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Softball continues slump, swept by Syracuse

Strong showing by Velk not enough to overcome high-powered Orange offense

Virginia softball dropped all three games of a weekend series against Syracuse. The Cavaliers were thoroughly routed by the Orange in each, losing 8-0, 13-1 and 14-3.

Virginia (3-21, 1-10 ACC) was helpless at the plate in the first game. Syracuse freshman pitcher Sydney O’Hara allowed one hit — a single by freshman infielder Lindsay Mayer in the bottom of the second — in a five-inning complete game shutout. She also added seven strikeouts and no walks to her line.

Meanwhile, the Orange (10-14, 3-3 ACC) offense shelled sophomore pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine for eight runs — seven earned — on twelve hits. O’Hara helped herself out with a two-run homer in the top of the third, and would finish the game with three hits, three runs batted in and two runs scored.

“Most of the time we did not challenge hitters,” coach Blake Miller said. “Aimee challenged hitters for maybe three innings, and she shut them down. Other than that, we fell behind and got into hitter’s counts.”

Game two of the Saturday doubleheader would produce a similar outcome for the struggling Cavaliers. Syracuse exploded for seven runs in the opening frame and chased Chapdelaine after one-third of an inning. Mayer, who came in as Chapdelaine’s relief, was charged with three of the first-inning runs.

Down seven before it came to bat, Virginia was unable to get the offense going. Junior outfielder Heidi Velk led off the bottom of the first with a home run to right center field for the sole run of the game. Mayer would reach on an infield single in the second, and Velk singled in the third inning for the Cavaliers’ final two hits.

Velk, who hit her first two career home runs last week, has developed power to complement her slap hitting and speed.

“I’m very happy for Velk,” Miller said. “She was just a slapper, but now she’s turned into a hitter and a slapper. She’s becoming a true hitter.”

O’Hara would contribute from both sides of the ball in game two. She knocked in three runs while also earning the win — pitching four innings of one-run ball.

It appeared the Cavaliers began to figure out O’Hara in game three. In the second inning, freshman outfielder Iyana Hughes smacked a triple that brought Mayer in to score. Hughes would then be knocked in by a double from junior first baseman Megan Harris. O’Hara finished the inning, but was then replaced by sophomore Lindsey Larkin, throwing Virginia hitters out of any rhythm they had.

The Orange offense then continued its attack on Chapdelaine. In seven innings’ work, she allowed 14 runs on 17 hits and walked six more. Chapdelaine did not have a one-two-three inning.

With Sunday’s loss, Chapdelaine’s season mark now sits at 3-19. She lost all three games of the Syracuse series and her earned run average now stands above nine. In 87.2 innings of work, Chapdelaine has allowed 149 hits and 85 walks. She perpetually has runners on base, and big run innings are to show for it.

“Opposing hitters are more comfortable when hitting with the lead,” Miller said. “The hitters get comfortable, we fall behind in counts, they get runners on and the pressure multiplies.”

Velk concluded a solid week of work by going one-for-four in the finale. She also reached on an error and stole a base.

“I’m turning everything off in my head,” Velk said. “Coach reminds me to be simple, and that is the mentality that I am using this season. I’m looking to run at all times, because if I get into scoring position the entire team’s mindset changes.”

Virginia returns to The Park Wednesday for a doubleheader against Maryland, and will welcome welcome Fordham for two games the following day.