Following a dominant sweep against Pittsburgh at home, Virginia softball traveled to Louisville for its final ACC series of the season. The Cavaliers (27-23, 13-11 ACC) responded to a close loss Friday with a win Saturday afternoon, but were unable to handle the offensive firepower of the Cardinals (26-21, 10-11 ACC) Sunday to come away with the series victory.
The first game Friday was a back and forth battle. Virginia scored the first two runs of the game in the second inning, as an error in the outfield on a single by senior outfielder Bailey Winscott resulted in sophomore infielder Abby Weaver scoring on the play. An RBI single for sophomore catcher Leah Boggs then brought Winscott home to give the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals responded in the third inning with three runs, scoring on a single to right field and doubles to center and left field. Virginia then regained a one-run lead in the fifth inning thanks to junior infielder Katie Goldberg’s triple to right field that drove home two more runs.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, however, the lead did not hold up, as Louisville graduate student catcher Kendall Smith hit a 2-RBI walkoff single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Cardinals a 5-4 victory over the Cavaliers.
Sophomore pitcher Mikayla Houge was given the loss after pitching three innings in relief for junior pitcher Molly Grube. Houge gave up two runs off one hit and struck out two batters.
In the second game on Saturday afternoon, Virginia rallied late to even the series with a 5-3 win.
The Cavaliers took an early 1-0 lead after the first inning. Boggs and Goldberg both hit singles, but Boggs was called out at home after trying to steal. Goldberg was able to do what Boggs couldn’t, however, stealing home to put Virginia on the board after junior infielder Gabby Baylog was walked.
Louisville responded in the second with a home run and an RBI double down the right field line to score two runs in the inning. The Cardinals then increased their lead to 3-1 in the following inning after scoring on a wild pitch by junior pitcher Mackenzie Wooten. Virginia struggled offensively during the second, third and fourth innings, amassing only three hits over that span.
Things started to improve for the Cavaliers in the fifth inning with an RBI single by freshman utility player Sarah Coon. Virginia completed its comeback in the sixth inning, scoring three more runs to overtake Louisville 5-3. Goldberg hit a two-run home run, and after senior outfielder Tori Gilbert tripled to right field, she was able to score on the same play following another error by the Cardinals.
Strong defense helped seal the game for Virginia. A double in the sixth inning by Louisville freshman infielder Dylann Cravens to center field resulted in a play at the plate, but the Cardinal runner was thrown out in a close call. Lousivlle continued to push the Cavaliers defensively in the seventh inning. Two fielder’s choices, a hit by a pitch and an error allowed three runners for Louisville to get on base, but Virginia held on and secured the final out of the game after the batter lined out to second base.
Wooten was credited with the win after pitching four innings in relief for starter senior pitcher Aly Rayle. She gave up five hits and one run, striking out two batters and walking one. Houge picked up a save after allowing just one hit and no runs through the final 1.2 innings of the game.
In the series finale, Louisville took the lead early, and while the Cavaliers came back to tie the game, the Cardinals were able to pull away with a 9-4 win.
Louisville opened the scoring with three runs in the third inning. Graduate student outfielder Carmyn Greenwood hit a home run in the first at bat for the Cardinals, and a two-RBI double for Cravens added to the lead.
Virginia responded in the top of the fourth inning, evening the score at 3-3. A double by senior infielder Emma McBride drove home Gilbert and Coon, who reached base on an error and a single, respectively. A single by senior infielder Arizona Ritchie then scored another run for the Cavaliers. However, Virginia was unable to capitalize on its ability to get runners on base, ending the inning with the bases loaded after a ground out by freshman outfielder Kailyn Jones.
Despite the comeback by the Cavaliers, Louisville exploded for four more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 7-3 advantage, powered by a double and a three-run home run. The Cardinals built on their lead in the sixth inning. They scored two more runs on an RBI triple and a sacrifice fly to bring the score to 9-3.
Virginia scored one more run in the seventh inning, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit. Junior infielder Gabby Baylog doubled to left center to bring home Goldberg.
Wooten was given her first loss of the season to move to 4-1. She gave up two runs, three hits and walked one after pitching 3.0 innings in relief for Houge. The Cavaliers struggled on the mound, using five pitchers over the duration of the game. Only junior pitcher Morgan Murphy, who pitched 0.2 innings, didn’t give up a run.
Although Virginia lost the series, they picked up their 13th ACC win of the year with the win Saturday, tying with the 2010 season for a Virginia softball record. The team currently sits in sixth place in the conference. There were also some bright spots for the Cavaliers, with Goldberg hitting exceptionally well. She had many key hits for Virginia and went six for nine at the plate over the weekend.
“The work for us doesn’t stop,” Coach Joanna Hardin said. “We accomplished one goal of being over .500 this season and have an opportunity to accomplish our second goal of making the NCAA tournament ... Our eyes are laser focused on our prize.”
The final game scheduled for the Cavaliers against James Madison has been canceled. The Dukes have chosen to forgo the remainder of their season following the death of sophomore catcher Lauren Bernett, who the school announced took her own life on April 28. Virginia softball’s Twitter account has a pinned post keeping the James Madison family in mind. Virginia will next play in the ACC championships, scheduled to begin May 11.