The Virginia softball team (4-14, 1-2 ACC) will travel to Harrisonburg to compete against James Madison (7-5) Wednesday as it looks to stay on track this season.
The Cavaliers are coming off a weekend in which they dropped the series 1-2 against Pittsburgh (15-2) in their first conference series. Now, the team will take a break from its ACC foes as it competes against the Dukes in this year’s iteration of the annual doubleheader between the two teams.
The highlight of Virginia’s weekend occurred in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, in which the team earned a walk-off victory thanks to a solo shot by freshman Allison Davis in the bottom of the twelfth inning. Davis’s shot put the Cavaliers up 9-8 as Virginia split the doubleheader and earned its first ACC victory of the season.
“It was awesome,” Davis said. “It was great to win. The excitement was building up all game, so finally, when it ended, it was really exciting.”
Davis’s game-winning hit was not her only contribution of the game, as she also started on the circle and later tied the game with a RBI triple with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
Davis said she felt the key in the team’s approach lies with consistency and fundamentals.
“I think we’re really gonna try to focus on the things that coach has been talking about through the fall season, and through winter, and so far this spring,” Davis said. “We’re just gonna focus on those things and getting the two wins.”
Coach Blake Miller added that his team needs to get off to a quicker start in its games.
“[We need to] keep the swinging going, because, really, we’re putting up a bunch of runs every game,” Miller said. “We put ourselves in a hole and didn’t allow ourselves [to] finish it in the last game on Sunday.”
Miller reiterated the team’s focus on playing consistent defense and limiting the amount of errors. In their showing against Pittsburgh last weekend, the Cavaliers committed two errors in each of their games and allowed the Panthers to score several unearned runs.
“We just have to play defense,” Miller said. “We’re just not playing good defense. What we’re doing well, we’re still just hitting the ball well. That’s all we gotta keep doing is scoring runs, and maybe some time we’ll stop a run from getting across the plate.”
Despite losing two of three games to the Panthers last weekend, Virginia achieved many victories not reflected in the final scores. Virginia rallied back multiple times in their doubleheader Saturday, including remaining neck-and-neck with Pittsburgh until the game got away from the Cavaliers in the seventh to lose the first game, 14-7. Virginia also rallied from behind three times before their extra-innings walk-off victory in the second showdown. The Cavaliers are hoping to show up to Harrisonburg with the same fighting spirit that they demonstrated in last weekend’s series.
“I really think we did a much better job communicating with each other,” Davis said. “We have a lot of fight in this team, as you can see in the twelve innings.”
Miller said he believes the team has had opportunities to score.
“We had plenty of chances to score plenty of runs in even that last game,” Miller said. “We just didn’t get the big hit, we kept hitting at people.”
James Madison participated in the Citrus Classic in Orlando last weekend, finishing 2-1 with wins over Minnesota and Penn State and a loss against Georgia. Games against Maryland and Missouri were scheduled, but they were cancelled due to inclement weather. After a middling season thus far, the Dukes are hoping to get ahead in the win column with a pair of victories Wednesday.
In the history of the two teams’ encounters, Virginia owns a 22-15 record over the Dukes. The Cavaliers have competed against JMU in a doubleheader series frequently over the past few years, but the Dukes have earned sweeps in the last two series. Now, the Cavaliers are looking to put an end to this trend.
The Dukes might not expect the offensive barrage that the Cavaliers have exhibited this season. As the team aims to work its way out of its current deficit, the team’s offense is a very powerful weapon. In 18 games, the Cavaliers have already slugged 17 home runs, four of which belong to Davis, who is tied for first on the team.
“I try to clear my head and just focus on one thing, whatever it is, that needs to [be disciplined] in the box,” Davis said. “And then, I just go hit the ball.”
First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.