LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It has become a right of spring for the U of L softball program. For the thirteenth consecutive time, the Cardinals are headed to the NCAA tournament.
Louisville (35-15) will be in Columbia, Missouri for the second straight year. They open Thursday at 5:00 pm against Nebraska (33-19). The Cardinals lost to Nebraska 4-3 and 3-0 in the ACC-Big Ten challenge in February in Raleigh, North Carolina. BYU (35-19) and Missouri (39-14) are the other two teams in the double-elimination region.
After finishing second in the ACC regular season standings, things got a pretty tense for the team as they watched the selection show continue without seeing their name called, until it finally came up.
"It was overwhelming," said Freshman Pitcher Megan Hensley. "We were all getting really nervous. It was like the second-to-last region that we were called in and it was so nerve-racking."
"If you're not one of those top 16 seeds, there's always a little bit of doubt," said Junior Maryssa Becker. "As you see those 64 spots fill up and you're not on there, you get a little more nervous that you're not going to be one of those picked. It was a great feeling once we finally saw our names come across, but a ton of relief and a ton of excitement for the team to be able to return to Missouri again for the NCAA tournament."
"I think the announcers made it clear that we were the last team in and that kind of fires us up but as well it just allows us to play loose," said Senior Brittany Sims. "We don't have any pressure and we have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
Hensley and Becker will likely share the pitching duties this weekend as they have throughout the season. Becker is 20-10 with a 2.20 earned run average. Hensley is 15-5 with a 2.26 ERA. And they are also the team's top hitters. Becker with a .397 average, 9 home runs and a school single season record 58 runs batted in. Hensley is hitting .342 with 13 homers and 52 RBI.
Now in her 17th year in charge of the program she started from scratch, Sandy Pearsall is proud to again be going to the tournament, but wants more.
"I'm excited about that and I'm very pleased we've been able to do that, " said Pearsall. "I think it shows we've been a very stable program and we've been able to be consistent in what we do. But it by no means completes me. We need to get out of it and get to a Super Regional. That's truly our goal. Once you get in a Super Regional anything can happen. We've got to get to that point and that's what we're striving for."
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