A shorthanded Virginia softball team swept Delaware State in a Wednesday afternoon doubleheader, 9-1 and 10-1, each in five innings. The results give the Cavaliers a two-game winning streak heading into a tough series against ACC leader Florida State.
In the day’s first game, the Cavaliers (18-19, 3-9 ACC) used a five-run second inning to put the game away early. The two teams were held scoreless through the first inning and a half, but six hits in the bottom of the second, including a 3 RBI double by junior third baseman Marcy Bowdren, got Virginia on the board. The Hornets (12-23, 6-2 MEAC) put a run up in the fourth inning, which saw them get two of the three hits they had in the entire game, but the Cavaliers responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame and two more in the fifth to end the game early.
“I thought everybody did a really good job of stepping up to the plate, filling in for what we got and doing a really good job scoring some runs and being solid defensively,” Coach Eileen Schimdt said.
As has been the case throughout her career, senior pitcher Melanie Mitchell provided a stellar showing on the mound. Mitchell (13-11) allowed only three hits and one earned run while striking out eight batters in her 20th complete game of the season. She pushed her season total for strikeouts up to 202, becoming the first pitcher in Virginia history to record 200 or more strikeouts in each of her four seasons.
“It feels amazing,” Mitchell said. “It’s a lot like the other records, where I’ve had a lot of opportunities to get to that. I just go out there and throw a lot.”
The second game of the doubleheader saw Virginia pour it on early and take full advantage of any mistake Delaware State made. Trailing for the first and only time of the day after giving up a run in the top of the first inning, the Cavaliers scored their first three batters before getting an out, taking a 3-1 lead after one.
In the bottom of the third inning, Virginia scored an astounding seven runs to blow the game open and trigger another early finish. Freshman Hornet pitcher Jennifer Fischbach had a tough frame, giving up four hits and five walks, four of which were with the bases loaded.
Virginia had a great offensive and defensive day despite a depleted roster. With three starters out of the lineup, players had to be shuffled around at other positions to fill in the gaps. In the second game alone, four of the nine players were out of their normal spots but were still able to make plays when needed. For a team that has had trouble performing consistently in the past, that adaptability brings some relief.
“It’s great to see that people can step up and step into a role and perform,” Schmidt said. “It gives everybody confidence when you have that depth.”
This weekend, the team will travel down to Tallahassee to take on a Florida State team that outscored conference foe Boston College 21-3 in three games last weekend and at one point this year won 14 of 15 games. The Seminoles (31-14, 10-2 ACC) have an outstanding pitching rotation, averaging more than seven strikeouts a game. Their pitchers are supported by a batting order that can outrun and outhit most other teams, creating a potentially deadly combination. The final game of the series will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
“They’re number one in the conference right now and we’re going to be playing them on TV, so it’s going to be a big series for us,” Mitchell said. “They have a great home environment and they’re a very intense team to play. They have standout pitching and very good hitting, so we’ll need to be on our A-game.”