky fifth, Zabala returned to the circle and got four outs, with an error giving Clemson their only runner. Louisville's offensive outburst also came crashing back to earth with a 1-2-3 bottom half. That brought up the seventh, with Louisville holding a 2-run lead and looking for a big upset to open the series. Zabala gave up a full-count walk and a single before striking out a batter to leave two on and one out. Clemson was on their fourth run through the lineup. It's very unclear to me what leads to Aprile's pitching decisions. In this case, Zabala was left in, and a double scored a run and left runners on second and third with one out. The go-ahead run was standing on second. Still, Zabala was left in. An intentional walk loaded the bases to set up a force at any base and increase the chances of a double-play in the infield. A sac fly tied the game and a single to center gave the Tigers the lead. Aprile finally pulled Zabala and Brooke Gray got a fly out to strand two and end the inning. Clemson led 6-5.

Louisville's offense, needing a run with the 2-3-4 batters due up, went down in order on ten pitches and the game was over. Ultimately, Zabala was saddled with a loss she didn't really deserve. Yes, she's the one that gave up the runs, and her final line (9H, 6R [all earned], 4BB, 2K, 2HBP, 101 pitches) isn't pretty, but there were ample opportunities to put in another arm to close this game out. I understand sending Zabala back out to open the seventh after she showed she still had it in the sixth, but banking on her getting out of a fourth major jam at that point was a genuinely bad call. 

In a game that the Cards pretty much needed to win (and had in hand), they instead lost their third straight and moved to 25-22 (6-13). They basically have to win out and have a strong showing in the ACC tournament to get a shout at an at-large bid in the NCAA tourney. They'll get started in game 2 against Clemson today at 1PM. Today is Senior Day, so be sure to get out early if you're wanting to take in the festivities.

Jayden Ulrich Sets New Records

Photo by Taris Smith, Louisville Athletics
After her incredible performances in the indoor season, Jayden Ulrich is back in action at Cardinal Park in the Clark Wood Invitational. Yesterday's events saw Ulrich break her own program record (twice) in shot put with throws of 18.08 and 18.27 meters. The previous record, which Ulrich set earlier this year in Texas, was 18.00m, narrowly beating Emmonnie Henderson's 17.98 from 2017. Yesterday's throw of 18.27m also sets a new high-mark at the event and the venue. Ulrich now holds a top-six throw in the country, and she will be looking to add to her hardware collection this summer. 

Also performing well on the first day of the event was Alessandra Rodriguez, who became the 7th Cardinal woman to break the 2:10 mark in the 800m. Rodriguez beat it by the slimmest of margins, setting a 2:09.99 personal best while earning an event victory. Lucy Fellows came fourth in the invitational long jump with a leap of 6.05m. It's the second time the freshman has exceeded six meters in the event. 

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We look to have three on the horn today, as Jared and Daryl are out this week. Neither is running the marathon or the mini, as far as I'm aware, but perhaps they're stuck in perpetual traffic on the wrong side of third street (a perennial nightmare on campus). There aren't a ton of positives from the results of the week, but we'll still bring you the joy and excitement of Louisville women's athletics. If Jeff's computer woes are finished, 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!


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