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Softball finishes Kajikawa Classic with pair of thrilling wins

<p>Senior catcher Katie Park's home run helped Virginia force extra innings and ultimately win.&nbsp;</p>

Senior catcher Katie Park's home run helped Virginia force extra innings and ultimately win. 

Virginia began the Kajikawa Classic by putting up a battle against two very skilled Pac-12 teams. In the game that kicked off the start of the tournament — and the season — the Cavaliers (2-3) fell to No. 9 Oregon, 11-6. Although the Ducks (5-0) started the game with a 9-0 lead, Virginia fought its way back into the game by scoring four unanswered runs.

Even though the Cavaliers didn't manage to completely close the gap, 11 hits against pitchers on a top-10 ranked team was a positive takeaway.

Later in the day, Virginia took on the tournament host, Arizona State. The Sun Devils (6-0) got out to an early 2-0 lead, but the Cavaliers responded with the first home run of the season from McKall Miller.

The senior's homer also marked the first hit given up by Arizona State, after coming off of a perfect game in its season opener against University of Texas at El Paso. However, the solo home run proved Virginia's only score in the game as a strong pitching performance from the Sun Devils helped them to a 4-1 victory.

Despite the losses on the tournament’s opening day, the Cavaliers responded by picking up two wins on Friday.

In coach Joanna Hardin's first win at Virginia, the Cavaliers defeated Western Michigan, 9-8 in extra innings. Virginia trailed 7-0 before scoring nine unanswered runs. Sophomore Olivia Gott began chipping away at the Broncos (1-4) lead by driving in two runs with an RBI single.

Later in the inning junior Allison Davis and senior Katie Park hit back to back homers, enabling the Cavaliers to eventually tie up the game and send it into extra innings. In the top of the eighth inning, sophomore Erica Osherow scored the go-ahead run, and Gott tallied what would be the game-winning run off a sacrifice fly by senior Iyana Hughes.

After the thrilling victory against Western Michigan, Virginia achieved a come-from-behind victory against UTEP (0-5). In a game where the Miners lead twice, Miller notched her second home run of the season, helping the Cavaliers stay in the match. Virginia was then able to capitalize on some pitching struggles by the Miners, and closed out the game with a 5-4 win.

In Virginia’s final day of the Kajikawa Classic, the Cavaliers fell to San Jose State. The Spartans (3-3) scored in the top of the third inning, and the lone run proved to be the difference in a 1-0 win for San Jose State. Although Virginia ran into offensive struggles with an inability to convert any base-runners into runs, the Cavaliers' exemplary pitching was a positive to take away from the game. Sophomore Lexi Mettler was the starting pitcher for the game, and only gave up three hits in four innings. Davis also had an outstanding performance by going the final three innings without giving up a hit.

Virginia hits the road again Friday for the Charleston Southern Classic, where they will face Eastern Tennessee State, Charleston Southern and UNC Wilmington.