In the midst of a down year, the Virginia softball team has dropped 11 straight games entering its home doubleheader against Delaware State Wednesday.
Virginia (4-32, 1-16 ACC) has struggled all season, in large part because of its inconsistency on the pitcher’s mound. Sophomore Aimee Chapdelaine has received the majority of starts, but senior Marcy Bowdren and freshman Lindsay Mayer, both position players by trade, have also been worked into the rotation.
Throughout the Cavaliers’ current losing streak, they have given up an average of 8.2 runs per game, and much of Chapdelaine’s struggles have been the result of walking too many batters.
“There is no certain thing to what she does,” coach Blake Miller said. “We have to get her to command the strike zone better and get ahead of batters. She still is our starter.”
Chapdelaine’s command problems have caused her to be prone to the big inning. A walk or two combined with a costly error has frequently led to five- or six-run innings for the opponent. On Sunday against North Carolina, however, Chapdelaine looked better after getting out of Bowdren’s jam in the first inning. In the fourth, Chapdelaine again managed to limit the damage, allowing just one run after loading the bases.
“I was pleased with the way she got out of it,” Miller said. “It is one of those little things that we did well this weekend. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a W so it overshadows everything.”
Despite the inconsistency on the mound, the team will need to get the bats going in order to grab a win or two in its doubleheader against Delaware State (17-10, 2-1 MEAC). In its three-game series against North Carolina this past weekend, Virginia managed only one run on 12 hits.
“We’ve been hitting the ball really well in practice,” Miller said. “We aren’t bringing it with us to the park though. We need to make our game at-bats like practice at-bats and hit the ball. Right now we’re right on the pitches, but we keep missing them.”
Bowdren has been the most effective hitter all season for Virginia and leads the team with a .316 batting average and a .579 slugging percentage. Senior outfielder Stephanie Harris has been leading the charge to turn the Cavalier bats around; she managed three hits, including a double, in the series against North Carolina.
“Hitters need to stick to the plan,” Harris said. “Some of us got away from it, and that is when we didn’t hit the ball as well. We also need to focus on isolating the plate and looking for our pitch to hit.”
As for the opposition, Delaware State has enjoyed recent success at the plate. In their last two outings, the Hornets have put up a total of 20 runs, leading to two blowout wins. Sophomore outfielder Nicole Gazzola and sophomore catcher Sandy Hawthorne lead the way for Delaware State — both batters are hitting just below .400.
Though the Hornets boast a strong record, they have faced a relatively easy schedule, taking on zero teams within the top-25 of the nation. Virginia, on the other hand, has played five games against top-25 opponents, boasting an 11-9 win against No. 7 Florida State.
After Wednesday, the Cavaliers still have 15 regular season games remaining until the start of the ACC Championships, and the players are hoping to grab a win or two Wednesday before moving into a difficult part of their schedule. In the next two weeks, Virginia will play series against Notre Dame, currently ranked No. 23, and James Madison, at the moment looming just outside the top-25.
“We take it one game at a time,” Harris said. “It is frustrating, especially for the young girls who came in and were used to winning. Right now, we’re focusing on learning from every game and getting better.”
The first game of the doubleheader Wednesday begins at 3 p.m. with the second game at 5 p.m. at The Park.