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Virginia softball sweeps Pittsburgh at Palmer Park

The Cavaliers looked sharp and resilient throughout the course of the weekend after a high-stakes rivalry series

<p>The Cavaliers sent their seniors out in celebratory fashion with a dominant Sunday win over the Panthers.</p>

The Cavaliers sent their seniors out in celebratory fashion with a dominant Sunday win over the Panthers.

Virginia softball resumed play at home against Pittsburgh this weekend, coming off a hard-fought and highly competitive Commonwealth Clash against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The Cavaliers (26-21, 12-9 ACC) bounced back in impressive fashion, sweeping the Panthers (14-24, 2-17 ACC) while outscoring them by a combined score of 18-7 over three games in a fitting celebration of the team’s Senior Day, which occurred on Sunday.

The first game of the series was a close one. Virginia opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to freshman utility player Sarah Coon’s RBI groundout, which brought junior infielder Gabby Baylog home to make it 1-0 Virginia. 

The Panthers responded in the top of the sixth. After an error and back-to-back bunts that loaded the bases, sophomore outfielder Cami Compson hit a single up the middle, batting in two runs in the process to take the lead back from Virginia and go up 2-1.

The Cavaliers responded with a valiant comeback, though, scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead back and lead 4-2, which would hold as the final score.

Redshirt freshman infielder Lauren VanAssche squeezed a single through the middle to bring senior infielder Emma McBride home, tying the game at 2-2. Senior infielder Arizona Ritchie then hit a routine foul ball towards right field. In a bizarre series of events, however, Pittsburgh dropped the ball in foul territory, preserving Ritchie’s at-bat. In addition, the Panthers committed an administrative error by failing to reenter a player. Soon thereafter, Ritchie hit a single to right field which brought two Cavaliers home.

Junior right-hander Molly Grube (2-3) got the win for Virginia, throwing for 6.0 innings. She gave up one earned run and five hits while throwing four strikeouts and walking just one batter. 

Redshirt freshman right-hander Dani Drogemuller (9-10) was credited with the loss for Pittsburgh, pitching 5.1 innings and giving up three hits and two earned runs with four walks and seven strikeouts.

In game two of the series, the competition again was very close. After a hard-fought game, Virginia clinched the series win with a 4-3 victory.

Just like the first game, neither team scored in the first three innings. The Cavaliers got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, though, with Baylog hitting an RBI single to make it 1-0. Freshman outfielder Kailyn Jones added to the scoring with an RBI single of her own, while VanAssche hit an RBI sacrifice fly to left field which brought junior infielder Katie Goldberg home. The Cavaliers led 3-0 heading into the fifth inning.

Junior outfielder Bailey Drapola cut the Pittsburgh deficit to two runs in the top of the fifth with an RBI double, just for a Panther error in the bottom of the fifth to see sophomore utility player Leah Boggs score and bring the lead back to three runs.

While the score sat at 4-1 in favor of the Cavaliers, the Panthers refused to give up. Pittsburgh junior infielder Kayla Lane launched a solo home run in the top of the sixth to make it 4-2. Then, with the Panthers down to their last out in the top of the seventh, an RBI single made it 4-3. After Compson was walked, senior infielder Sarah Seamans popped up in the infield with runners on first and second as the Cavaliers took the win and the series.

This was the fourth ACC series victory for Virginia, its most in a single season since 2010. 

Senior right-hander Aly Rayle (5-5) got the win for the Cavaliers, throwing 4.0 innings while only giving up one hit. Rayle also finished the day with three strikeouts and three walks. Virginia used four total pitchers in what was a group effort to secure the win.

Meanwhile, junior pitcher Makenzie Stiles (5-10) took the loss for Pittsburgh after pitching 4.0 innings and giving up four hits and three earned runs. Stiles also walked one batter and struck out four.

The series finale was a much different story from the first two games, as Virginia crushed the Panthers 10-2 on Senior Day to secure their third ACC series sweep this season.

It only took the Cavaliers six innings to complete the sweep. The offensive explosion started right away, as Virginia scored three runs in the first inning. 

It appeared as if Pittsburgh would hang around after they scored once in the second inning to make it 3-1, but the Cavaliers added one run in the third inning and three more in the fourth inning to make it 7-1 as the game headed to the fifth inning. 

Again, the Panthers tried to extend the game as they added a run in the top of the sixth inning to make it 7-2, but three more Virginia runs in the bottom of the sixth sealed the win and ended the game at 10-2 due to college softball’s mercy rule.

Junior right-hander Mackenzie Wooten (3-0) pitched in relief of Grube after two innings and was credited with the win. Wooten threw 3.2 innings with two hits, one earned run, two walks and two strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh used four pitchers on a day where it didn’t seem to matter who was on the mound, with every pitcher giving up at least one earned run.

With the series sweep,Virginia now sits at 12 ACC wins on the season, a new second-most in program history. The record is 13 wins, achieved back in 2010. Coach Joanna Hardin now has two of the top-three most conference wins in a season, with the third-most occurring in this past season.

“This class has been special to our program,” Hardin said of the graduating seniors. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to coach them and see them build what they set out to build when they got on Grounds four years ago.”

After the Cavaliers’ game against Longwood Tuesday was canceled due to anticipated inclement weather, Virginia’s schedule next turns to its last ACC series of the season. The Cavaliers will travel to Louisville, Ky. with a chance to set a program record for ACC wins if they can take the series over the Cardinals. First pitch is set for Friday at 6 p.m., and the series will also have games on Saturday and Sunday, of which the middle game will be televised on ACC Network.