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Softball wins three of four games in the Cavalier Classic

Virginia lost to James Madison in the first game and beat George Washington in the remaining three

<p>Virginia softball now sits at 6-5 on the season with a tough conference stretch on the horizon.</p>

Virginia softball now sits at 6-5 on the season with a tough conference stretch on the horizon.

The Cavaliers bounced back from a tough weekend in the ACC pod with one game against James Madison and three games against George Washington. Virginia (6-5, 2-3 ACC) lost its first and only game against the Dukes (2-0, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association), but rallied in the second game of the day to beat the Colonials (0-4, 0-0 Atlantic 10). The Cavaliers would also beat the Colonials twice the following day.

Day 1, Game 1 — Virginia 1, James Madison 5

The Cavaliers were overwhelmed early on against the Dukes, who recorded a single run during the second, third and fourth innings. Virginia never recovered from this 3-0 deficit.

It was freshman pitcher Mikayla Houge who took the loss for the Cavaliers. In the nearly four innings she pitched, she gave up four hits and three runs to James Madison. One play after the third run was scored, Houge was replaced by sophomore pitcher Mackenzie Wooten.

Wooten would keep the Dukes’ scoring attempts at bay throughout the 2.1 innings she pitched — rendering them scoreless. However, when she was replaced by junior pitcher Clare Zureich in the seventh, James Madison would immediately record a two-run home run, bringing the Dukes up 5-0.

With very little time left to muster up any runs, the Cavaliers tried their best to avoid being shut out. Junior catcher Donna Friedman would hit a solo homer to the left-center and put one run on the board for Virginia, but this was the last piece of offensive action the team would get for the rest of the game.

Day 1, Game 2 — Virginia 3, George Washington 2

The first three innings of this matchup were very quiet for the Cavaliers and the Colonials. In the fourth inning, both teams picked up the pace a bit.

George Washington would get on the board first and tally one run, but Virginia would fire back with more force in the sixth. A three-run rally fueled by a fielding error and a triple from junior infielder Arizona Ritchie reinvigorated the Cavaliers.

In the seventh, the Colonials attempted to come back — and they got close, but just not close enough. They recorded an unearned run off a throwing error, narrowing their deficit to one. To close, Virginia brought freshman pitcher Madison Harris to the plate.

Harris preserved the victory for the Cavaliers by striking out the Colonials and leaving three runners stranded on base. This was her first career save.

Day 2, Game 3 — Virginia 4, George Washington 3

Unlike the previous day’s competition between these two teams, the game got off to a fast-paced start. In the first inning, the Cavaliers plated two runs courtesy of RBI singles from sophomore pitcher Morgan Murphy and senior infielder Savana Avilla.

In reply, the Colonials would bring in three runs during the second inning. However, as is evident from the final score, this would be the only time George Washington would run anything in during the game. 

Down by one, Virginia would take its time to come back — but it would come back nonetheless.

In the sixth, junior catcher Ashley Jennings ran in and scored off an infield single from sophomore infielder Katie Goldberg. In the ninth, Murphy would record a double and bring in Friedman — this would notch the win for the Cavaliers.

Day 2, Game 4 — Virginia 3, George Washington 1

Virginia’s final game in the Cavalier Classic —  the third against George Washington — wouldn’t see much action until the fifth inning.

Junior infielder Emma McBride would score off a single from Friedman that soared over the head of a Colonial third-baseman. The Cavaliers extended their lead in the sixth, as junior outfielder Bailey Winscott hit a strong ball that scored twice — McBride, again, and freshman catcher Leah Boggs.

McBride had a great day for the Cavaliers, notching two hits and two runs in her first collegiate start.

“[McBride’s] been waiting patiently and putting in the work,” Coach Joanna Hardin said. “She got her opportunity and made the most of it.”

Continuing off this sixth inning momentum and up 3-0, Virginia would surrender a solo home run in the seventh — which wasn’t good enough to secure the win for George Washington. The Cavaliers would win 3-1, with Houge recording the win.

Houge threw every single pitch for Virginia throughout this game, in which she recorded three strikeouts and allowed only three hits, one run and zero walks. This was a great improvement for her after losing the first performance of the weekend against James Madison.

“We challenged our team before the day started to play aggressive on defense and they did that,” Hardin said. “One of our keys for the season is to just do your job and whatever is asked of you. People did that today.”

For Virginia, it was great to record the win after losing three the previous weekend. Going forward, the team can only hope to improve and keep a winning record — something they haven’t finished with in years. 

The Cavaliers have a big weekend ahead as they welcome Clemson to Palmer Park for a four-game series starting Friday.