Virginia softball dropped both games of its Tuesday doubleheader with James Madison. The Cavaliers (6-40, 1-22 ACC) fought hard to stay close with a top-25 RPI Dukes (35-13, 9-3 CAA) team.
“Any loss is disappointing,” coach Blake Miller said. “The girls got better, but there were plays that we should have made.”
James Madison used stellar pitching and timely hitting to take the first game 3-1.
The Dukes jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Freshman outfielder Niki Prince opened the affair with a single and stole second base one batter later. With runners on first and second, sophomore Jailyn Ford, the designated player, ripped a double down the third base line that caromed off the bag into foul territory, bringing home Prince.
Virginia appeared poised to strike back in the bottom of the frame. Freshman outfielder Iyana Hughes hit a deep double into the left-center gap and advanced to third on a single by junior first baseman Megan Harris.
A base-running blunder ended the Cavaliers’ hopes of scoring. Freshman third baseman Lindsay Mayer grounded directly to the pitcher, but Hughes attempted to score regardless — she was caught in a rundown and eventually tagged out at third.
“We had runners on, but we couldn’t bring them home,” Miller said. “Those mistakes were in our own control which make them more palatable to me. I know where we can go to improve.”
Virginia would score its lone run in the bottom of the third. Hughes laced a single over the third baseman’s head into left field. Freshman catcher Katie Park drove home Hughes with a left-field double.
Junior Heather Kiefer’s day in the circle ended with Park resting at third with one out. Ford replaced Kiefer, struck out Mayer and forced freshman shortstop Madison Labshere to pop out to end the scoring threat.
Ford would finish the game, and quiet the Virginia bats — allowing only two hits over four and two-thirds innings.
“[Ford] throws the ball up in the zone, and people aren’t used to it,” Miller said. “She does a good job and throws a lot of strikes.”
James Madison scored the final two runs of the game in the fourth inning. Following back-to-back singles, senior Catherine Clavin rapped a pinch-hit double, driving in both runners. Sophomore pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine recovered from the stumble, ending the inning with one of her four strikeouts.
Chapdelaine scattered nine hits and two walks in the complete game effort in taking her 32nd loss. The defense behind her provided assistance by turning three double plays — Virginia is top-five in the nation in double plays turned with 25.
“You practice [double plays] all the time,” Chapdelaine said. “It is a big lift to go from runners on with no outs to no runners on with two outs. The girls did awesome today up the middle.”
The Dukes squeezed out another close win against Chapdelaine in the second game.
James Madison pounced on Chapdelaine to take a four-run lead in the opening frame. Prince and sophomore infielder Hannah Hayes hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second. Ford drew a walk to load the bases for senior infielder Caitlin Sandy. Sandy capitalized on the situation, drilling a grand slam to left field.
Chapdelaine aided her own cause with a solo home run in the bottom of the third — her first career dinger.
“It has been a while since I’ve hit,” Chapdelaine said. “It was exciting. I was still sprinting towards second before I realized what had happened.”
The Cavaliers utilized another solo home run in the bottom of the fifth. This time it came off the bat of senior second baseman Marcy Bowdren for her seventh of the season.
After her first-inning hiccup, Chapdelaine mowed down the James Madison batters. She did not allow another hit in the final six innings, and the Dukes’ seventh inning insurance run was unearned.
“[Chapdelaine] worked ahead of batters all day,” Miller said. “She was hitting her spots, and we played defense behind her. Doing that makes everything much simpler.”
The Cavaliers finish the home schedule with a Wednesday doubleheader with Liberty. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.