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Softball claims first ACC series win vs. BC

Virginia excels Saturday after uneven opening double-header; Mitchell sets strikeout, win marks

The Virginia softball team battled ACC foe Boston College this weekend in Charlottesville, bookending the weekend with 3-2 and 4-1 victories sandwiched around a 3-2 loss. The series win marks the first for the Cavaliers in conference play.

To kick off the series, the teams played a doubleheader Friday evening. In the first game, the Cavaliers (14-16, 3-6 ACC) prevailed thanks to some early offensive production. After Boston College (9-17, 1-5 ACC) went three and out in the top of the first inning, Virginia scored three runs on three hits in the bottom of the frame, including a two-RBI single by junior third baseman Marcy Bowdren. From there the Cavaliers coasted, adding four more hits but no more runs while giving up single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Senior pitcher Melanie Mitchell (11-9) threw 10 strikeouts and allowed two earned runs on seven hits.

The second game of the day saw the Eagles turn the tables and triumph 3-2 in nine innings. After each team put up a run in the first inning, the pitchers seized control of the action, giving up no more runs until the ninth. In that frame, freshman pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine (3-6) threw a third strike with two outs for the Cavaliers, but a passed ball allowed the Boston College runner to reach base. The mistake eventually resulted in the Eagles tallying two unearned runs before the home team was able to get the third out. The bottom of the inning saw Virginia narrow the gap to one, largely thanks to a lead-off triple by senior outfielder Taylor Williams, but that was as close as it got. Chapdelaine allowed one earned run on eight hits with three strikeouts in a complete game loss.

Following Friday’s late struggles, an all-around rejuvenated Virginia team emerged for Saturday afternoon’s game and rolled 4-1.

At the plate, the team recorded fewer total hits than in either of the first two games but was much more efficient with runners on base. After yielding a run in the first inning, the Cavaliers tied the game when a groundout by senior shortstop Alex Skinkis drove in a run in the second. Virginia then grabbed the lead with a two-out, two-run home run by senior second baseman Lauren Didlake, the first of her career.

“It was a great feeling,” Didlake said. “That was my pitch right there — inside pitch, knee height.”

Junior designated player Karli Johnson notched her team-leading fifth home run of the season in the sixth to cap the scoring. The team finished with only five hits but left just two runners on base after stranding a combined 21 in the first two games of the series.

“[Friday] we had a lot of people on but didn’t score,” coach Eileen Schmidt said. “[Saturday] we didn’t get a lot of people on [base], but we did take advantage of the people that we did get on — a more consistent performance [Saturday] throughout the whole game.”

On the mound, Mitchell gave up seven hits but no earned runs — the lone Boston College run in the first came on an error — while fanning 13 batters in seven innings. She continued her theme of breaking records this year, as in the third inning she became the first pitcher in Virginia softball history to record 1000 career strikeouts. In addition, the win was the 74th of her career, moving her into a tie on top of the Virginia all-time career wins list.

“Our rhythm was a lot better, our pace was a lot better,” Mitchell said. “Starting innings off with getting runners out immediately is really good for us, and we need to get a lot more 1-2-3 innings.”

Up next, the Cavaliers visit George Mason for a two-game series Wednesday. After that, the team travels south to Chapel Hill for an all-important three-game series against North Carolina.

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