The Pitt softball team’s season continued its nosedive this weekend after losing three games in a row to the Louisville Cardinals.
Coach Holly Aprile and the Panthers (14-11 overall, 0-6 ACC) started the season 9-0, elevating the program to No. 19 in the country, the highest ranking in the history of the program. Since then, the team has struggled in conference play, a theme that continued in its away weekend series against the Louisville Cardinals (18-7 overall, 3-0 ACC).
The Panthers couldn’t slow down the Cardinals high-powered offense all series, allowing 21 runs over the three games. Louisville took advantage and swept the Panthers, winning 7-6 Friday, 5-2 Saturday and 8-2 Sunday.
The Cardinals opened the scoring in the second inning, going up 1-0 on a two-out RBI single by Caitlin Ferguson. Pitt answered in the third, with a single from sophomore Olivia Gray, bringing in junior Erin Hershman.
Louisville retook a 2-1 lead in the third before the Panthers scored two in the fourth on a hit down the left-field line by Hershman.
The Panthers switched pitchers to start the fourth, with first-year Brittany Knight replacing junior starter Kayla Harris. Louisville surged in the next two innings, scoring one in the fourth and two in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead going into the last two frames.
Pitt responded in the sixth, tying the game at five apiece after drawing two bases-loaded walks. Later in the inning, sophomore Giorgiana Zeremenko hit the ball to the shortstop, but a fielding error allowed Hershman to cross the plate, putting the Panthers on top 6-5.
The Cardinals tied the game again in the sixth, and after the Panthers failed to convert a bases-loaded opportunity in the top of the seventh, Louisville had a chance to walk off.
With one out, Louisville outfielder Jordan McNary smacked a ball deep into the outfield for a triple. Pitt intentionally walked the next two batters to load the bases, but a single from Tiarra Sanabria gave Louisville the 7-6 walk-off win.
The Cardinals jumped out to a quick lead Saturday, scoring two in the first inning on a bases-loaded single by catcher Alison Szydlowski.
Both offenses struggled from that point, with both teams combining for just three hits over the next two and a half innings.
Louisville threatened to score in the fourth after a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners for Ferguson with two outs. But the Panthers managed to hold off the Cardinals as Ferguson grounded out to third to end the inning.
Gray started the sixth with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a passed ball. After a groundout from junior McKayla Taylor, Gray found herself on third with only one out. Pitt capitalized on the opportunity and plated the run off of a groundout by sophomore Gabrielle Fredericks, making the score 2-1 Louisville.
But Louisville answered in a big way in the bottom half, scoring four to take a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the final frame. The Panthers threatened a comeback in the seventh, loading the bases with no outs. Pitt scored just one, and the team lost the second game on the series 5-2.
The final game of the series got off to a slow start, as neither Pitt’s Knight or Louisville’s Maryssa Becker allowed a hit for the first two innings.
But the Cardinals broke it open in the third, first capitalizing off a Panthers error to take a 1-0 lead. An infield single from Becker made it 2-0, and by the end of the inning, Pitt trailed 3-0 after a sacrifice fly scored Ferguson.
The Panthers struck back in the top of the fourth, scoring two runs after loading the bases with one out, making the score 3-2.
Louisville added one in the bottom of the fourth and four more in the sixth, effectively putting the game away. The Cardinals went on to win 8-2.
Pitching has become an area of concern for the Panthers after being one of its strengths early on. In the team’s first nine games, the team allowed fewer than two runs per game but over the last five, that average has ballooned to almost eight.
Pitt will return home to take on the Kent State Golden Flashes at Vartabedian Field Wednesday, March 22 at 3 p.m.