Putting it all together has been a challenge for the Virginia softball team so far, but this weekend brought many positives for the Cavaliers (7-25, 1-8 ACC) as they continue to march on through their season. Virginia hosted the U.Va. Home Tournament, featuring Delaware State (5-14) and Marist (9-13), earning an even 2-2 split over the course of the weekend.
After a disheartening loss to Delaware State Friday, the Cavaliers regrouped to earn two bounce-back wins on Saturday, before Marist upended Virginia in the team’s tournament finale.
In the Cavaliers’ first tournament game against Delaware State, the team faced the Hornets for the second time this year. In the first encounter, Virginia pounded Delaware State with four home runs and eleven hits to earn a 14-1 victory.
This time, however, it was the Hornets whose offense exploded as they routed the Cavaliers 15-3. Shaky defense by Virginia played a huge role in the game, first allowing Delaware State to break open the game with two runs in the top of the second inning. However, the Cavaliers struck twice with the bases loaded in their second inning turn, on a sacrifice fly by sophomore catcher Katie Park. A 3-2 bases loaded walk followed, drawn by sophomore utility player McKall Miller to even the score.
In spite of the rally, the Cavaliers committed four more errors in the fourth inning, which the Hornets capitalized upon to score eight runs and take a 10-2 lead. Virginia was only able to muster one run in response, scored on a solo shot by freshman third baseman Lauren Heintzelman, the first of her collegiate career. Two more miscues in the sixth inning led to five more runs, and Delaware State ran away with a 15-3 victory. Of the 15 runs scored by the Hornets, only two were earned.
Bouncing back, however, was no problem for the Cavaliers.
“[I told them] they need to walk the walk,” coach Blake Miller said. “They had to quit talking about it and decide, if they’re gonna say it, they better go down and do what they’re saying.”
Virginia indeed realized its potential the following day, earning two come-from-behind wins over Delaware State team and Marist.
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Cavaliers faced the same Delaware State team, hoping to show them a very different team from what the Hornets had just trounced.
The game did not start out well for Virginia, as two errors by the Cavaliers opened the door for Delaware State to score five runs in the top of the first inning. Sophomore first baseman Kaitlin Fitzgerald hit a RBI triple to score freshman outfielder Allison Davis, but the Hornets scored two more runs to hold a 7-1 lead entering the bottom of the third inning. However, the Cavaliers came roaring back, scoring seven runs over the course of four innings, finally taking the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore outfielder Iyana Hughes ignited the offense with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the third, and the Cavaliers plated at least one run in every inning following the second as they earned the 8-7 win.
The game also marked the season debut on the circle for sophomore pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine, who took the control of the game in the third inning, surrendering only one run through five innings. Delaware State finished 3-1 in a remarkable weekend for the Hornets, who were 2-13 prior to the tournament.
In Saturday’s second game against Marist, the Cavaliers again rallied to earn the victory. Virginia again allowed their opponent to strike first as Marist scored three runs to take a 3-0 lead. However, the bats came alive to unearth Virginia from its deficit, as an RBI single by Fitzgerald scored Hughes and Davis in the bottom of the third to cut the Red Foxes’ lead to one.
The Cavaliers’ offense exploded in the following inning, scoring six runs to take an 8-4 lead. Senior outfielder Megan Harris led off with a triple and reached home on a RBI groundout by Park. Fitzgerald again knocked in two runs with a single, before freshman infielder Danni Ingraham smacked a double to left field to plate Fitzgerald and Miller.
After adding an insurance run in the fifth, Virginia held a 9-4 entering the bottom of the seventh when the Red Foxes made a bid for a comeback. Marist scored four runs and had runners on the corner when freshman pitcher Andie Formby caught a line drive and tagged first in a game-sealing double play, as Virginia survived 9-8 to complete their doubleheader sweep.
“We just game back swinging,” Ingraham said. “Swinging hard, and swinging for the fences.”
Miller expressed his pride over how the team overcame in the close games, which have been a problem for the Cavaliers so far this season.
“It was nice to get the girls in good spirits,” Miller said. “After all the really close losses that we’ve had, to be able to push through and come on top with a one run deficit.”
Unfortunately for Virginia, the team could not carry over its success on Saturday into their tournament finale against Marist Sunday. Despite putting up 17 runs over the course of two games the day before, Virginia’s offense fell mostly mute as the Cavaliers only scored one run on a solo shot by Harris in the bottom of the fourth. Two errors by Virginia in the third inning allowed the Red Foxes to take a 2-0 lead, and Virginia was unable to produce any more runs as they fell 4-1. Marist ended up 1-3 on the weekend, narrowly avoiding the sweep with their win against Virginia.
After 17 errors over the course of the weekend, stronger defense remains a priority for the Cavaliers in the future.
“Big thing is that right now we’ve got to field the ball,” Miller said. “[Our] pitchers kept us in the game, but we didn’t do our job at the plate. We gotta find our focus, and it’s gotta come every day.”
After an underwhelming season so far, this weekend represented many positives for the team. Virginia will hope to build upon their success this weekend as they prepare for a rematch against George Washington at the Park this Wednesday.