Virginia softball continues its season with a midweek doubleheader against Longwood in Farmville, Va. The Cavaliers (4-27, 1-13 ACC) are coming off three road losses to Pittsburgh and hope to better hold the leads they have earned so far.
The team has seen has seen problem after problem this season. Following a sweep at the hands of George Mason, head coach Blake Miller stressed the importance of getting an early lead to pressure the opposition. His team responded accordingly in its weekend series against the Panthers, jumping out to an early lead in each of the three games, only to watch the home team take back the advantage.
“We got the lead, but then we sat down and stopped being aggressive,” Miller said. “We let [Pitt] back into it, which takes away all the momentum we built.”
Pitching has been a problem area for Virginia all season long. Sophomore Aimee Chapdelaine entered the year as the only pitcher on the roster and the undisputed number one starter. She has struggled in the position, however, going 4-23 with an 8.78 earned run average and a .367 batting average against.
Miller has developed a quick trigger for pulling Chapdelaine as soon as he senses the game slipping away from her. Freshman Lindsay Mayer and senior Marcy Bowdren, both starting infielders, serve as the de facto bullpen; neither have won a game and their earned run averages are above eight. Collectively, the staff ranks 283rd out of 289 schools in earned run average.
Mayer does not let her responsibilities inside the circle detract from her hitting. She is currently second on the team with a .296 batting average.
“It is somewhat difficult knowing that I have a little more responsibility,” Mayer said. “I am just trying to get the job done. This is most likely the last year I will pitch, so I am devoting my time to improving my offense and defense.”
Wednesday’s opponent will give the beleaguered Cavalier pitching staff will no mercy. The Lancers (20-7, 9-2 Big South) boast a .307 team batting average, 46th best in the nation, and an impressive .454 slugging percentage.
Junior catcher Megan Baltzell leads Longwood batters in average, doubles, home runs and runs batted in. The reigning Big South Conference Player of the Week went on a tear as the Lancers defeated Liberty last Thursday and then captured two of three games in their weekend series against Presbyterian, recording seven hits in 12 at-bats with three home runs and 10 runs batted in. She is also riding a seven-game hitting streak.
Against such a potent offense, the Cavaliers might need to get into a shootout if they want to win.
“We stress winning each inning,” Mayer said. “We want to score more runs than the other team each inning, which has kept us in a positive mindset.”
The Cavaliers have faced trouble with damage control throughout the season as well. One walk or one error tends to lead to a complete unraveling and a very big inning. As soon as Virginia can begin to play through its mistakes, Miller thinks the season will somewhat turn around.
“All we’re missing is the strength to pick each other up,” Miller said. “One thing happens which leads to a snowball effect. As soon as we’re able to have one bad thing happen and then stopping it at that bad thing we’ll be fine.”
Game one starts at 4 p.m., and game two is scheduled for 6 p.m.