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Virginia softball rebounds with 7-1 victory over James Madison

After losing five straight games, the Cavaliers were able to get in a rhythm again with a decisive victory

<p>Virginia continued its strong season defensively, with the Cavaliers currently ranked second in the ACC in fielding percentage.</p>

Virginia continued its strong season defensively, with the Cavaliers currently ranked second in the ACC in fielding percentage.

Virginia played James Madison Wednesday evening at Palmer Park in Charlottesville, coming out of the game with a 7-1 victory. The Cavaliers (22-16, 8-4 ACC) were able to bounce back from a disappointing three-game sweep at the hands of Florida State with the win over the Dukes (15-16, 4-2 CAA).

Games during the middle of the week have been a struggle for Virginia. This is only the second win for the Cavaliers from a single game midweek matchup, the other coming against Maryland in March. Virginia started off strong, putting up four runs in the first inning and then scoring the final three in the fourth inning to seal the win. 

The Cavaliers opened up the scoring after junior infielder Katie Goldberg reached base due to an error by James Madison’s freshman infielder Jasmine Hall, which allowed senior outfielder Tori Gilbert and freshman utility player Sarah Coon to score. Shortly after, sophomore catcher Leah Boggs hit a single to left field to bring home Goldberg. After redshirt freshman outfielder Lauren VanAssche walked, senior infielder Arizona Ritchie got on base as a result of a fielder’s choice. VanAssche got to third base following a fielding error and Boggs scored to give Virginia a 4-0 lead after the first inning.

The second and third innings went by without runs for either team. A single by Boggs in the third inning represented the only hit for the Cavaliers during that stretch. The Dukes attempted to make a comeback in the top of the fourth inning, scoring a run on a flyout to center field after two players got on base from a double and a single to make the score 4-1.

The Cavaliers responded to the slight push by James Madison in the bottom of the fourth inning, adding three more runs to the scoreboard. Coon hit a three-run home run to drive home Ritchie and senior outfielder Bailey Winscott to extend the Virginia lead to 7-1.

Strong pitching and defense helped the Cavaliers get through the rest of the game without giving up any more runs. Defense continues to be a strong point for Virginia, with the team having a fielding percentage of .978, the 11th best in the country and 2nd best in the ACC.

Junior pitcher Mackenzie Wooten earned the win to move to 2-0 on the season after pitching 2.2 innings in relief for senior pitcher Aly Rayle. Rayle gave up four hits and one run and struck out two batters, while Wooten gave up three hits and struck out one. Sophomore pitcher Madison Harris pitched the seventh inning in relief, getting two strikeouts to close out the game for the Cavaliers.

Despite only getting seven hits, Virginia was able to capitalize on mistakes made by James Madison to drive in runs.

“It was good to bounce back after the weekend,” Coach Joanna Hardin said. “Midweeks have been the Achilles heel for us and I was proud of the focus and being ready to go from the first pitch.”

The Cavaliers will face a strong opponent in No. 22 Duke this weekend. The Blue Devils (29-5, 11-2 ACC) are second in the ACC and will be a formidable test for Virginia. The series opens with a doubleheader Saturday, with games at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Palmer Park. Virginia and Duke will close out the weekend with a game Sunday at 12 p.m. All three games will be broadcast on ACCNX.

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