Following its first ACC series-win of the season, the Virginia softball team will travel to Fairfax, Va. to play George Mason in a Wednesday doubleheader.
The Cavaliers (14-16, 3-6 ACC) have been plagued by inconsistencies this season. After a three-game win streak in mid-March, they were swept in a three-game series at Maryland. This past Saturday, they rebounded with a series-clinching 4-1 win against Boston College at home. The Cavaliers are hoping the momentum from their first conference series-win will propel them to further success.
“We’ll feel good going into next weekend,” senior shortstop Lauren Didlake said. “It’s good to get on a roll and get going.”
After splitting the doubleheader Friday, the Cavaliers put on a strong showing Saturday to secure the series. Senior pitcher Melanie Mitchell threw 13 strikeouts while only allowing one run in seven innings, improving her record for the season to 11-9. Her performance led to the conference tapping her as the ACC Softball Pitcher of the Week Tuesday.
With the win, Mitchell tied Lisa Palmer for the most wins in program history at 74. Additionally, she became the first Cavalier to throw more than 1,000 career strikeouts — tallying 1,008 for her career. She is only the seventh ACC pitcher to reach the career milestone.
The Cavaliers take a brief break from ACC play to face the Patriots (9-21, 2-4 CAA), who have also experienced a difficult season so far, but also enter Wednesday coming off a series win last weekend. They defeated UNC-Wilmington twice in a three-game series in Fairfax, after having lost 14 of their previous 15 games.
Despite the Patriots’ lackluster record, Virginia coach Eileen Schmidt does not view the game as an easy win.
“I think they started off a little hotter than what they’ve been right now,” Schmidt said. “[George Mason coach] Joe [Verbanic] does a great job. His team is always well-coached, usually extremely aggressive and they’ll swing big bats.”
Virginia is looking to improve on its previous road series, when the team was swept at Maryland. The Cavaliers’ Saturday game against Boston College exemplified their volatile play early, but they were able to overcome an early deficit to take the win. In the first inning, the Eagles scored quickly to take a one-run lead, but the Cavaliers responded with three runs in the second. Senior infielder Alex Skinkis delivered a sacrifice RBI groundout. Two batters later, Didlake hit her first career home run, scoring senior catcher Kristen Hawkins, who had reached base on a walk.
The Cavaliers have made it a habit of coming from behind, so overcoming the early deficit was not difficult. Of Virginia’s last eight wins, six have come after trailing at some point in the game.
“We stayed up the whole time and we’re behind each other the whole time,” Didlake said. “No matter what happens, we’re always there cheering for each other and keeping it going, keeping our roll when we had a roll or rally going.”
But Virginia is seeking to improve upon the uneven playing habits that have become a theme this season before facing the second half of its ACC schedule.
“That’s kind of what we’ve been talking about … all year, is the consistency piece of all areas of our game,” Schmidt said. “Whether it’s having pitching and not getting the hitting, or having the hitting and not getting the consistent pitching and defense.”
Fresh off the Boston College series, the Cavaliers remain optimistic heading into Wednesday afternoon as they look to top the Patriots, who are looking to avenge a 5-1 loss to Virginia last season in Charlottesville.
“Hopefully we can go and get two wins,” Mitchell said. “The offense has been doing very well, and our defense is finally catching up to our offense.”