For the second time this season, Virginia softball matched up against Liberty, and for the second time it fell short. The Flames (18-12) have had the Cavaliers’ (18-12, 5-1 ACC) number in both matchups, holding Virginia to just three combined runs while scoring 12 total of their own.
It was a tough start on the mound for senior right-hander Aly Rayle, who pitched just 0.2 innings before being pulled from the game.
The Flames unleashed a three-run first inning at the expense of Rayle. Junior infielder Denay Griffin hit an RBI single up the middle to make it 1-0. Then, freshman catcher Alexis Soto blasted a ball deep into the outfield for a triple that scored two more runs for Liberty.
Rayle was pulled after giving up three hits, three earned runs and two walks. Sophomore right-hander Mikayla Houge came in for Rayle, coming out of the inning with no more runs on the board.
Liberty tacked on a run in the second inning and a run in the fourth inning, making it 4-0 and 5-0 respectively. Four different players drove in the first five runs from the Flames, featuring Griffin, Soto, senior infielder Lou Allan and junior infielder Devyn Howard .
Sophomore duo right-hander Naomi Jones and right-hander Karli Keeney were stout on the mound for Liberty. Jones started the game, pitching three shutout innings before the Cavaliers scored their only run of the day. Senior outfielder Bailey Winscott singled up the right foul line, sending freshman utility player Kelly Ayer home to make the score 5-1.
Keeney came in for Jones after the run was scored and proceeded to dismiss any thoughts about a potential Virginia comeback. Keeney pitched 3.1 innings of hitless softball, walking just one batter and striking out three in the process.
Sophomore left-hander Savannah Henley came in at the top of the fifth inning for Houge and the Cavaliers. Henley pitched three innings, surrendering three hits and an earned run in the seventh inning, which sealed the Liberty win.
Coming off of an impressive away sweep of ACC foe NC State, the loss to Liberty is definitely a shock and a setback for Virginia. The Flames are a good team — especially considering that they already beat the Cavaliers earlier in the season — but certainly the momentum coming off of a road sweep would have liked to be continued in the midweek game.
The Cavaliers will look to bounce back and continue their strong conference start this weekend with a road series against Boston College. The first game will be Friday at 3:00 p.m., and each game will be streamed live on ACCNX.