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Saturday, April 6, 2024

Cards Pick Up Series Opening Upset -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Louisville Walks Off FSU 5-4

What a game last night! One team took an early lead, the other battled back, and it came down to the final play. No, I'm not talking about the second semifinal matchup between UConn and Iowa. In a game that many might have thought would go more like the first semifinal between NC State and South Carolina, where the underdog was ultimately run out of the gym, Louisville softball welcomed in a top-25 ranked Florida State team and got the series off to a great start with a walk-off victory. 

Unsurprisingly, Alyssa Zabala took the ball in the circle for the Cards. Louisville had weather in their favor, bringing FSU into an overcast and rapidly cooling Ulmer Stadium where the temperature at first pitch was listed as 50 degrees. The cold may have settled into Zabala a bit as well, though, as she walked the first batter of the game. A foul out followed and a double scored the opening run. A liner to Daisy Hess at short and a full-count ground out to third ended the inning. 

Louisville changed up the offensive lineup a bit, moving Hess to the leadoff, putting Frizell second, and slotting Vanessa Miller into the three-hole. Miller had been batting mostly in the heart of the order. It was an interesting move, as you usually want a bit of speed in the second slot in case your leadoff fails to get on base. Hess fouled out on a full count and Frizell coaxed a seven-pitch full count walk. Miller struck out, though, and Richardson popped it up to end Louisville's first inning opportunity. 

Another double welcomed Zabala back to the circle, but she followed this one with two outs as well. Unfortunately, the next batter worked a nine-pitch walk to put runners on first and second with two out. Florida State's third hit of the game was their third double, and another run scored. FSU held the runner at third, which was helpful, since Zabala earned her second strikeout of the game to end the side. Cards trailed 2-0 after 1.5 innings. A three up, three down offensive side meant they trailed 2-0 after two full innings as well. 

Zabala finally started to settle in in the third. She picked up a three-pitch strikeout to open the side before giving up her third walk in as many innings. This time, she worked out of it with a foul out and a ground out to escape any more damage. FSU put Hess on base with a hit-by-pitch in the bottom of the third, but it came with two outs. Frizell struck out, and it was beginning to look like Louisville's offense just wouldn't have the juice in this game. 

Zabala stayed locked in, though, retiring the side in order for the first time in the game. She nearly struck out the side, as well, picking up two Ks to open the inning before a 2-2 count was spoiled by a foul and then grounded out. In the bottom half, Louisville put the first batter on base for the first time in the game when Miller was first-pitch swinging and knocked a single through the right side of the infield. That effort was erased on a fielder's choice that saw Bailey Richardson replace Miller at first, but Gabby Holloway made good use of the runner on base anyway. Holloway took the first pitch over the fence in right center and tied the game at 2-2. 

I'm not sure what Miller or Holloway were seeing in their first at bats that gave them so much confidence in the second. Miller struck out on three pitches and Holloway flew out on the third pitch of her at bat. Whether it was something they saw in their at bats specifically, or if it was just a matter of the FSU pitcher wearing down and more pitches being seen from the dugout, the result is the same. Louisville was right back in the game, and the teams started anew in the top of the fifth. 

Jac Hasty took over at second for Ally Alexander and was called into action pretty quickly. After the first batter walked, a grounder to Richardson turned into a fielder's choice as Hasty couldn't make the turn to first. Double plays are hard in softball, and this may well have been a bunt attempt. Either way, Hasty was able to field the throw cleanly to get the lead runner. Zabala picked up a flyout and a foul out to end the threat. 

Louisville's offense hadn't quite finished things in the bottom of the fourth, so they picked it back up in the bottom of the fifth. Paige Geraghty hit an infield single that was reviewed before she was deemed to be safe. Chelsea Mack bunted her over and the Cards had the go-ahead run in scoring position with one out. Hess made that two outs, unfortunately, with a fly out, but Roo (Frizell's nickname) tripled down the line to give Louisville the lead. Miller singled for a touch of insurance, which would prove to be rather useful. Louisville led 4-2 after five. 

