The Virginia softball team battles Boston College this weekend, hoping to recapture its early-season magic and halt a seven-game losing streak.
The Cavaliers (16-12, 3-3 ACC) fell from atop the ACC standings to fourth after being swept by No. 23 Florida State in last weekend's three-game series. Virginia travels to Chestnut Hill this weekend for its sixth road trip of the season.
"I want us to be more competitive," sophomore infielder Erica Cipolloni said. "Georgia Tech was a great team, and we swept them. We just had two really hard series, so - not that I think Boston College will be easy - but I think that this will be a good opportunity for us to come back together and get back on track to where we were at the beginning of the season."
To return to form, the team must first reawaken its bats. During last weekend's series against Florida State, the Cavaliers did not record a run until midway through the third and final game. Virginia scored just a single run during the series, which dropped them to the bottom of the ACC ranks in batting average.
"As a team, we need to string hits together," sophomore first baseman Stephanie Harris said. "When we get people on, we need to capitalize - we've got to bunt them over and then score them."
Harris struck Virginia's lone hit in the second game against Florida State.
"This weekend is a good opportunity to regroup," Harris said. "As far as hitting goes, this would be a great time to get some slams in. We'll also have to focus on our fielding and our communication."
The Cavaliers twice faced Florida State's freshman pitcher Lacey Waldrop last week, who earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors for her efforts against Virginia. Boston College's pitching will not be as intimidating as the Seminoles' staff, which ranks first in the ACC with a 0.89 ERA, but coach Eileen Schmidt sees similarities in the two squads.
"Boston College has a drop baller and curve baller," Schmidt said. "It's not like we haven't seen that. It's kind of like what we saw last week against Florida State."
Boston College (18-10, 0-3 ACC) comes off two wins against Dartmouth last weekend, including an 11-run, four-homer performance in game two.
While Virginia has struggled at the plate, the Eagles rank first in the conference with a .291 batting average.
"Boston College is swinging it pretty well," Schmidt said. "They've done a really good job with their hitting in the last couple of years. It'll be important that we get out in front early and we put pressure on them early in the game."
Virginia freshman pitcher Rachel Gillen and junior Melanie Mitchell will try to temper Boston College's hot hitters. Gillen pitched two games last weekend, allowing 13 hits in 14 innings, whereas Virginia's batters only managed three hits in 11 innings against Florida State's Waldrop. Mitchell pitched the first game and allowed seven hits in seven innings to Florida State, but ranks second in the league in batters struck out.
The Cavaliers also have to contend with injuries to key players. Cipolloni's status for the weekend is questionable, as she recently suffered a leg injury, and freshman outfielder Heidi Velk will likely miss the series with an injury to her left hand. These are sore losses for Virginia, as Cipolloni's batting average ranks second on the team and Velk has been strong for the Cavaliers in the outfield with no errors this season.
"Injuries are injuries," Schmidt said. "There's not really anything you can do about it. But our team is built on versatility anyway. We spent some extra time [Wednesday] getting some people some experience in the field... I like where we are"