In the first post season appearance of the Holly Aprile era in Louisville softball program history, she managed to lead the team to it’s first NCAAs since 2016. The Cards traveled north to the Northwestern regional in Evanston, Illinois over the weekend. After winning the opening game to advance to the winners bracket, the Cards beat Northwestern in their fourth matchup of the season but failed to eliminate the Wildcats from the big dance.
Game 1 vs Southern Illinois – Friday afternoon W 9-5
Louisville built an early 4-0 lead, but fell behind 5-4 after Southern Illinois scored five runs in the second and third innings.
Sidney Melton scored three runs, drove in two and connected on a home run and Megan Hensley’s home run in the sixth ignited the Cardinals’ offense. It was their first NCAA regional win since 2013.
Louisville regained the lead with three runs in the fifth. Hensley started the scoring with a solo blast over the fence in left centerfield. Her team-best 13th home run of the season put the Cards back on top 6-5. Roby followed with a single and Chung was hit by a pitch. Both runners advanced on Kyra Snyder’s groundout. Newman followed with a two-run double to push the lead to 8-5.
The Cards added another insurance run in the sixth. Melton delivered a bunt single, Hensley walked and Roby reached on an error to load the bases. Chung followed with an RBI hit to make the score 9-5. Southern Illinois threatened in the top of the seventh, using three hits to load the bases with two outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Ferguson made a leaping catch at shortstop for the final out of the game to preserve the win.
Danielle Watson got the start in the circle and surrendered two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts in 2.0 innings of work. Taylor Roby (14-4) collected the win after giving up three runs, two earned, on six hits and striking out two in 5.0 innings of relief.
Game 2 vs Northwestern – Saturday afternoon W 2-1
The University of Louisville softball team used home runs from Roby and Melton and a complete-game win from Watson to upset the overall No. 16-seed host Northwestern.
After a scoreless first inning, Louisville broke through in the top of the second when Roby took the first pitch she saw over the fence in right centerfield. It was her 4th homer of the year.
The game featured a pitchers’ duel through four and a half innings. Louisville’s Watson tossed a two-hit shutout with three strikeouts while Northwestern’s Danielle Williams struck out seven and allowed only one hit – Roby’s home run in the second – and went on to retire 12 straight batters before the game was delayed due to storms in the area in the middle of the fifth.
The delay lasted 3:09 and the pitcher’s duel resumed. The Wildcats would deliver a hit, but go scoreless in the fifth.
Melton led off the top of the sixth with her second home run in the regional to push the Cards ahead 2-0.
A one-out error put a Northwestern runner on in the sixth, but the Cards used a double play from Ferguson at short and Snyder at first base to hold the Wildcats at bay.
The Wildcats broke through in the seventh when Morgan Nelson drew a two-out walk and scored on Maeve Nelson’s double to bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but a groundout to Ferguson ended the game.
Game 3 vs Northwestern – Sunday afternoon L 0-7
The Wildcats capitalized on three hits, a walk, an error and a hit batter to plate four runs in the fourth after jumping to an early 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly by Jordyn Rudd plated Maeve Nelson in the top of the first inning.
Megan Hensley (9-4) took the loss after giving up three runs, two earned, on four hits and striking out two in 6.1 innings. Northwestern added a run in the sixth and another in the seventh inning to extend its lead to 7-0. Taylor Roby and Maddy Newman each had a hit for the Cards.
Game 4 vs Northwestern – Sunday evening L 3-4
After falling behind 2-0 in the fourth inning, the Cardinals (35-23) quickly evened the score in the fifth. The No. 18/17 Wildcats (47-11) regained the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead. Louisville answered again with a run in the seventh, but ultimately fell short in the regional final.
Melton had a hit, a stolen base and drove in a pair of runs while Celene Funke registered her nation-leading 13th triple of the season and scored a run to help lead the Cardinals at the plate.
The Cards rallied twice, but fell short in a 4-3 loss to the overall No. 16 seed Northwestern in game seven of the Evanston Regional Sunday evening.
Watson (12-15) took the loss after giving up four earned runs while scattering three hits and striking out four in 6.0 innings.
The Cardinals finish the season with a 35-23 overall record. After earning the program’s 14th NCAA regional bid and first since 2016. Additionally, Louisville reached the regional final for the fifth time in school history after advancing through the winner’s bracket for the first time.
“I’m just tremendously proud of how we played and the way we battled,” said Aprile. “We won a lot of big games throughout the year and we won a big game yesterday. I didn’t think we played great in the first game today, but they were still good battles. [In the second game] we were in position to win and that’s what we ask of our pitchers. There is a sense of pride for what they did and the way they fought.”
The Cardinals will lose seniors Blaire Bass, Sidney Melton, Megan Hensley, Darrianne Hale and Madison Cousineau to graduation.
• Melton finishes her career as Louisville’s single-season stolen base leader with 35. She also has 63 career stolen bases and stands second on Louisville’s all-time list.
• She finishes her career ranked fifth on Louisville career list for runs with 157.