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Softball sweeps N.C. State behind strong pitching

Aly Rayle dominated on the mound in all three games

<p>Senior pitcher Lacy Smith has the highest batting average of all Cavaliers.</p>

Senior pitcher Lacy Smith has the highest batting average of all Cavaliers.

The Virginia softball team (20-30, 8-16 ACC) left Dail Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., this weekend with three wins against N.C. State (26-26, 6-15 ACC). The Cavaliers prevailed offensively with a combined 31 runs in the series, and freshman pitcher Aly Rayle earned all three wins on the mound. 

Game 1: Virginia - 12, NC State - 0

The Cavaliers dominated offensively in the series opener, producing 12 runs on 12 hits. Rayle pitched all five innings and shut out N.C. State, holding the Wolfpack to one hit for the night. Rayle recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts in the game.

Virginia was hot at the plate and seven Cavaliers recorded hits. Freshman left fielder Tori Gilbert hit a pair of home runs and went 3-for-4, a career high. Freshman designated player Abigail Barber similarly hit a solo home run in the second inning to launch a six-run inning for the Cavaliers. 

After scoring six runs in the second, Barber led off the third with a single. Freshman shortstop Arizona Ritchie and sophomore third baseman Hayley Busby singled to lead to a three-run inning to make it a 9-0 game. 

Busby went 3-for-4 against the Wolfpack and senior rightfielder Erika Osherow and first baseman Lacy Smith each produced a hit for the game. In the final inning, Gilbert blasted her second home run of the night to record a pair of RBIs and produce a 12-0 final. 

Game 2: Virginia - 8, N.C. State - 5

Rayle earned the win on the mound again for Virginia, pitching seven innings and allowing four runs on six hits. Busby hit two home runs in the third and sixth innings, producing a combined four RBI for the Cavaliers.

Virginia took to the board first, taking advantage of a pair of walks and a single by Smith to add a run. Another run came in the third inning with a solo shot by Busby. Junior second baseman Ashlee Davis followed up in the fourth with a single to score one, and Ritchie added another with a sacrifice fly to right field. 

The Wolfpack scored their first run of the series in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run by freshman shortstop April Visser. In the bottom of the fifth, N.C. State sophomore third baseman Logan Morris lifted another home run to make it a 4-3 game. Virginia responded in the following inning, however, and Busby’s three-run home run combined with a double by Osherow to extend the lead to five runs. 

N.C. State added runs in the sixth and seventh innings but were unable match Virginia’s eight runs. 

Game 3: Virginia - 11, NC State - 7

Busby extended her hitting streak to 11 games with a leadoff single in the first inning. Osherow drove in the first run of the game with a single to the left side to score Busby. Barber brought in another with a sacrifice fly to left field. N.C. State responded with a run in the bottom of the inning, combining a single and double to score one. 

The Wolfpack took the lead for the first time in the series in the bottom of the second inning. A double by sophomore left fielder Sam Russ brought in a pair of runs to give N.C. State a one-run lead. In the following inning, Virginia regained the lead with a four-run inning. Freshman catcher Donna Friedman produced an RBI with a fly ball to left field, and sophomore center fielder Kate Covington followed with a three-run homer to center field. 

A leadoff single in the third led to a home run by N.C. State junior right fielder Brigette Nordberg to put NC State within one run of Virginia. Consecutive home runs by Visser and Morris gave the Wolfpack the lead going into the sixth. 

Down a run in the sixth, singles by Smith, Osherow and Barber restored the lead for the Cavaliers. While N.C. State failed to respond through the next two innings, Virginia added insurance in the seventh. Smith hit her 15th home run of the season, producing an 11-7 final. 

Standing Out

Busby had a productive weekend at the plate, producing a combined seven hits in 13 at-bats. She has had four straight multi-hit games and has the second highest batting average behind Smith.

Rayle’s impressive pitching against N.C. State marked the first time a Virginia pitcher has earned all three wins in an ACC series since 2010. Her performance in the series-opener Friday was Virginia’s first one-hitter since 2013. 

The regular season will conclude Tuesday with a doubleheader against Hampton at The Park starting at 4 p.m. The Cavaliers played Hampton earlier in the season in the Elon Softball February Classic, beating the Pirates 2-0.