Virginia softball was back in action this weekend with a three-game series against No. 4 ranked Clemson at McWhorter Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers (18-10, 1-5 ACC) went 0-3 on the weekend against the Tigers (29-1, 6-0 ACC), scoring one combined run in all three games.
Game 1 – Virginia 1, Clemson 4
The first game of the series took place early Saturday afternoon, kicking off a doubleheader on the day. The matchup was a stalemate until the Tigers took a 3-0 lead in the third on a two-out rally. An RBI fielder’s choice was overturned after review, giving Clemson a 1-0 lead before a double to right center scored two more.
The Cavaliers responded in the fourth with a sacrifice fly from sophomore catcher Sarah Coon, scoring graduate student outfielder Tori Gilbert. The Tigers retook a three-run lead in the bottom of the fourth with a base’s loaded fielder's choice.
The score held until the end of the game as freshman pitcher Eden Bigham took the loss. Bigham allowed three runs on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 2.2 innings of work. Junior pitcher Savanah Henley relinquished the last run, striking out six over 3.1 innings.
Game 2 – Virginia 0, Clemson 1
The second game in the back-to-back also ended in defeat for Virginia, though the competition was tight. A throwing error allowed a runner on third base in the third inning before Clemson sophomore infielder Maddie Moore hit a sac fly to score the runner.
The score ended 1-0 with very little action. The Cavalier bats never woke up, as they tallied just three total hits. Senior Molly Grube pitched in the loss allowing one unearned run with two hits and two walks. This was her second complete game of the season.
After the game, Coach Joanna Hardin was complimentary of Virginia’s pitching efforts despite the losses.
“Our pitchers did a great job, executed well and the gameplan was right,” Hardin said.
Game 3 - Virginia 0, Clemson 2
The third game of the weekend started off with a bang as the Tigers picked up two runs in the first inning. A bases loaded single and another costly defensive error plated both runs before the Cavaliers were able to get out of the jam.
This score also held, with Grube once again taking the loss, allowing two runs. Graduate student Jenny Bressler pitched six scoreless innings in relief.
“What a great job by our Jenny Bressler coming in and closing the door,” Hardin said. “Our pitching staff kept us in there the whole weekend which was awesome.”
Overall, it was a strong weekend on the mound for both sides, with Virginia unable to make a difference at the plate. Hardin was complimentary of Sunday’s performance, noting how the Cavaliers matured and improved despite the sweep.
“We didn’t have a lot to show for some really quality at bats with balls hit right at them,” Hardin said. “We really grew up a lot between yesterday and today.”
The Cavaliers fell to 18-10 overall and 1-5 in ACC play while Clemson improved to 29-1 overall and 6-0 in ACC play. Despite an impressive overall start, the Cavaliers are digging themselves a hole in the conference standings, as they have now only picked up one win in their first six games. Currently Virginia finds itself in ninth in the ACC.
Virginia’s next two ACC opponents will be excellent barometers of their strength in conference, as they match up against UNC and Notre Dame, who sit at 10th and sixth respectively.
The Cavaliers will really look to get their offense back into the mix after scoring just eight runs in their last six games. Sophomore utility player Kelly Ayer has been a bright spot this season, batting .344 in 59 at bats. Virginia will continue to need strong offensive showings from her to pull them out of this slump.
Virginia will look to rebound Tuesday, when they host Hofstra in a doubleheader at home. First pitch is at 3 p.m. at Palmer Park.