Virginia softball took on rival Virginia Tech in Charlottesville this weekend for the Commonwealth Clash. The Hokies (31-9, 11-4 ACC) were coming off of three straight wins, one against Duke and two against Longwood, going into the series, while the Cavaliers (26-13, 7-8 ACC) had pulled off a series victory against North Carolina just last weekend.
Game 1 – Virginia 8, Virginia Tech 9
Both teams started hot with the bat Thursday. After a single and a walk, Hokies sophomore utility player Bre Peck smashed a ball over the center field wall in the top of the first to give Virginia Tech a 3-0 lead. The Cavaliers answered with a homer of their own, however, as freshman infielder Jade Hylton went deep to center field to shorten the lead to two.
In the second inning, a Virginia Tech single to left brought junior infielder Maija Louko home and increased the lead. Then, both teams entered a dry spell that lasted until the fifth inning. Hokies sophomore pitcher Emma Lemley and Cavaliers freshman pitcher Courtney Layne traded scoreless innings and brought the game to a stall at 4-1.
In the fifth inning, however, both teams got it back together at the plate. In the top of the inning, Virginia Tech hit a home run to center field to add another run to the Hokies total. In the bottom of the inning, Virginia let loose on the Hokies pitching as Hylton scored on an error and graduate student outfielder Tori Gilbert tacked on three more with a home run to left center field.
Both teams reached another stall after the fifth inning, and the 5-5 tie resulted in extra innings. In the top of the eighth, the Hokies offense started strong. A double down the line scored two before a single brought in another. After an RBI sac fly, the Cavaliers were able to stop the bleeding after four runs.
Virginia showed no signs of letting up in their half of the inning, as sophomore pinch infielder Shelby Barbee hit a 3-run jack to bring the deficit within one run. However, it was not enough, and the Cavaliers fell to the Hokies to begin the Commonwealth Clash. A committee of Virginia pitchers managed the eight innings of action, but graduate student pitcher Jenny Bressler took the loss, giving up four runs on four hits and two walks with one strikeout.
Game 2 – Virginia 6, Virginia Tech 5
Following a disappointing loss to the Hokies the night prior, the Cavaliers looked to right the ship Friday night. Virginia broke the scoreless tie with a RBI single by junior catcher Leah Boggs in the second inning, and continued to add on runs in the third with a sacrifice fly by Barbee to score senior infielder Gabby Baylog.
The Hokies answered in the fourth, driving in one with a single to center. Despite its ability to make the game competitive on offense, Virginia Tech lost the game with its defense in the fifth inning. A wild pitch scored Gilbert and an error by the shortstop brought freshman infielder Kelsey Hackett and sophomore utility player Sarah Coon home.
For anyone who thought that the Hokies would go down quietly, their predictions were quickly put to bed in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded, Virginia Tech crushed a ball to bring everyone home and tie the game at five. The Cavaliers would have to persevere through more extra innings if they hoped to come out with a win against one of the strongest teams in the ACC.
After a scoreless top half of the inning, Virginia came into the dugout with a chance to walk it off. Hylton nailed a double and Boggs scored off of the ensuing fielding error at third base. Virginia had tied the series with one final game to decide the winner of the Commonwealth Clash. Though senior pitcher Molly Grube worked the majority of the game, freshman pitcher Eden Bigham earned the win for her work in the seventh and eighth.
Game 3 – Virginia 0, Virginia Tech 7
Saturday afternoon’s game started off slow, with neither team scoring in the first three innings of play. However, the war of attrition would not last long. Instead, the Hokies took matters into their own hands at the plate.
In the fourth inning, Virginia Tech scored three to open up scoring. Bressler was able to stop the bleeding, but the damage was not done.
In the top of the fifth inning, freshman catcher Kylie Aldridge put a ball into the seats to increase the lead to six and practically ensure a win for the Hokies. A seventh-inning home run was icing on the cake, as Virginia Tech came away with an easy 7-0 win to close out the series. Layne took the loss, working 3.2 innings, yielding three runs on six hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
The series defeat leaves the Cavaliers in the middle of the pack of the conference standings as the season begins to wane. Three ACC opponents remain on the schedule — Florida State, Louisville and Syracuse. The Seminoles and Cardinals are above Virginia in the current standings, with Florida State on top of the conference. Virginia will have to play well against its upcoming series to establish itself as a contender in the conference. First though, the Cavaliers host Liberty Tuesday at 6 p.m. The matchup will be broadcast on the ACC Network.