May 18, 2012
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - -
Junior first baseman Alicja Wolny's two-out, three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh lifted the No. 7/9 University of Louisville softball team to a 6-4 win over Valparaiso in the first round of NCAA regional action Friday at Ulmer Stadium. The Cards (54-3) will face No. 21 Michigan (40-15) Saturday at 3 p.m. on ESPN. Michigan used a seventh inning rally to defeat Kentucky 3-2 in Friday's first round action.
"I couldn't be prouder of this team. Coming from behind again, we have done it a few times this year but this was very dramatic and I couldn't be prouder," said U of L head coach Sandy Pearsall. "
With the Cards down 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, freshman Whitney Arion and junior Jennifer Esteban led off with back-to-back singles. One out later, sophomore Katie Keller reached on a fielder's choice which saw Arion out at third, but left two on with two outs for Wolny, who crushed the first pitch of her at-bat over the right field fence for her ninth home run of the season.
Valpo jumped to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Angie Doerffler connected on a one-out single. Two-out hits by Brittany Duncan and Jordan Rutkowski loaded the bases for Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry who drew a walk to plate Doerffler.
The Cards answered in the home half of the inning when junior Jennifer Esteban led off with a hit and stole second. Sophomore Katie Keller walked and junior Alicja Wolny followed with an RBI single. Sophomore Taner Fowler's two-run single plated Keller and Wolny to give Louisville a 3-1 lead.
The Crusaders had a chance to score in the top of the fourth when Rutkowski led off the frame with a double. A hit by Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry placed runners on the corners with one out. Sophomore catcher Maggie Ruckenbrod teamed with freshman shortstop Whitney Arion to catch Drewry stealing second and Rutkowski at the plate on a double-steal attempt to end the inning.
Valpo used three walks and two hits to put up a three-spot and take a 4-3 lead in the fifth. Lindsey Norway drew a leadoff walk and Amanda Wisniewski was safe on an infield single. Sara Strickland's sacrifice bunt moved the runners. Jessie Marinec walked to load the bases. Another walk issued to Brittany Duncan plated Norway to pull the Crusaders within a run. Rutkowski's two-run single put Valpo up 4-3.
The Cards went scoreless in the fifth and sixth before staging the late-inning dramatics for the second game in a row. In the finals of the BIG EAST championship, sophomore Jordan Trimble connected on a walk-off home run, this time it was Wolny with the game-winning hit.
Sophomore Chelsea Leonard (11-1) got the win, holding the Crusaders scoreless on two hits and striking out three in 2.1 innings of relief. Wolny was 3 for 4 with a double, a home run, four RBI's and two runs. Esteban was 3 for 4 with a double and two runs to lead the Cards at the plate.
Alex Lagesse (22-10) took the loss, allowing six earned runs on 11 hits and striking out two in 6.2 innings of work. Rutowski went 3 for 3 with two RBIs.
Valparaiso (42-18) will face Kentucky (29-29) Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN in an elimination game.