After losing the first two games of the series, Virginia recovered against Georgia Tech in the second game of a home doubleheader in Charlottesville Saturday. The Cavaliers (18-7, 1-2 ACC) had an uncharacteristically weak offensive showing in the first two games before righting the ship in the finale
Game 1- Virginia 2, Georgia Tech 5
Freshman pitcher Eden Bigham took the ball to start the weekend series. She relented an early lead to the Yellow Jackets (14-9, 2-1 ACC) in the first inning with an RBI double scoring Georgia Tech’s leadoff runner.
The Cavaliers responded in the third inning, using walks and small ball to lead to a two-RBI double from freshman infielder Jade Hylton to take a 2-1 advantage. The lead did not hold as Bigham yielded three more runs before her exit in the fifth inning. Though Bigham earned the loss on the day, she racked up seven strikeouts and she was not finished for the Cavaliers on the weekend.
Meanwhile, Virginia’s bats went silent for the remainder of the game, emblematic of the offensive struggles that pervaded the weekend. The bullpen gave up another run and the Cavaliers dropped the opener.
Despite the loss, Hylton popped once again, claiming a team-leading 21 RBI on the season. The freshman has proved she belongs in the top of Virginia’s lineup and has been a big part of its offensive prowess.
Game 2– Virginia 2, Georgia Tech 5
Virginia started early with a second-inning RBI triple by junior outfielder Lauren VanAssche that scored sophomore outfielder Kailyn Jones. That was the last lead for Virginia, though, as Georgia Tech gained a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning following a two-RBI single by junior infielder Abby Hughes and a two-RBI double by freshman infielder Jayden Gailey.
Although graduate student outfielder Tori Gilbert took a pitch deep over the center field wall in the bottom of the inning, the Cavaliers could not recover and lost the game by a score of 5-2.
Senior pitcher Molly Grube took the loss for Virginia, pitching 5.1 innings, giving up three earned runs. The bullpen took over for the next 1.2 innings and freshman pitcher Courtney Lane posted three strikeouts across the final two frames.
The Cavaliers struggled offensively early, and were ultimately unable to overcome their deficit. The next game proved Virginia had the resolve to improve on both sides of the ball.
Game 3 – Virginia 3, Georgia Tech 0
The Cavaliers got off to a hot start with the bat in the second game and never looked back. In the second inning, Gilbert swiftly deposited a 3-1 pitch over the left field fence for her second home run of the day and her fourth of the season.
Georgia Tech’s problems in the field did not stop there, however, as the Cavaliers quickly found themselves in a first-and-third situation in the fourth inning. Sophomore outfielder Kailyn Jones attempted to steal second and drew a throw from the catcher that ended up in center field, allowing sophomore Kelly Ayer to stroll home and stretch the Cavalier lead to two.
Ayer added an RBI of her own in the fifth inning, putting a 2-1 pitch into right field to score sophomore catcher Sarah Coon. The Cavaliers were able to hold the 3-0 lead and stave off a threatening Yellow Jackets offense.
Bigham’s second performance of the weekend can not be overlooked and, although the Cavalier offense put together strong innings at the plate, Georgia Tech never had a chance with her in the circle.
Bigham went the distance to close out the game, compiling four strikeouts and just two walks while giving up a mere three hits in the contest. She received the win, bringing her record to an impressive 5-2 to start the young season.
“It was a big shutout for Eden; it’s really tough coming back facing the same offense a second time in the weekend and mixing things up enough to keep them off balance,” Coach Joanna Hardin said. “It was a really mature outing for her.”
The Cavaliers emerged from their first conference series a little worse for wear, ultimately dropping the series to Georgia Tech. They will look to build on the finale win as they travel to a visiting series against a dominant Clemson squad in Clemson, S.C with the first pitch coming Friday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ACCNX.
A second conference matchup in a row should help fans determine how to evaluate Virginia within the context of the ACC. If the Cavaliers can get the bats going against the Tigers as they have been for most of the season, they will not have to rely on their pitching to be perfect to compete.