Lady Leopards Rally In 7th to Upset Howland in Sectional – Softball
#17 Louisville 12, #13 Warren Howland 9
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The #17 seed Louisville Leopards Varsity Softball Team rallied late for a 12-9 upset victory over the host #13 seed Warren Howland Tigers at Lewis Field Wednesday Evening inside the confines of Howland Township Park. With the victory, Louisville improves to 11-12 on the season and advances to play at #1 seed Austintown Fitch in the DI Austintown District Semifinals on Monday, May 16 at 3:30 PM.
Collins Goes 5-for-5 with Go Ahead Homer
Senior first baseman Jenna Collins finished a perfect 5-for-5 at the plate and also came up clutch when it mattered most. The Lady Leopards were down to their final out when Collins came to bat in the top of the seventh. Louisville had just cut the lead to 9-8 when sophomore third baseman Kenzi Denzer drew a throw to second base allowing senior right fielder Stevie Barrett to swipe home plate to make it 9-8.
After a fly out, Collins cranked a line drive that cleared the left field fence for a two-run homer to put the Lady Leopards ahead 10-9. The home run was Collins’ eighth of the season and Louisville’s 31st as a team.
The Leopards continued to pour it on in the seventh with three straight hits after Collins cleared the bases. Junior second baseman Shelby Mayle cracked her third double of the game and senior catcher Brooke Brendle followed with an infield single. The shortstop overthrew first base on the play allowing Mayle to round third and score to put Louisville up 11-9.
Brendle was replaced by freshman courtesy runner Olivia Mongiardro who eventually advanced to third on a wild pitch. Sophomore Brooke Haren fouled off the next four pitches before hitting a ground ball single up the middle to score Mongiardo and up their advantage to 12-9.
Haren Defensive Gems Preserve Leopard Lead
Fresh off driving home the Leopards fifth run of the inning, Haren helped preserve Louisville’s three run advantage with a pair of defensive gems in the outfield. She hustled to snag a pop fly in no-man’s land in shallow left center for the first out. Howland right fielder Madison Hufford batted next and ripped a deep fly ball to center field that looked destined to leave the ballpark. Instead, Haren tracked the ball down jumping to her left before it could hit the yellow lining that topped the fence. The catch was undoubtedly the defensive play of the game and more importantly left Louisville one out away from their first sectional title since 2019.
The final out of the game was a “can of corn” to Denzer just behind third base and she made the catch with ease. Shortstop Matti Benson and Haren celebrated with a shoulder bump at the top of the infield. Then Head Coach Kristen Miller came storming out of the dugout and emphatically jumped into the arms of Haren to celebrate her first tournament victory since taking over the Lady Leopards program this season.
Benson Breaks Single Season Home Run Record
Earlier in the fourth inning, Benson crushed a solo homer to right center field to knot the game at 5-5. The no-doubter was her 12th home run of the season surpassing Grace Jackson (2015) and Kaycee Ollis (2019) for the single season Louisville Softball record.
With the solo shot, Benson has homered in five consecutive games which is also a Lady Leopards record. In addition, she had a multi-homer game against Claymont on April 30, so this marks her seventh homer in seven games. The achievement is even more significant when you consider that Benson didn’t registered a single homer through Louisville’s first eight games prior to April 20.
Louisville Overcomes 5 Howland Homers
The Tigers pounced on the Leopards in the opening inning clobbering three home runs to take a 4-2 lead. Shortstop Alyssa Massucci and pitcher Brooke Tatar hit back-to-back home runs to put Howland ahead 3-2. Two batters later, third baseman Alexia Spangler hit a solo home run to center field to put the Tigers in front 4-2.
Louisville answered in the top of the second inning with a pair of runs. Mayle hit a two-run double to left field bringing home Denzer and Collins to tie the game at 4-4.
Tatar again helped her own cause in the bottom of the third. She led off the frame by clubbing her second solo bomb of the game over the fence in right field to put Howland back in front 5-4.
The Leopards responded by taking the lead back in the fourth. Benson homered to tie the contest and Louisville loaded the bases after that. A wild pitch allowed sophomore courtesy runner Paige Folk to score from third to give Louisville a 6-5 advantage. With still only one out, Louisville looked destined to have a bigger inning. However, a liner off the bat of Haren found the glove of Massucci at short and she threw to Spangler at third for an inning ending double play.
The Lady Leopards held the Tigers at bay in a 1-2-3 fourth before tacking on to their advantage in the fifth. Junior designated hitter Kendra Thomas singled to start the inning and advanced into scoring position via a Howland error. Then Barrett knocked Thomas home on a one-out single to center to put Louisville ahead 7-5.
A Leopard error allowed Howland to get a run back in the bottom half of the fifth, but LHS still took a 7-6 advantage into the bottom of the sixth. Centerfielder Zoe King led off the inning with a single to put the tying run on first. Then Hufford bunted and reached on an error to put the go-ahead run aboard. Massucci followed and hit the next pitch over the center field fence for a three-run homer representing her second dinger of the contest. That put the Tigers back in front 9-7.
But even down to their final out, Louisville would overcome that disadvantage as well.
Leopards Pound Out 20 Hits
The Lady Leopards doubled up the Lady Tigers in hits for the game 20-10. Eight different Louisville batters registered multi-hit games led by Collins with five hits and Mayle with three doubles. Benson, Brendle, Denzer, Haren, and Thomas all finished with two hits each. Brendle also hit a two-run single in the opening inning and Denzer scored three times throughout the game.
Massucci led Howland by batting 2-for-5 with five RBIs. Spangler and Tatar also went 2-for-3 at the plate for the contest.
10 Sectional Titles in 12 Years for Louisville
With the comeback victory, Louisville has now won 10 Division I sectional titles in the past 12 seasons. The Lady Leopards traveled to Massillon for all of those district tournament appearances during that stretch. They will break that trend Monday when they play at top seed Austintown Fitch looking for a birth in a DI District Championship game for the fourth time since 2013.
Monday’s game against Fitch will mark the first time Louisville has played a district game on their opponents’ field since playing their first district semifinal matchup at North Canton Hoover in 1992. The Lady Leopards are now 11-17 in road tournament games following their victory at Howland. Louisville is now 43-35 all-time in the postseason which includes a 30-24 mark when playing in Division I.
This was the first ever meeting between the Leopards and Tigers on the softball diamond. Howland is the 74th different opponent Louisville has played in its history and 25th different tournament opponent.
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Louisville at Howland Varsity Softball Box Score
LEOPARDS 12, TIGERS 9
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS SOFTBALL BATTING STATS
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS SOFTBALL PITCHING STATS
HOWLAND TIGERS SOFTBALL BATTING STATS
HOWLAND TIGERS SOFTBALL PITCHING STATS
Records: Louisville 11-12