Update: Wednesday’s softball games have been postponed to Thursday due to snow.
Virginia softball welcomes in-state foe George Mason for a pair of Wednesday afternoon tilts at The Park. The Cavaliers look to find some consistency in their game and improve on their less-than-stellar record.
Just as the late-March weather refuses to shake the cold air of winter in favor of spring’s warmth, the Virginia (4-22, 1-10 ACC) bats have struggled to get, and remain, hot. But if last week’s doubleheader against Fordham was any indication, the Cavalier offense may be thawing at long last — Virginia plated 11 runs on 25 hits in the two games.
The recent offensive spurt might be a sign that the team is buying into head coach Blake Miller’s ultra-assertive philosophy wholesale.
“As you know, we’re going to be aggressive,” Miller said. “Now the whole thing is learning to be confident in our aggression. We haven’t been taking that step in the past few weeks, so now we have to keep it going.”
Freshman outfielder Iyana Hughes’ confidence appears to be maxing out. Hughes collected four hits in addition to driving in two and scoring a pair of runs against the Rams (15-15, 2-0 A-10).
“We’ve been working very hard on hitting each day in practice,” Hughes said. “These mid-season games are helping a lot too because we’re getting in more at bats.”
Another Atlantic-10 opponent awaits the Cavaliers in the Patriots (8-13, 0-2 A-10). Stylistically, George Mason is in many ways the antithesis of Virginia: its batters favor hitting for contact over swinging with power.
Throughout the season, only once did a Patriot hit clear the fence. The blast came from the bat of senior second baseman Lauren McColgan, and the team as a whole has only 14 doubles to its name, compared to the Cavaliers’ 13 homers and 31 doubles. George Mason’s team slugging percentage of .309 is 259th best among 288 Division I squads.
But the lack of power has not meant a lack of scoring, as the Patriots have been able to crack the top-half of the nation in runs per game. Five batters, paced by senior outfielder Tiffany Webb’s .426 mark, are currently batting more than .300. On the base paths, George Mason looks to run to convert singles into doubles and put players in scoring position.
Sophomore pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine will need to limit base runners in order to slow the Patriot offense, but she has at times been unable to turn in clean innings. Miller has shown he is willing to pull Chapdelaine early if she falters — she faced only two batters before being replaced by freshman Lindsay Mayer in game two against Fordham.
“Ideally our offense would lead us,” Miller said. “Right now our hitters are waiting to see what the pitching is going to do. Hopefully our hitters can start leading the way [and] then Aimee can get it going.”
The Patriots boast a deep and effective stable of pitchers, and their strength lies in their numbers. Five players have started inside the circle; all have recorded at least one victory, and no pitcher has made more than six starts. Collectively, the staff has a 3.09 earned run average and has limited opponents to a .264 batting average.
Together, the George Mason pitching staff will look to befuddle a Cavalier offense which might at last be getting its legs underneath itself.
“We’re looking to carry on what worked so well against Fordham,” Hughes said. “Hitting wise, I thought we did great, so we need to come out early, get on top, and hopefully sweep.”
First pitch for game one will be at 4 p.m.