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Virginia softball sweeps Pitt to build a five-game winning streak

After a difficult start to conference play, the Cavaliers are gaining momentum

<p>Virginia is now six for its last 10, with a chance to capitalize on its building momentum.</p>

Virginia is now six for its last 10, with a chance to capitalize on its building momentum.

Virginia softball traveled to Vartabedian Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. this weekend to take on Pitt, going 3-0 against the Panthers (14-14, 0-6 ACC). The Cavaliers (23-10, 4-5 ACC) had a strong offensive showing that included a mercy rule win in the first game of the series. After getting swept by Clemson last weekend, Virginia has now won six out of its last 10 games and is just outside the upper echelon of the ACC. 

Game 1 – Virginia 9, Pitt 0

Virginia started game one strong, with three runs in the first inning. An RBI double into left by senior infielder Katie Goldberg scored freshman outfielder Jade Hylton, giving the Cavaliers an early 1-0 lead. Virginia followed up with a two-run home run, with graduate student utility player Tori Gilbert knocking it out of center field, scoring Goldberg.

The Cavaliers continued their dominance in the second inning, as sophomore catcher Sarah Coon scored sophomore utility player Kelly Ayer on an RBI double. The scoring did not stop there, as Virginia added two more runs in the third. Gilbert scored after junior outfielder Lauren VanAssche hit a single to center field making it 5-0 before junior utility player Leah Boggs stole home.

The Cavaliers hit their second home run of the game in the fourth inning, as Goldberg drove one to left center. Virginia added two more in the fifth, as a throwing error allowed Ayer to steal home and a double from Goldberg scored Hylton.

With the score at 9-0, a run-rule win was within reach. The Cavaliers' defense kept a clean sheet in the bottom of the fifth and the game came to a close. Freshman pitcher Eden Bigham pitched all five innings, allowing four hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.

“Across the board we were locked in and ready to go,” Coach Joanna Harding said. “It’s good for us to give us some confidence, but the game forgets and tomorrow is a new day.”

Game 2 – Virginia 4, Pitt 2

Saturday brought similar success for Virginia. The game started slow, with the first run not scored until the third inning. Gilbert hit a single to right center, scoring Hylton.

The score remained 1-0 until the fifth inning, when Pittsburgh sophomore catcher Amanda Ramirez hit a solo home run to left center, tying the game at one. The Panthers soon took the lead when freshman outfielder Macy Hamilton scored after graduate student infielder Yvonne Whaley hit a single to center field.

The Cavaliers tied the game in the sixth after junior utility player Abby Weaver scored on an error. Virginia scored again in the seventh, sealing the win and clinching the series after sophomore outfielder Kailyn Jones scored on a sac fly from Gilbert. Freshman outfielder Kassidy Hudson then scored on a single from Boggs.

Bigham picked up her second win of the series, this time in relief. She had two strikeouts in two innings after coming into the game in the sixth.

Hardin once again praised her team, this time for performing in tough conditions.

“We hit some balls hard that got caught in the wind,” Hardin said. “I’ve never coached a game in elements like this, but I thought we handled it with character and toughness.”

Game 3 – Virginia 8, Pitt 5

Both teams started off the final game of the series strong, as Goldberg hit a home run to left center, scoring Hylton and herself in the first inning. Pittsburgh tied the game by scoring on a wild pitch and a double to right field in the bottom half of the inning.

The Cavaliers took the lead again in the second inning with a two-run home run to left center from senior infielder Gabby Baylog, scoring VanAssche. Virginia hit another home run in the next at-bat, with a homer to right-center from Hylton.

The Cavaliers hit back-to-back home runs again in the fifth, with Gilbert hitting one to center field to score Hudson, and Weaver hitting one to left center, giving Virginia an 8-2 lead. Pitt managed to make the game close in the seventh with a three-run home run from Whaley before the Cavaliers wrapped the game up 8-5, going 3-0 on the weekend. 

Freshman pitcher Courtney Layne grabbed the win, allowing three runs with a walk and four strikeouts in six innings.

The Cavaliers concluded last week in ninth place in the ACC standings. The series sweep could not have come at a better time, as they leapt up two spots in the standings and find themselves in a position to continue trending upwards with more conference matchups on the horizon. Though some moments were shaky, the pitching staff led by Bigham has been able to keep Virginia in most games. So long as the bats are hot, the Cavaliers could continue to rise with a great opportunity coming next series.

Virginia hosts No.9  North Carolina for a three-game series with the first pitch coming Friday at 6 p.m.


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