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​Pitching struggles cost softball series against Syracuse

Cavaliers win opener, drop following two games

<p>Freshman shortstop Allie Arneson hit a solo homerun in Virginia's opening win Saturday. The Cavaliers lost the next two games against Syracuse to drop the series.</p>

Freshman shortstop Allie Arneson hit a solo homerun in Virginia's opening win Saturday. The Cavaliers lost the next two games against Syracuse to drop the series.

The Virginia softball team returned to action this weekend, taking on ACC rival Syracuse for a three-game series. The Cavaliers (13-27, 3-8 ACC) hadn’t played in over a week, and expressed their excitement about getting back onto the field.

“We were really excited to come out and play,” junior catcher Katie Park said. “Honestly, we’re really bummed that we didn’t get to play Boston College, so I think if anything we were really excited to get out here.”

Virginia channeled that excitement and used it to take down the Orange (19-17, 6-8 ACC), 5-3, in the series opener Saturday. Freshman shortstop Allie Arneson hit a solo homerun to give the Cavaliers the lead, eventually allowing Virginia to close out the win.

Coming into the second game of the series, Virginia’s pitchers had been playing some of their best ball of the season. However, in the last two games of the series, it was Virginia’s pitching that faltered. The Cavaliers lost both games 10-8 and 8-4, respectively.

“They just weren’t as sharp as they have been,” coach Blake Miller said. “Maybe it’s not getting to throw midweek or as much as they have been. [They’re] just not as sharp as they needed to be.”

Pitching wasn’t the only thing with which the Cavaliers struggled in their two losses. Miscues on the defensive side of the field contributed to the team’s deficiencies on the mound.

“We made two crucial errors [Saturday] and two crucial errors [Sunday],” Miller said. “That kind of put it over.”

Despite losing the last two games of the series, Virginia’s offense played well in both contests. The Cavaliers put up eight runs in Saturday’s loss, jumping out to a 7-4 lead early on in the third inning. However, Syracuse got back into the game with a big fifth inning, scoring four runs to take the lead.

In Sunday’s series finale, the Orange got off to a hot start, scoring six runs in the second inning. Virginia knew it needed to stay focused and not let Syracuse’s large lead negatively affect the way the team played.

“We knew that we need to scratch back any way possible so we could take advantage of all the opportunities we gave ourselves, so I think we still stayed offensive-[minded],” Miller said. “It changed a little bit, but doesn’t matter if we’re up six, down six, we all have the same mentality at the plate; we got to get on any way possible and make something happen.”

The Cavaliers responded to make it interesting with a big fifth inning in which they brought in four runs, aided by a three-run homer by junior outfielder Iyana Hughes. Though ultimately it wasn’t enough, overall, the offense hit the balls well Sunday, showing their ability to make contact and the drive the ball deep. However, many of the balls they hit went straight to Syracuse’s outfielders.

Miller said Virginia’s hitters need to continue to become more disciplined in order to hit more consistently.

“I mean we hit some balls hard, basically it comes down to our discipline,” Miller said. “We should hit more hard, I mean if we hit more hard, then we miss the outfielders. You’re going to hit a few right at people, that’s why .300 is a good average, so it just is what it is.”

Virginia will look to bounce back next weekend when they take on North Carolina at The Park.