Sophomore right-hander Aimee Chapdelaine started off the Virginia softball team’s Wednesday doubleheader against Delaware State by twirling a four-hit, complete game shutout in an 8-0 win called after five innings. Then, she stepped back on the mound and one-upped herself, blanking the Hornets on two hits and a walk in the Cavaliers’ 2-0 victory.
All in all, Chapdelaine’s day was one to remember. She fired 130 pitches, lowered her earned run average by 76 points and picked up her fifth and sixth wins of the year as Virginia (6-32, 1-16 ACC) bid adieu to its 11-game losing streak on a sunny, blustery day at The Park.
“She got ahead of batters and basically got them to hit a lot of ground balls, and so she stayed out of the walks and stayed in front of the batters,” coach Blake Miller said. “And then the infield backed her up. And then finally, we punched up some runs. So in all facets, we played pretty well today.”
Freshman shortstop and cleanup hitter Madison Labshere swatted a pair of home runs in game one, bringing her season total to a team-high seven and providing Chapdelaine with plenty of room to maneuver against the Hornets, who entered the day an impressive 19-10 (4-1 MEAC). Labshere tagged freshman right-hander Tara Tursellino for a two-run blast in the first after freshman center fielder Iyana Hughes worked a full count walk. Then, she stung the Hornet hurler for a solo shot in the Cavaliers’ three-run fifth.
Chapdelaine foresees a memorable career for Labshere, who has played as Virginia’s shortstop since her first games in a Cavalier uniform.
“She’s unbelievable,” Chapdelaine said. “When you are positive in yourself and you know you can do it, it shows, and I think that her confidence is building because she’s more than capable. And she’s going to be amazing here, going to do amazing things, and I think as she gets a little more time and a little more experience, she’ll see that. You know, what today happened is bound to happen often and frequently.”
Labshere’s hitting and the Cavaliers’ spot-on defense — Virginia committed only one error on the day — energized Chapdelaine as she befuddled the Hornet lineup inning after inning. Hughes ranged back to the warning track in center field for a running catch to end the top of the fifth in game two, eliciting smiles from her impressed teammates. The play was one of the moments that spurred Virginia’s go-to pitcher to keep her level high.
“Any time you have a big play in the field — Iyana’s catch out there was unbelievable — and, you know, double plays, home run balls, any time that happens you’re just excited,” Chapdelaine said. “Something about it, you go out to the mound and you have a little pep in your step.”
Chapdelaine faced just two batters more than the minimum in the second game, when she pitched a trio of one-two-three frames to begin and hardly fell off as afternoon slowly gave way to evening. Although the teams played the full complement of innings, the action lasted only 67 minutes — a testament to Chapdelaine’s striking efficiency.
Virginia’s starter did not have a keen sense she would pitch so dominantly in the hours leading up to the doubleheader. She and a few other Cavaliers, however, did have an emotionally unburdening talk. The team seemed to play with a calmness and enthusiasm that belied its season-long difficulties.
“Some of us just talked about relaxing before the game, you know, going into it, and sometimes you just got to stop caring about the little things,” Chapdelaine said. “We talked about that briefly, and … I think that carried on in.”
Hughes put up three hits, two runs and three stolen bases on the day, raising her batting average to .271 and her steals total to 11. Freshman catcher Katie Park scored twice in game one and grounded a single through the left side of the infield in the sixth inning of game two. Sophomore right fielder Taylor Sarcone, for her part, had two hits and two runs scored in three at-bats.
The Cavaliers’ solid offensive display, combined with their success fielding and pitching the ball, struck Miller as a blueprint for a bright future.
“We’re slowly getting better,” Miller said. “It’s making all three facets come together.”
Virginia plays Virginia Tech in a three-game conference series this weekend in Blacksburg, Va. Saturday’s doubleheader is scheduled for noon and 2 p.m. start times, and first pitch Sunday is set for 1 p.m.