Virginia softball lost 5-3 to Florida State in their first round game of the ACC Tournament on Thursday. The Cavaliers (27-24, 13-11 ACC) were the sixth seed of the tournament while the Seminoles (50-5, 19-5 ACC) were seeded third.
Although Florida State jumped out to a 5-0 lead, Virginia would whittle it down to just two in the seventh inning before ultimately running out of outs and failing to complete the rally.
For the first three innings, both junior right-hander Molly Grube for Virginia and senior right-hander Kathryn Sandercock for Florida State were dialed in. Each only allowed one hit heading into the fourth inning.
After Sandercock forced three Virginia groundouts in the top of the fourth, the Seminoles came up to bat looking to break the deadlock.
Florida State hit two doubles off Grube in the fourth inning and scored two runs, claiming a 2-0 lead heading to the fifth. Grube would end the inning and give the mound to sophomore right-hander Mikayla Houge in the fifth inning. Grube pitched 4.0 innings, allowing four hits, two earned runs and one walk while striking out two batters.
Senior outfielder Tori Gilbert opened the top of the fifth inning for the Cavaliers with a double to left field. Sandercock, however — who has been basically untouchable this year, posting a 1.41 ERA and allowing 41 total runs on the season — shut the Cavaliers down in the fifth, recording three straight outs and stranding Gilbert in scoring position.
The Seminoles added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth. Junior outfielder Kaley Mudge grounded out to bring freshman infielder Amaya Ross home, making the score 3-0 Florida State.
After the Cavaliers couldn’t get any offense going in the top of the sixth, Florida State continued to stretch its lead. Two Seminoles hit solo home runs off of Houge, making the score 4-0 and 5-0 respectively. After the second home run, Houge was pulled in favor of senior right-hander Aly Rayle, who closed out the sixth inning in relief.
With their backs against the wall, Virginia knew they had to make something happen in the top of the seventh inning. Down to their last three outs, the Cavaliers opened the inning with a single from freshman utility player Sarah Coon, who was named to the ACC All-Freshman team earlier this week.
Gilbert doubled to left field to move Coon to third base. Freshman outfielder Kailyn Jones drove Coon home and moved Gilbert to third base in the process, cutting the Seminole lead to four. After a groundout for the first out of the half-inning, senior infielder Arizona Ritchie singled to drive Gilbert home and cut the lead to three runs.
Sophomore infielder Abby Weaver reached base on a fielder’s choice, but freshman utility player Kelly Ayer, pinch running for Ritchie, was tagged out.
Down to the final out, sophomore catcher Leah Boggs smashed a double into right center field which scored Jones from third base. However, a flyout from junior infielder Katie Goldberg ended the game as Florida State held on and won 5-3.
Sandercock improved to 29-1 on the year, while Grube was credited with a loss and moved to 2-4.
In an interview after the game, Coach Joanna Hardin noted how proud she was of the team.
“We’re out of the tournament, but we have positive momentum and you can see that considering we played FSU just four weeks ago and the result today was very different,” Hardin said. “I love coaching this team, am proud of this team and wouldn’t trade them for any player on any list from any other team. I love these girls and we’ll enjoy being together for the rest of the season — however long we have left.”
While the Cavaliers were not selected as an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament, Coach Hardin and the team have made exceptional strides this year and seem to have changed the trajectory of Virginia softball headed into the future. The Cavaliers will have one last chance to show the progress they have made in this year’s National Invitational Softball Championship, where they were selected as the top seed. Virginia’s first game in the tournament is slated for Saturday at 10:30 a.m. with the opponent to be decided.