Rebecca Chung, Louisville Snap FSU's Historic Streak
With two outs, down by two runs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, Louisville freshman Rebecca Chung stepped into the box.
“Walking up the plate, I reminded myself that they had been throwing me first pitch outside and I was taking it,” Chung said. “I told myself I was going to make contact with the first pitch I see outside and that’s exactly what happened.”
Chung roped a line drive into the gap in right centerfield, cleared the bases and walked the Cardinals off with a 10-9 win over then-No. 3 Florida State. It also snapped the Seminoles’ 52-consecutive conference series win streak that dated back to 2012.
“I remember once I passed second base, I saw everyone cheering,” Chung said. “I know it’s kind of crazy but I hadn’t noticed that Ferg (Caitlin Ferguson) had scored the winning run.”
The Cardinals had a 7-3 lead after six innings but FSU stormed back with six runs in the top half of the seventh which included a grand slam from Sydney Sherrill.
“It was frustrating when they loaded up the bases,” Chung said. “Sherrill came up with the big hit and it was really nice, it was a shot. I won’t lie, I teared up a little when I saw that but Coach Holly (Aprile) came out for a mound meeting, told us to dig in and we finished the inning. It worked out well.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Chung was struggling to find a place in the starting lineup. In one of the first practices after arriving on campus, she slid and tore a ligament in her thumb on her throwing hand. The tear caused a piece of bone to pull away as well.
She had to take a week off of not doing anything. Then, she was released to catch pitchers but she couldn’t throw or hit.
“We started our season in Fullerton and we really didn’t have a starting lineup,” said Louisville head coach Holly Aprile. “We were still trying to figure out who was who but she was hurt for a good long while… But, she’s definitely having a great year so far that’s for sure.”
Since healing from the injury, Chung is batting .333 in 84 at-bats and leads the team with 27 runs batted in. She also caught four potential base stealers after FSU successfully stole three in the first inning.
“They kept running for us which was kind of a cool battle,” said Aprile. “It’s part of both of our games and I thought it was fun that we both stayed aggressive… I think she (Chung) was like ‘not again, not again.’ She has a really strong arm and she got better before our eyes.”
It wasn’t just Chung who put Louisville in the position to win the series though. Danielle Watson pitched a three-hit shutout with seven strikeouts on Saturday and Megan Hensley blasted a two-run home run to give UL a 2-0 win.
Aprile turned to Watson again on Monday night.
“She had an extremely impressive performance in game one against a really tough lineup,” said Aprile. “She’s learning and growing and trying to make her adjustments all the time and I know it sounds cliché but she’s taking it one pitch at a time and trying to get ahead of herself… I was bought into her and thought she did a really good job. I was fighting with her and thought she did such a good job of battling through some spots.”
For Louisville, the series means something a little more. The team is 20-14 with a conference record of 6-6. It’s been a season with a lot of ups-and-downs. There have been wins against Missouri, Indiana, Virginia Tech and Western Kentucky but losses to Northwestern, Michigan, Auburn, Notre Dame and Lipscomb.
But, it’s to be expected when there is a new coaching staff who was brought in late. The 2018 ACC Coach of the Year was hired as the second coach in Louisville program history on July 16, 2018, after 10 seasons at Pittsburgh. She led Pitt to the 2018 ACC Coastal Division title and a runner-up finish in the ACC Tournament. The Panthers lost on a walk-off home run to Florida State which ended their season because they were not selected for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.
“As a coach, you can’t second guess yourself,” she said. “That’s just going to be a part of and you have to sink into it and learn how to make better decisions in the future. I can’t go back and change it. That game was tough to take but it was also an epic battle and really fun.”
The players and Aprile have had to make some adjustment since July. None of the current roster was recruited by her but they have all bought in.
“It was nerve-wracking during the summer but they (the coaches) really took it one step at a time with what they teaching us,” Chung said. “Everyone took it with open arms and I think we have all gelled and it’s working out pretty well.”
Next up for Louisville is a trip to Boston for a three-game series at Boston College.
“We all just have to remind ourselves that we need to continue to work hard,” Chung said about the rest of the season. “As long as we are willing to keep our heads down, not take anyone for granted and keep digging, anything can happen.”