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Softball team splits series against Radford; confronts Maryland

Cavs roll 7-1 in game one of doubleheader before losing rematch 12-1

The Virginia softball team found itself on both the winning and losing side of two lopsided games during Wednesday's doubleheader against Radford.

The Cavaliers (20-18, 5-7 ACC) seemed to do everything right in the first game, coming away with a 7-1 victory, but both the defense and offense fell apart in game two as Virginia was put away in five innings. The Highlanders (22-12, 7-2 Big South) salvaged a series split with a 12-1 victory.

"In the first game we got after it, but in the second game we let it go," junior shortstop Alex Skinkis said. "[Radford] came to play, and you have to respect that."

Skinkis opened the scoring in the second inning of game one. After reaching first on a fielder's choice, Skinkis advanced to second base on a steal. She scored on a single by sophomore third baseman Marcy Bowdren to put Virginia up 1-0.

The Cavaliers extended their lead two innings later when junior catcher Kristen Hawkins and senior outfielder Gianinna Cipolloni both drew walks with the bases loaded.

In the sixth inning, senior second baseman Kennedy Byxbee hit a triple and then scored on a Cipolloni flyout to put the Cavaliers up 4-1. Junior outfielder Taylor Williams followed with a single and freshman outfielder Megan Harris drew a walk to set up sophomore first baseman Stephanie Harris for a three-run home run, sealing the win.

"The first game was good," junior pitcher Melanie Mitchell said. "Our offense really showed up. We were very patient and worked a lot of walks. It was good to see that."

Mitchell's performance in the circle in game one was perhaps even more impressive than the offensive showcase. En route to her 20th complete game of the season, Mitchell allowed just one hit, a walk and an unearned run. She also finished the game with nine strikeouts.

Radford's one tally came in the sixth inning when freshman pitcher Micalah Sacre reached base on a Cavalier error and her pinch runner, sophomore outfielder Maureen Hepner, crossed home on a failed attempt to pick off a runner at second base.

"We made a few errors in the field, but it's my job to have my best day when other people aren't having their best day," Mitchell said. "It's very comforting to have good run support. The past few outings haven't necessarily been the greatest for that, but it's been enough. Today was really good for that."

Radford stormed right out of the gates in game two when Sacre, who hit second in the batting order, launched a pitch from freshman Rachel Gillen for a two-run homer. Gillen was taken out in the second inning, but senior reliever Stephanie Coates fared no better, giving up another two-run homer to Sacre. After three innings the Cavaliers trailed 7-1, with Virginia's only run of the game coming in the third when Cipolloni doubled and Williams drove her in.

"From a defensive side, we really couldn't shut them down and get out of innings," coach Eileen Schmidt said. "We got behind and started watching the scoreboard, and [we] saw that we had a long way to go instead of just working together and making adjustments."

An inning later, Virginia faced a terrifying moment when a line drive off Sacre's bat struck Coates in the face after grazing her glove. The impact knocked her to the ground for an extended period. Coates walked off the field by herself, but Gillen was forced to come back in to pitch. The Highlanders tacked on five more runs against Gillen.

Sacre also had success on the mound as she threw all five innings, striking out eight.

"Micalah [Sacre] threw a great game, and we never got much on the ground and couldn't make any adjustments," Schmidt said. "We'll get back to it [in practice], and then on the weekend against Maryland."

The Cavaliers resume ACC play this weekend in College Park with a three-game series against the Terrapins (20-17, 0-6 ACC). Maryland sits in last place in the conference standings and has the conference's worst ERA. The Terps also rank last in slugging percentage but hold third place in on-base percentage.

"Maryland hasn't caught a break yet," Schmidt said. "Hopefully they won't this weekend either. Offensively they always swing the bat well, so it's just a matter of getting out on top early."

At the plate, the Terrapins are led by senior shortstop Kathy McLaughlin, whose .350 batting average is good for third in the conference, and sophomore first baseman Candice Beards, who leads the conference in on-base percentage.

In the circle, senior pitcher Kendra Knight paces Maryland with 171 strikeouts and a .194 opposing batting average, ranking fourth in the conference in both categories. Despite those strong numbers, the Terrapins have lost 11 of their last 15 games.

"We're really excited for this weekend," Mitchell said. "It's a good opportunity to go in and face a team that hasn't been doing very well. We just need to play [to] our potential and put them away"

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