Virginia softball concluded the home portion of its ACC schedule this weekend against No. 22 Notre Dame. The Cavaliers’ (6-38, 1-22 ACC) bats betrayed them in the first two games before coming alive in a thrilling Senior Day game, though ultimately the squad still lost all three matchups.
Senior pitcher Laura Winter singlehandedly won the opening game for the Fighting Irish (29-9, 9-4 ACC). She did not allow a Virginia baserunner in a nine-strikeout perfect game. She also hit a home run to drive in three runs in a five-run first inning.
“We weren’t aggressive at the plate,” coach Blake Miller said. “When you aren’t aggressive at the plate, things like that will happen. It was of our own making — when you don’t take the bat off your shoulders there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Notre Dame got to sophomore pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine again in the top of the fifth, tacking on three more runs. Chapdelaine threw a complete game, giving up eight runs — seven earned — and allowing 10 hits and four walks in the 8-0 loss.
Virginia did not fare better in the latter half of Friday’s doubleheader, losing 12-1 in five innings.
The Fighting Irish wasted little time in jumping on Chapdelaine. Junior infielder Katey Haus singled in two runs to give Notre Dame a first inning lead.
Following nine innings of frustration, Virginia batters reached first base in the bottom of the first. Junior outfielder Heidi Velk hit a leadoff single, but was caught stealing second base. Freshman shortstop Madison Labshere added another first inning hit.
Chapdelaine hit another bump in the road in the third inning when Notre Dame’s bats exploded for seven runs on seven hits. Again, Winter contributed with a two-run double.
The Cavaliers got to freshman pitcher Rachel Nasland in the third inning for their sole run of the game. Velk singled and promptly stole second base. Freshman third baseman Lindsay Mayer drove in Velk with a single to left field.
“Velk did a really good job of setting the table and trying to get things going all series,” Miller said. “She’s had a good season, but we have to remain focused on being aggressive and consistent.”
The Fighting Irish tacked on one run in the fourth inning and another two in the fifth inning to end the game via slaughter rule. Again, Chapdelaine went the full five and was charged for all 12 runs.
Before Saturday’s series finale, Virginia’s three seniors were honored for their contributions to the program. Second baseman Marcy Bowdren, outfielder Stephanie Harris and infielder Karli Johnson were showered with love and appreciation by the crowd.
Bowdren will finish her career with her name firmly rooted in the record books, but hopes her presence runs much deeper than that.
“I want to be remembered as a good teammate,” Bowdren said. “This has been a great group of girls to play with and they have a bright future ahead of them.”
With Winter back on the mound for Saturday’s finale, the prospects for the Virginia offense looked bleak. She mowed through the Cavalier lineup through three innings and appeared to be on track to throw another perfect game.
However, Virginia had different plans and flipped the switch in the bottom of the fourth inning. Already trailing 12-0 the Cavaliers posted five runs and chased Winter from the game.
Again, Velk provided the spark by leading off the inning with a single. Mayer doubled to bring Velk home. Labshere doubled into left field to bring home two. And during the next at-bat, when junior first baseman Megan Harris homered, it appeared as if the comeback was engaged.
“We finally realized that Winter was sticking to one spot,” Labshere said. “We stopped guessing and started sitting on her spot. From then on we had her number.”
The Fighting Irish added two insurance runs in the top of the fifth to further their lead, but the Cavaliers would promptly get the two runs back in the bottom of the inning.
The same cast played the significant roles in the sixth inning. Velk led off with another single and would eventually score on a Mayer walk. Later in the inning, Labshere walked with the bases loaded to score freshman outfielder Iyana Hughes.
The rally soon fizzled out though. Virginia scored one final run in the sixth inning then went down tamely in the seventh frame to end the game and series, 15-8.
The Cavaliers exhibited more fight in Saturday’s game than they have most of the season, and believe it bodes well for the future.
“I characterize this game as a win for us,” Labshere said. “We’re growing, and it is starting to show. Now we need to carry this momentum and seriousness into next week.”