By Sam Draut–
Scoring 41 runs over a three-game span is a convincing way for Louisville softball to announce its presence in the ACC as it looks ahead to a tough slate of conference games in the next few weeks.
The Cardinals swept NC State over the weekend to improve to 22-6 overall and 8-1 in the ACC. While NC State arrived to Ulmer Stadium with a reputation of driving balls out of the park, Louisville ended up being the more lethal offense threat in a variety of ways.
“I credit my team on how they’re swinging the bat right now,” coach Sandy Pearsall said.
Louisville’s coaching staff stressed to Cardinal hitters to be aggressive and attack pitches inside of the zone.
“We have to put back-to-back-to-back hits together and that is about being aggressive,” Pearsall said. “I think the team did a great job executing.”
Hot start– Sidney Melton led off the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff single and Maryssa Becker followed by reaching base with a hit-by-pitch. On the first pitch of Megan Hensley’s at-bat, the two base runners had a double-steal, putting Becker and Melton on second and third with no outs.
Hensley hit a sacrifice-fly in foul territory to score Melton. Following a base-on-balls by Lillie Goetz, Jenna Jordan drove in Becker with a double to right-center-field. Brittany Sims plated Goetz with an infield sac-fly. It was a heads up base running decision by Goetz, as the NC State shortstop caught the ball moving away from home plate and the difficult throw was offline.
“Our mindset was to come in and attack, if we get a pitch we like we swing at it, we don’t want to step in and take pitches,” Goetz said. “We decided to step in and be aggressive.”
Jordan was the final Cardinal to score in the inning, Sarah Lopesilvero drove her in with a single up the middle to give Louisville a 4-0 lead.
Grand Slams- Goetz picked a nice spot to hit her first career home run. With the bases load in the bottom of the third inning, Goetz hit a high fly-ball over the right-field wall to give Louisville a 10-3 lead. Before the grand slam, NC State relief pitcher Harli Hubbard walked in two runs with the bases loaded and was replaced by starting pitcher Courtney Mirabella.
“I got up to the plate and the bases were loaded and we already had a lead. I knew this was a big game and we wanted to go out strong, I wanted to do my job,” Goetz said. “I got up there and I tried to stay patient and I finally got the pitch and I hit it. I wasn’t thinking about a grand slam, I wanted to get a run in.”
After Goetz’s first career round tripper, Louisville tacked on another two runs because of errors in the infield.
With one out and the bases loaded, Becker hit the second grand slam of the inning over the left-field wall. The Cardinals took a 17-3 lead with the blast and then added two more runs in the inning. All together, Louisville scored 15 runs in the bottom of the third inning.
“Sometimes in that situation you lose focus and we did a great job and kept pounding the ball,” Pearsall said. “This time we put the pedal down and kept firing on all cylinders.”
Pearsall said two grand slams in one inning hasn’t happened in her 17 seasons at Louisville.
The circle- Becker picked up her second win of the series to improve to 11-4 on year. The junior pitched allowed three runs on four hits on Saturday after pitching five innings and holding NC State to one run on three hits in the series opener. Becker struck out 10 batters over the weekend.
“She did really well this weekend, it is a tough team to pitch to because of their power,” Pearsall said. “I thought the team did a great job and Maryssa found the zone when she needed to and went out of the zone when she needed to, and by in large threw two great games for us.”
What it means- With the sweep, Louisville is in sole possession of second place in the ACC at 8-1. Florida State is 24-3 overall and 4-0 in the ACC. The Cardinals still have series against Florida State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame left.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster. We have struggled a little bit, but I think these three wins this weekend and the three against Virginia last weekend lets us go forward strong with our confidence that we can score 19 runs,” Goetz said. “We believe.”
What’s next- Louisville travels to Bowling Green, Kentucky to play Western Kentucky in a non-conference game on Wednesday. WKU is 11-14 overall. After the week-day road trip, Louisville travels to North Carolina next weekend for an ACC showdown.
“We really need to get this series because it’s hard to go on the road and win at Chapel Hill,” Pearsall said of the UNC series. “We needed this badly.”
North Carolina is 15-15 overall and 3-4 in the ACC.
Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal