The Virginia softball team will compete in a midweek doubleheader against Virginia Tech as it looks to continue its successful homestand.
The Cavaliers (11-30, 3-12 ACC) have won four of its last five games, including its first ACC series win against Boston College last weekend, and is looking to continue to accumulate two more victories as it participates in this year’s iteration of the Commonwealth Clash. Virginia ultimately hopes to slide into the top eight ACC teams, who qualify for the conference tournament at the end of the season.
Despite both teams being a part of the ACC, the doubleheader will be marked as non-conference games since the two teams originally were not scheduled to complete this season.
In their last action, the Cavaliers combined both their power and sturdy pitching to claim the last games of their series against the Eagles. The Cavaliers hit five home runs over the course of the weekend, while junior pitcher Aimee Chapdelaine and freshman pitcher Alex Formby each threw complete game wins to claim the series.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech (28-9, 6-8 ACC) is coming off of its sweep against Louisville last weekend. Prior to its three victories, the Hokies had accumulated only three ACC wins, but now rank sixth in the conference. With ACC wins crucial for the postseason, Virginia Tech hopes to gain a stronger foothold in the conference.
Sophomore first baseman Kaitlin Fitzgerald conveyed the excitement the team is experiencing after achieving recent success.
“We’re all really pumped,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re starting to get on a roll, and we’re starting to see how good we can be. We’re hoping just to take it into the next games. The confidence is definitely building as we get the results we want.”
Coach Blake Miller also voiced confidence in the team and its approach following its success.
“The energy is good,” Miller said. “Exactly where we’re trying to build is where it stays consistent and doesn’t go up and down. It’s just seeing the fruits of the labor and raising it higher.”
Miller also reiterated the team’s youth and what that means for the squad as it matures.
“[We’re] really young, and just seeing the results of it is where the consistency comes from,” he said. “[We] have to learn to be consistent at the plate, consistent in what we do, and that’s where our battle’s at. That’s gonna create the emotions that are stable, not up and down.”
Virginia has consistently shown its ability to rally and bounce back after losses, putting up seven runs in a rally that just fell short in the first game against Boston College before rebounding to take the next contest.
With the games of a doubleheader so closely succeeding each other, Fitzgerald says she feels the key in moving from a loss to the next game is building upon the previous game’s success.
“We know we’re right in the games, and we just take the good and positive from the first game and bring it on the next game and keep rolling,” she said.
Miller also stated the importance of taking the game from the very first pitch.
“It’s no secret right now, our whole base of our consistency is based at the plate,” Miller said. “So we have to score runs and then we take pressure off the pitcher, because that’s our strength. So really it’s not so much about rebounding, it’s about trying to get them to go from the first pitch of Game 1 swinging the bat, which changes the momentum and changes the whole tide of everything.”
Virginia has shown the extent of its threat when it is able to take command of the game offensively. This season alone, the Cavaliers have slugged 42 home runs, breaking the single season record of 40 set in 2009.
Miller expressed his pride over the team for its offensive potency, as well as what this means for the young team’s future.
“I’m proud of them,” Miller said. “Like I said, we’re all freshmen and sophomores, [a] couple third years and fourth years mixed in there. Really, it’s just the big thing of where they’re going. If they’re going to do what they should, we should demolish this next year. But it’s based in pure consistency, and they’re going to get there.”
Fitzgerald has also been a huge contributor to Virginia’s offense, leading the team with a .372 batting average, 48 hits and 33 RBIs.
“To break a home run record, that’s a huge deal,” Fitzgerald said. “Just being able to be a part of something like that, it’s awesome.”
The team’s success this season has been a question of its ability to put together its talent. Miller explained the importance of refining each aspect of the team’s strengths and weaknesses in winning a game.
“The big thing that’s helped us lately is we’ve played a bit better defense, and our pitching is throwing it a little better, which takes the pressure off the hitters, which makes us hit even more,” Miller said. “So the stronger we get in the circle means our bats are going to become better and better. It’s kinda fun when you see what we’re doing right now, and we’re struggling in some of the other aspects of the game, so as soon as we cinch those up, our bats become even stronger.”
Virginia is looking to build upon its momentum as it competes against Virginia Tech Wednesday. The Hokies own a 31-20 all-time record over the Cavaliers, but Virginia will look to change this trend as it hopes to earn two more victories.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.