After splitting a doubleheader against ACC rival Virginia Tech this past Wednesday, the Virginia softball team was once again looking to improve its conference record against the NC State Wolfpack and senior pitcher Emily Weiman, who, going into Saturday’s game, sat fourth in the ACC with 209 strikeouts.
However, if Weiman was a problem for the Cavaliers (13-33, 4-14 ACC), they certainly didn’t show it in Saturday’s first game — especially not sophomore first baseman Kaitlin Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald, who currently leads the Cavaliers with a .372 batting average, got the offense started early in game one, launching the first pitch she saw over the left field wall to give Virginia a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Then, just two innings later, freshman shortstop Allison Davis widened the lead to two runs on an RBI single that scored freshman catcher Brittany McNulla.
But the NC State (25-16, 9-6 ACC) offense refused to yield, roaring back to tie things up at two in the top of the fifth and eventually loading the bases in the top of the sixth. However, freshman pitcher Andie Formby demonstrated the resilience that has made her the Cavaliers’ best pitcher thus far, striking out NC State junior third baseman Lana Van Dyken for the final out of the inning, stranding the three Wolfpack base runners and escaping the jam scot-free.
“Andie did a great job of keeping the ball down the whole game,” Virginia coach Blake Miller said.
Flash forward to the bottom of the seventh and the Cavaliers were in a position to walk it off. McNulla started things off with a single to left and was lifted for junior pinch runner Aimee Chapdelaine. Chapdelaine then advanced to third base when Davis picked up her second hit of the day with a double to right-center. Then, with two outs and runners on second and third, Chapdelaine scored on a passed ball for an unorthodox 3-2 Cavalier walk-off victory.
Unfortunately, this would be the only game that the Cavaliers won. The second and third games of the series were defined by NC State’s offense and Virginia’s lack thereof.
The Cavaliers started the second game strong and headed into the third inning tied at zero, but the Wolfpack offense eventually let loose. The rally started with back-to-back home runs by senior shortstop Renada Davis and sophomore left fielder Tyler Ross, blasts that put the Wolfpack up 4-0 and led to a six-hit top of the third that generated eight runs on four homers. The game ultimately came to an end in the fifth inning when the mercy rule came into effect, and the Cavaliers lost 8-0.
Although Sunday’s finale did last all seven innings, the Cavaliers saw much of the same. Unable to get anything going offensively, Virginia tallied just four hits and committed three errors, allowing the strong NC State offense to manufacture another huge performance. The Wolfpack scored five runs in the top of the fourth and one in the top of the fifth. Their six-run lead proved to be insurmountable for Virginia, as the Cavaliers dropped the game by a score of 6-0.
But despite the shortcomings in games two and three, the Cavalier players and coaches are remaining optimistic.
“[NC State] ended up making some good plays that cost us, but overall we hit the ball pretty hard,” Virginia assistant coach Joe Morabito said. “You like runs but you have to see the upside of something [like that].”
“We definitely battled,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot of positives to come from it and we hope to bring it next weekend.”
The Cavaliers will host a doubleheader against the Longwood Lancers (20-21, 14-4 Big South) Wednesday in what will be their last home games of the season before traveling to Tallahassee to face the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles (34-11, 14-3 ACC) this upcoming weekend.
“We’re focusing on Longwood right now,” Fitzgerald said. “But we’re definitely looking forward to playing Florida State this weekend because it’s an ACC game.”