The Virginia softball team will travel to Lynchburg to compete in a doubleheader against Liberty and conclude its non-conference schedule.
Despite its two games with Liberty (26-24, 12-9 Big South) currently scheduled to be the penultimate series of Virginia’s season, the team hopes that its schedule will extend far beyond this weekend as it vies for a postseason bid.
The Cavaliers (15-36, 4-17 ACC) are looking to bounce back after being swept by No. 8 Florida State last weekend in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles limited Virginia to just one run and roughed up the Cavaliers’ pitching by plating 25 runs in three mercy-rule shortened games.
The losses have positioned Virginia two games behind Georgia Tech in the ACC softball standings. The Cavaliers, currently sitting in ninth place, are just shy of qualifying for the postseason. Virginia will look to gain three wins over Syracuse this coming weekend and hope Florida State defeats Georgia Tech, allowing the Cavaliers to slide into the ACC Tournament.
In the meantime, Virginia hopes to earn a few victories against Liberty as it prepares for this weekend. After seeing its offense restrained to one run over the three games of its series against Florida State — a very uncharacteristic weekend for a squad that has broken the school single season home run record with 51 longballs thus far — Virginia will look to get back on track offensively in its games against the Flames.
“Coming off last weekend … the biggest thing is [for us] to get our discipline back,” coach Blake Miller said. “Last weekend was tough. All of a sudden we decided not to hit, and it really killed us. That’s what we do everything off of.”
Despite Wednesday’s games having no effect on whether the team qualifies for a postseason bid, Miller stressed the game’s importance in helping the team regain its form.
“[Wednesday is] more important than this weekend right now,” Miller said. “We got to get back on track and go swing the sticks tomorrow, and just get the team going in the direction we wanna go for the weekend. We just got to keep building in the direction we’ve been building, and then you take care of your own business and everything else is fine.”
Sophomore outfielder Iyana Hughes echoed her coach’s belief in utilizing Wednesday’s games as a means of building momentum, adding that the team generally feels positive heading into the final two series of its regular season.
“I think right now we’re feeling good,” Hughes said. “We’re going in right now with a goal to sweep Syracuse. All our energy’s up, we just wanna finish on a high note, to be honest. I think tomorrow’s focus is going to be to mainly to work towards this weekend against Syracuse.”
Fortunately the Cavaliers own a 44-18 over the Flames and have taken their last seven contests, earning sweeps in three of the last four doubleheader series between the two teams. With the season winding to a close, Virginia hopes to continue its trend of dominance against Liberty with a couple of wins before traveling to New York to face Syracuse.
As the team vies for its first postseason berth since 2013, Miller remarked that he and his team won’t think too much about whether or not the Cavaliers’ season extends beyond this weekend.
“Really to me — this is me being me — this is something we should clinch in the fourth weekend of the season,” he said. “So really, it doesn’t change anything we do. It’s just we got to go swing the bats. Right now, I’m not worried about anything except for getting our discipline back at the plate. That encompasses everything.”
Regardless of whether the team qualifies for the postseason, Virginia has taken giant strides from a 2014 campaign in which the Cavaliers finished last in the ACC with one conference win. With so much unknown regarding the team’s future, Hughes expressed the many emotions swirling around the team as it awaits the reveal of its postseason fate.
“It’s exciting but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time,” she said. “Exciting because we have that opportunity, but nerve-wracking because we’re all anxious and we really want to make it. So right now we’re just obviously going to go out and play, and we’ll see what happens.”
First pitch against Liberty is set for Wednesday at 2 p.m.