Virginia softball took to the road this weekend to Tallahassee, Fla. to face No. 4 Florida State (35-8, 13-2 ACC), a team who is currently atop the conference standings and ranked fourth in the nation. The Cavaliers (28-15, 8-10 ACC) dropped the series opener and finale, but fought hard to pick up game two against the national powerhouse.
Game 1 – Virginia 1, Florida State 6
The Seminoles established their presence early in Friday night’s game despite an early Cavalier lead after a sacrifice groundout by senior infielder Gabby Baylog scored on freshman infielder Jade Hylton. Senior pitcher Molly Grube struggled in the bottom of the first, tallying three walks and giving up a run in the process.
Grube did not get out of the inning, as junior pitcher Savannah Henley came in with two outs for a long relief stint. She had similar luck, however, as the Seminoles tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the third with an RBI double from sophomore catcher Katie Dack.
The Cavalier bats went silent, as their lone run in the first was all that they could sneak across against a very talented Seminole pitching combo. Dack continued to add to an excellent statistical performance with a homerun off of Henley. A final run in the bottom of the sixth left Florida State with a convincing 6-1 victory.
Perhaps the only silver lining that Cavalier fans took from Friday’s game was a particularly clean defensive performance from Virginia’s starting nine. They did not commit a single error but, ultimately, only two hits at the plate and a stifling offensive performance from the Seminoles spelled disaster for the Cavaliers.
Game 2 – Virginia 6, Florida State 5
Virginia looked to bounce back on Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee, and they pounced early with a quick three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore infielder Shelby Barbee flew out to center field to bring home a run, and sophomore utility player Kelly Ayer and Baylog added on two more with a single and a hit-by-pitch, respectively.
Freshman pitcher Eden Bigham had the Seminole offense searching for answers in game two, as they failed to score a run in the first five innings of the contest. An additional RBI single by Barbee, a run scored on a wild pitch, and another RBI single from junior utility player Abby Weaver padded the lead for Bigham and should have led to a comfortable victory for the Cavaliers.
The game was not over, however, and Florida State surged back into contention with a fifth-inning offensive bombardment. A two-run homer from junior outfielder Kaley Mudge and an additional two-run double and RBI single left the score at 6-5 and also knocked Bigham out of the game.
Virginia fans could finally breathe after Henley got the last four outs and put the win in the books for the Cavaliers. With a split series, all attention turned to the rubber match later that afternoon.
Game 3 – Virginia 0, Florida State 8
Things were relatively quiet to begin play, as neither team proved capable of scoring a run in the first three innings. This was just the calm before the storm, however, as Florida State would let loose in the fourth and never look back.
A string of six runs provided by senior infielder Mack Leonard, Mudge, senior infielder Josie Muffley, and junior infielder Devyn Flaherty allowed Florida State to break away and focus on keeping the Cavalier offense at bay going into the fifth inning.
They succeeded in their mission, as two more scoreless innings for Virginia and an additional two runs for the Seminoles in the bottom of the sixth led to an early run-rule win for Florida State.
The Cavaliers’ struggles were largely within their control, as they were unable to overcome their four errors in the game. This was in stark contrast to their near-flawless defensive play in the first two games of the series.
Grube also continued her struggles, giving up four runs in just three-and-a-third innings of work. The Cavaliers will certainly look to revive her confidence if they hope to bring their best pitching attack to the last few series of the season and the upcoming conference playoffs. However, ultimately a competitive series and bringing a victory home against a program like Florida State is no small feat, and something the Cavaliers should look to build upon.
Virginia now sees itself in the middle of the ACC standings going into a single home game against James Madison (23-13, 8-7 SBC) and a home series against Louisville (26-14, 10-4 ACC) this upcoming weekend.
The one-off game against the Dukes will be aired on the ACC Network at 6 p.m. Tuesday.