The Virginia softball team suffered its third consecutive ACC series sweep this weekend, dropping three games to NC State by a combined score of 22-1 in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers lost 10-1 and 10-0 in a doubleheader Saturday and then fell 2-0 Sunday for their ninth consecutive conference loss.
“We battled harder, but still not enough,” coach Eileen Schmidt said. “[NC State] made the most of their opportunities and we didn’t get a ton … We’ve got to grind it out. We’ve got to get back to the basics and do the little things right.”
In the weekend’s first game, the Cavaliers (18-25, 3-15 ACC) fell behind early and were never able to mount a rally. The team trailed 5-0 before they got its first and only run of the series in the fifth inning off of a single by junior pinch hitter Karli Johnson.
The Wolfpack (26-18, 10-7 ACC) showed off their hitting ability throughout, belting four home runs in the game including two by sophomore shortstop Renada Davis. Virginia senior pitcher Melanie Mitchell had a tough outing, giving up five earned runs in as many innings with seven strikeouts. Freshman Emma Mitchell pitched two innings in relief allowing two earned runs on five hits while fanning three batters.
The second half of the doubleheader offered no relief for the reeling Cavaliers. Virginia once again surrendered 10 runs but this time failed to score, losing 10-0 in six innings. With the game scoreless in the top of the fifth, a pair of Cavalier errors helped the Wolfpack score four runs and take control. Virginia managed just two hits and freshman pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine allowed six earned runs on 11 hits in six innings.
“We didn’t have anything,” Schmidt said. “[Aimee Chapdelaine] came out and gave us a pretty strong start in the second game, but then it just fell apart again. We didn’t really get after it [Saturday]. It wasn’t a good weekend.”
The final game of the series on Sunday was much closer, but the end result was the same. Virginia’s pitchers fared much better than they had Saturday but the team’s offense did not take advantage in the 2-0 loss. The Cavaliers mustered just three singles behind Mitchell’s solid showing on the mound. The senior yielded just two earned runs on four hits with seven strikeouts in seven strong innings, but took the loss to fall to 13-15.
“We definitely wanted to come out with a little more energy than we had [Saturday],” Mitchell said. “We hit some balls hard on the ground, stayed out of the air … but their pitcher was just on her A-game today.”
Mitchell’s counterpart, Wolfpack sophomore Emily Weiman, pitched a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts to secure the sweep for NC State. With the win, Weiman improved to 24-16 with a 1.98 ERA on the season.
The lone bright spot in a dismal weekend offensively was the return to the lineup of senior catcher Kristen Hawkins. Two weeks ago against North Carolina, Hawkins fouled a ball into her own face, fracturing it in three places. She was expected to miss the rest of the season and require immediate surgery to repair the damage, but somehow recovered quickly enough to be able to play this weekend. In a rare feel-good moment in a trying season for Virginia, Hawkins hit a double during her first at-bat in the series opener, Virginia’s only extra base hit of the weekend.
“I can’t even describe how amazing and blessed I feel to be back,” Hawkins said. “I was crushed when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play, but I just kept praying and hoping I would be able to and telling everyone I could. I got chills when I got the hit because no one thought I would be back, and getting that first hit in my first at bat back was the best feeling in the world.”
The team will look to bounce back Wednesday in a doubleheader against Liberty (19-28, 8-13 Big South) in Lynchburg. Virginia will then host Virginia Tech in its final regular season series next weekend looking to snap its ACC losing streak.
”It’s going to be your typical in-state matchup,” Schmidt said of Liberty. “Whether it’s [James Madison], or Liberty, or George Mason, it’s always a big game and it’s always a good game. Going down there, they’ll have a ton of fans out there and we need to come out firing and adjust some things tomorrow and get ourselves back on track.”