Syracuse Falls to Louisville in First Round of ACC Tournament
By Sam Rothman
Softball Beat Reporter
When Syracuse (30-20, 9-12 ACC) hosted Louisville (33-19, 11-12 ACC) for a doubleheader at Skytop Softball Stadium in April, both games were decided by just one run. The Orange and the Cardinals split the series, with SU pulling off the 4-3 walk-off win in the second matchup of the day to end its nine-game ACC losing streak. The two teams met again on Wednesday in the first round of the ACC tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. This matchup would be another one-run contest, but it would be the eighth-seeded Cardinals who came out on top, 2-1.
Louisville Pitcher Megan Hensley, who was named to the All-ACC First Team, proved her conference honor on Wednesday. The junior started out the game by retiring the side in the first three innings. The Louisville pitcher gave up just one run on two hits and struck out five batters to lead her team to the next round of the tournament.
AnnaMarie Gatti grabbed the win against Louisville in April to end Syracuse’s conference struggles, but the senior pitcher found herself in a jam early in the second on Wednesday. After Nicole Pufahl reached base on a walk, the senior advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Gatti then gave up an RBI single to Kyra Snyder, who drove the outfielder home for the first run of the game. Pufahl’s run marked the 257th time the Cardinals crossed home this season, which ranks second in the ACC.
While Syracuse’s offensive struggles carried into the third, Louisville’s success continued. Maddy Newman started things off with a single and then recorded her eighth stolen base of the season to reach scoring position. The freshman then ran home on Jenna Jordan’s RBI double for the two-run advantage.
Looking for its first ever ACC tournament win, ninth-seeded Syracuse did not go down without a fight. After striking out in the first, Alicia Hansen solved Hensley for the Orange’s first hit of the day and she made it count. The junior hit her team-leading fifth home run of the season to cut the Cardinals’ lead in half. In the following at-bat, Hensley hit Bryce Holmgren with a pitch. It was the first challenge all game for Hensley, but she recovered quickly and retired the next two batters to escape any further damage.
After giving up two runs on four hits, Alexa Romero replaced Gatti in the circle in the fourth. The ACC’s leading strikeout pitcher and All-ACC Second Team honoree did not miss a beat. The sophomore entered the day leading the conference with 260 strikeouts, and she added another three in the fourth by striking out the side. Romero ended the game retiring nine of ten batters and did not give up a single hit. But, her teammates could not translate the pitcher’s strong play in the circle to the plate.
Down by one run in the top of the seventh, the Orange looked to rally in its final three outs. Syracuse’s most consistent batter, Bryce Holmgren, was up to the plate. The junior was named to the All-ACC First Team after leading the conference in both batting average and on-base percentage. The outfielder delivered with the leadoff single, just the second hit of the day for the Orange. Holmgren then advanced to second on Gabby Teran’s sacrifice bunt. But once again faced with adversity, Hensley got back to what she does best. Rachel Burkhardt grounded out, and then Andrea Bombace struck out swinging to finish off a phenomenal day for the All-ACC First Team pitcher.
With the 2-1 loss, Syracuse has yet to pull off an ACC tournament win since joining the conference in 2014.
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