The long at-bats were starting to get to Zabala. Even outs were going long, and she ultimately threw 144 pitches in the game. The sixth opened with a nine-pitch fly out before a single put a runner on base. A walk made it first and second with one out, and a sac fly put runners on the corners. After a steal, there were two runners on and two outs. Zabala got behind in the count, but worked what should have been the final out anyway. A fielding error at first scored two unearned runs and tied the game. A greedy steal attempt was thrown out to end the inning. 

Louisville looked to strike back immediately in the bottom half, using a walk and a sac bunt to put a runner in scoring position, but a strikeout and a foul out set up an exciting final frame. The Cards headed to the field looking to keep the game tied 4-4 and give themselves an opportunity in the bottom of the seventh. 

It was a shaky start, as a single turned into a double on an error. A sac bunt put the go-ahead run on third for FSU with just one out. A hard ground ball to Richardson at third set up an interesting play. Going to first gets an out, but you give up the go ahead run. A hard hit ball meant that Richardson could beat the runner to home, which she did. Kylie Goff tagged out the lead runner, then popped and fired to second. The batter, seeing an opportunity on a bang-bang play at the plate, had turned the corner at first thinking she would sneak an extra 60 feet out of the out. She was wrong. Goff's throw to Hasty was on the money and a double-play ended FSU's threat. 

A three-pitch strikeout wasn't what the doctor ordered in the bottom of the seventh in a tie game, but Hess singled to put the winning run on base with one out. Frizell walked again, putting Hess that much closer to the plate. Miller grounded out to first, but the only play was for the fielder to step on the bag, meaning it acted effectively as a sacrifice, moving Hess and Frizell up. Louisville's upset winning run was 60 feet away and her former and current teammate stepped up to the plate. With the count full, Bailey Richardson sent one through the middle to bring Daisy Hess trotting home with her hands up in celebration. Cards win 5-4. 

The Cards needed this one. After dropping a game they shouldn't have against Pitt last weekend, Louisville was in danger of their conference season getting away from them if they were swept at home again. A win over a ranked team is always good, and this one moved Louisville to 23-14 overall and 4-6 in conference. Being the series opener, it also has the potential to set the tone for the weekend. Louisville was fairly efficient in this one as well. They struggled early on offense, but they managed to score five runs and only left four runners on base. FSU left five on, and it could have been seven if not for the two-run error. The Cards will look for a bit more consistency on offense today and tomorrow, as they picked up just seven hits on 25 at bats last night. 

Alyssa Zabala was nails. She gave up four runs, but only two were earned, and she picked up the complete game win. She allowed five hits and five walks, but also struck out five and didn't hit any batters. She also didn't give up a home run and only eight batters flew out. Zabala was very good, but I would guess she isn't throwing today, and maybe not tomorrow, after 144 last night. We'll see if the rest of Louisville's staff can have the same success against FSU. 

Post game was with Zabala and the winning hitter Bailey Richardson, which you can hear below. The Cards and Seminoles are back in action this afternoon at 1PM. Today is Pups in the Park, if you can bear the cold, or you can check it out on ACC Network Extra. 

Court Sports

Louisville volleyball took on UK in a spring match yesterday evening, and results aren't available. The Cards' twitter account posted that it is "always fun when red and blue get together" with some photos from the match, which leads me to believe that Louisville was on the wrong end of the final score. As we've mentioned before, the results of offseason matches never really mean much, but we'll hear from Jeff as the person in attendance on today's show. 

The winner of your 2024 Cardinal Couple NCAA Tournament Pick 'Em Challenge is Jason. Jason correctly picked the South Carolina and Iowa victories last night to move to 55 wins. Since Blue Lou didn't have the Gamecocks advancing, they go to 53 wins, which isn't enough to overcome Jason in the Iowa/SC final game matchup. Blue Lou locks down second, though, as all contenders for third (Kenneth Stark Sr, Katy, and Thomas) are at just 51 wins. Thanks to everyone for playing this year!

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We'll be without Daryl again this week, but we'll have four on board to chat about this week's goings-on. There's plenty to discuss, to be sure, so we'll get into all of it. 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!

Cardinal Couple YouTube: Link
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Apple Podcasts: Link
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Until next time, Go Cards!


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