The margin of error for was very slim this week for the Virginia softball team. The Cavaliers (16-40, 4-20 ACC) needed to sweep Syracuse and hope that Florida State swept Georgia Tech — who sat just two games above Virginia in the conference standings — to allow the Cavaliers to gain eligibility for the ACC tournament.
Although Virginia received the help it needed when the Seminoles took three games from the Yellow Jackets, the team was eliminated from postseason contention after its loss in the first game of the series with Syracuse. The Cavaliers then dropped the next two games to the Orange (20-26, 4-13 ACC).
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Cavaliers jumped to an early lead, before a seven-run effort for the Orange in the third frame paved the way for a 7-4 victory.
Virginia plated two runs in the top of the third inning, when freshman Allison Davis — who led the team with nine home runs and 47 runs scored — drew a walk, stole second and crossed home on an RBI single by sophomore Kaitlin Fitzgerald. Freshman infielder Danni Ingraham followed through with a fielder’s choice RBI to put the Cavaliers up 2-0.
The Syracuse offense erupted in the bottom of the inning, starting when junior Corinne Ozanne drew a two-out walk. Freshman Sydney O’Hara immediately followed the walk with a two-run home run to even the score. From then on, the Orange piled on five more runs on three hits and one walk to plate seven runs in total.
Although the Cavaliers could do little to answer the Orange’s offensive barrage, in typical fashion they played until the very last out. With two outs in the seventh inning, Ingraham singled up the middle, and sophomore Katy Park launched the ball over the right field fence to cut the lead the three. However, the rally came up short, and Virginia lost the game.
In the second game, each team put up fourteen hits, but the Orange remained one step ahead of Virginia and emerged with a 14-9 win.
The Cavaliers got off to an early start when Ingraham singled home Davis in the top of the first, but the Orange answered with a three-run homer in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-1 lead. Virginia evened things up with two runs in the top of the third, but Syracuse countered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.
The Cavaliers put up four runs in the top of the fourth to reclaim the lead. Freshman Lauren Heintzelman mashed her fifth home of the season, a solo shot to left field. Junior Aimee Chapdelaine brought freshman Alex Formby home with a double, and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice. Ingraham then doubled for her second RBI of the game to score Davis, and gave the Cavaliers a 7-5 lead entering the bottom of the fourth inning.
Virginia’s advantage, however, was short-lived, as the Orange responded with two home runs in the next half-inning to score three runs and lead 8-7. During its next turn at the plate in the fifth, Syracuse hit three more home runs, scoring six runs. Virginia was unable to overcome the Orange’s six home runs as the team fell 14-9.
In the series finale, Syracuse swept the Cavaliers, as the team scored eleven runs on thirteen hits in five innings. The Orange plated a run in each of the first two innings, before continuing their trend of big innings with a five-run third. Meanwhile, Virginia were stifled by the pitching of Syracuse, and mustered only one hit through the first four innings.
Syracuse added four more runs in the fourth frame as the Orange hit their third home run of the game and lead 11-0 entering the top of the fifth. In the last chance for the Cavaliers, Park reached on a Syracuse error, before senior outfielder Megan Harris — in the last at bat of her collegiate career — launched an opposite-field, two-run home run over the right field fence to put the Cavaliers on the board.
Despite just missing the postseason, the Cavaliers doubled their win total from last season and won their first conference series in two seasons. From a lineup that consisted mostly of freshmen and sophomores, Virginia was able to produce 55 home runs, breaking the school record for the single season total, while also ranking within all-time top ten in several other offensive categories, including doubles, extra-base hits, on-base percentage, walks and runs.