When the Virginia softball team faced off against Florida State this past weekend, it was looking to improve upon the program’s best ACC start through nine games, with an 8-1 conference record.
The Seminoles (35-2, 10-2 ACC) had other ideas. None of the games were close, as Florida State thoroughly took apart the Cavaliers (21-16, 8-4 ACC) over the entirety of the series.
It is hard to sugarcoat the beating Virginia endured at Palmer Park this weekend. The Seminoles beat the Cavaliers in the first two games by the same 9-0 score in each game. To finish off the sweep, Florida State won the final game 7-2.
Game one started off fast for the Seminoles, who put two runs on the board in the top of the first inning on a fly-out and a solo home run.
Florida State scored two more runs in the third, one in the fourth, one in the fifth and three in the sixth to make it 9-0 and eventually win the game in six innings due to college softball’s mercy rule.
Senior right-hander Aly Rayle was credited with the loss for Virginia. Rayle pitched just 1.0 innings, surrendering two earned runs, three hits and one walk and failing to strike out a batter.
Junior infielder Gabby Baylog was a bright spot for the Virginia offense, going 2-for-2 at the plate with two hits and also drawing a single walk.
For the Seminoles, senior right-hander Kathryn Sandercock continued her sheer dominance on the mound this season. Sandercock gave up just three hits, zero earned runs and zero walks while striking three batters out in 5.0 innings. She remained undefeated and improved to 17-0 on the season.
Game two was unfortunately eerily similar to the series opener. Again, the Seminoles scored in the first inning, putting three runs across home plate from a 2-RBI single and an RBI double, courtesy of senior first baseman Mack Leonard and junior infielder Devyn Flaherty, respectively.
Florida State tacked on another run in the third inning after Flaherty reached base due to an error from Baylog, bringing redshirt freshman catcher Michaela Edenfield home to make it 4-0.
A three-run homerun in the sixth inning and a two-run homerun in the seventh inning made the final score 9-0, the exact same score as the first matchup on Friday.
The Cavalier defense was a bit out of sorts throughout the game, committing a total of four errors. Unfortunately, the pitching of Virginia did not help, either. Sophomore left-hander Savanah Henley took the loss and fell to 6-6, while Florida State graduate student right-hander Danielle Watson took the win, getting to 11-2 this season.
Henley pitched 1.1 innings, giving up five earned runs on four hits. She also walked two batters and struck out one. Watson threw 5.2 innings, holding Virginia to zero earned runs and just two hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
The series finale on Sunday started exactly how you would expect — with the Seminoles scoring four runs. After a couple of scoreless innings, Florida State added to their lead in the fourth inning from a Leonard RBI double.
While this game felt over from the start like the first two, the Cavaliers were able to show some life offensively in the final match of the weekend. Freshman outfielder Kailyn Jones doubled to left field, bringing junior infielder Katie Goldberg home and bringing the score to 5-1 Seminoles.
Florida State added two more runs in the sixth to make the score 7-1, but senior outfielder Tori Gilbert homered in the bottom of the sixth for Virginia to cut the deficit to five. There wasn’t much seventh inning drama, as Virginia grounded out once and struck out twice to end the series.
The Florida State pitching was yet again dominant, which was perhaps the biggest factor the entire weekend. It was Sandercock (18-0) back on the mound for the Seminoles, throwing 6.0 innings and giving up two earned runs on six hits. While she allowed a fair amount of hits, Sandercock had seven strikeouts and rarely let Virginia take advantage of those runners on base.
Meanwhile, sophomore right-hander Madison Harris (1-2) took the loss for Virginia, as she only pitched 1.0 innings but gave up four earned runs on four hits. She also walked two batters.
After the game on Sunday, Coach Joanna Hardin spoke about the loss and the weekend as a whole.
“I’m really proud of how our team fought until the end and never quit all weekend,” Hardin said. “It was definitely a tough weekend for us, but we got a lot of information we can use to learn and grow.”
While this string of losses is definitely a knock to Virginia’s confidence, there are some positive takeaways from the series.
On both Friday and Saturday, fans broke the attendance record at Palmer Park. Friday’s attendance of 1,006 was a new record at Palmer Park, while that record was smashed Saturday when 1,437 fans came to the 1 p.m. game.
These losses also can hopefully serve as learning moments for the Cavaliers. Virginia has two ACC series sweeps this year, as well as a series win over then-ranked No. 24 Notre Dame. The team has shown that it can play well against conference opponents, even those said to be much better. That being said, losses like this weekend should fuel the Cavaliers as they continue ACC play.
Coming up on the schedule for Virginia is a home tilt against JMU at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. The game will be streamed on ACCNX. The Cavaliers will then face off against Duke at home over the weekend for a three-game series which looks to be highly competitive. All three games will also be streamed on ACCNX.