By Dalton Ray
The Louisville Cardinals softball team took on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a three-game series over the weekend in Ulmer Stadium. On a sunny but chilly weekend the Cardinals would prevail 2-1 in the series bringing their record to 18-11 and the visiting Knights would drop to 12-9. This was the first series in conference play for both schools.
In the first game, Louisville won by 10-6, the visitors would rack up five hits and five runs in the top of the first inning and put the Cards in a 5-0 hole before touching the plate. Junior Whitney Arion and company wouldn’t back down as they loaded the bases twice in the bottom of the inning and came away with two runs. After a pitching switch that put Caralisa Connell on the mound the scoring would come, as the Knights would only score one more run to finish the game.
“Our pitching really put us in a whole right off the bat and what I’m really proud of is how the team kept fighting back, that’s a real credit to them for digging in. We just kept wanting to play catch up today,” head coach Sandy Pearsall said.
The “digging in” began in the fourth inning when junior Kayla Soles sent her third homerun of the year over the left field fence and cut the lead to 6-3. After digging in the Cardinals would then explode in the fifth inning ripping off five hits and seven runs in the inning giving them a 10-6 lead heading into the sixth. Senior Katie Keller, freshman Maryssa Becker, junior Brittany Duncan, senior Hannah Kiyohara would all gets hits in the inning. After the Cards would score on a walked batter with loaded bases and then a wild pitch, Whitney Arion would cap off the inning in style with a three run homer.
By the time senior Rachel Le Coq would come into relief for Connell the former 25-game winner struck out four and played very well. Le Coq would use the help of her defense in her two innings; four groundouts and two strikeouts would close the game for the Cardinals.
The second game was won with the same score of 10-6 but Rutgers was victorious this time. It also began in a very similar fashion, as once again the Knights would score five runs in the top of the first. The only difference: the Cardinals couldn’t gather a response in the first three innings. Shayla Sweeney was pitching for the visiting Rutgers and she lead the Knights to a strong defensive effort in the second game. The Cardinals wish they could of said the same thing but minor slip ups in the in-field on liners and ground balls kept adding up for Cards as they kept giving the Knights chances.
Juniors Kayla Soles would hit her second homerun of the day along with an RBI, cutting the lead to 5-2 Rutgers in the fourth. In the fifth inning Rutgers’ Jackie Bates’ triple would drive home Chandler Howard for a 6-2 lead. At the bottom of the inning the Cardinals looked to take advantage of Arion’s RBI triple and base-on-balls Maryssa Becker standing on first, with runners on the corners and two outs Sweeney would strike out the last batter ending the threat. In the next inning the Scarlet Knights would take advantage of their given opportunities as they put together five hits and four runs, expanding their lead to 10-3.
In the final inning the Cardinals would not give up. After two doubles from Kiyohara and Kayla Jones, and Arion’s second homer of the day the score was 10-6. The visiting Knights would then wrap up the game with a ground out, strike out, and a fly out in center. The Knights stingy defense was too much for the Lady Cards, as they couldn’t get a ball past the infield for most of the game.
After starting at pitcher the first game freshman Maryssa Becker was moved to first base. In the second game she started out at first, moved to pitcher, then back to first. Caralisa Connell, Rachel Le Coq, Tiarra Sanabria, and Becker would all pitch for the Cards on Saturday. Becker has really showed her versatility over the course of the year.
“The pitchers definitely work as a staff, all four of us, we all have the same mentality of if when we get put in. We have to know when one of us is having an off day so that the person behind us can get the job done.”
Sunday’s series finale that ended up in a 11-3 rout between the schools stayed scoreless until the top of the third when Jackie Bates’ two-run single gave Rutgers a 2-0 lead. Katie Jones put in a ton of effort at the bottom of the inning as she had a single, stole second, advanced to third on an error and was then sent home by Arion giving the Cards their first run. Brittany Duncan would help give the Cards a 3-2 lead on her two-out double.
Becker got herself out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth as she struck out the last batter with the bases loaded as the game was tied 3-3 heading into the fifth. Arion, Jones, Keller, Becker, Ruckenbrod, Duncan, and McDuffee would all get hits in the last innings as the Cardinals would pull away in a strong way as they scored eight unanswered runs. McDuffee’s double finished off the game, as the Cards would cruise through the last innings. Now 18-11 overall and 2-1 in conference the softball team will be in action again against DePaul March 26th and 27th.