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Virginia softball sweeps at Rawlings Classic, holding onto winning streak

The Cavaliers pushed their winning run to six games with 22 runs scored across four games this weekend

<p>The Cavaliers pitching dominated the Rawlings Classic over the weekend, allowing just one run in 28 innings of work.</p>

The Cavaliers pitching dominated the Rawlings Classic over the weekend, allowing just one run in 28 innings of work.

Virginia softball made their 2024 Palmer Park debut this weekend in the Rawlings Classic Tournament, winning all four of its games against Lehigh, Iowa State and Delaware. The Cavaliers (10-4, 0-0 ACC) brought their A-game to their home field, showing fans that they know how to dominate early. 

Game 1 — Virginia 9, Lehigh 0

Virginia was originally set to play Delaware early Friday, but that game was postponed until Sunday due to weather. With an updated schedule, the Cavaliers faced off against Lehigh (3-9, 0-0, Patriot League) for their first game of the tournament Friday evening. 

A change in plans had no effect on the energy that Virginia brought to the field, scoring three runs in the first inning after sophomore pitcher Eden Bigham immediately struck out the Mountain Hawks. The sophomore pitched well throughout the game, striking out all of the first twelve batters that came up to the plate. 

Bigham’s performance — to the tune of five shutout innings —assured Lehigh never got a chance to make up any lost ground, but Virginia kept pouring it on nonetheless. The hosts scored one run in the second inning, followed by a dry spell until the fifth and final inning where the Cavaliers scored a whopping five runs. Sophomore infielder Jade Hylton’s five runs batted in — which matched her career high set last February against George Washington — helped Virginia wither away any doubt about the game, as Virginia cruised to a 9-0 victory. 

Coach Joanna Hardin was rightly ecstatic about her team’s performance in their home opener Friday night, highlighting Bigham as the key player in the win.

“It’s great to be home,” Hardin said. “We love playing at Palmer Park and playing in front of our fans. Eden Bigham just came out and never let up. She’s huge for us in the circle.”

Game 2 — Virginia 7, Lehigh 1

The Cavaliers were supposed to face off against Iowa State Saturday, but that game was also moved due to weather. The Cavaliers instead met the Mountain Hawks again and once again came out on top. Virginia once more gained its lead quickly with three runs in the second inning, an advantage they never relinquished.

However, tensions rose in the top of the fifth inning — Lehigh had loaded the bases with just one out, making it seemingly impossible for the Mountain Hawks to walk away from the inning without a run. Lehigh was able to score one run in the top of the fifth, but the Cavaliers countered and scored another four runs in the bottom of that same inning. Both Hylton and freshman infielder Bella Cabral had two RBIs in the game. The score held steady after the fifth, resulting in another huge 7-1 win for Virginia. 

Game 3 — Virginia 1, Iowa State 0

In a long and tense nine-inning game, the Cavaliers managed to scrape out a win against the Cyclones (7-7, 0-0 Big 12) Sunday morning. The teams fought back and forth throughout the entire contest, keeping both energy and nerves high as they reached the end of the seventh inning 0-0, leading to two extra innings. Both Virginia and Iowa State kept their defenses tight, and the eighth inning came to a close at 0-0. 

A longer ninth inning followed, with strong offense and defense played by both the Cavaliers and the Cyclones. Bigham stayed consistent throughout the frame and her entire duration on the mound, as her pitching — as well as the efforts of senior pitcher Savanah Henley — only allowed Iowa State to register just two hits over the course of nine innings. The exciting game ended when junior catcher Sarah Coon hit a walk-off RBI single that helped freshman outfielder Kamyria Woody-Giggetts score, allowing the hosts to continue their winning ways with a 1-0 victory. 

Game 4 — Virginia 5, Delaware 0

After waiting two extra days due to inclement weather Friday, Virginia was ready to face the Blue Hens (8-5, 0-0 CAA) Sunday afternoon. Delaware made Cavalier fans nervous right off the bat as two Delaware players reached bases in the top of the first inning, but both were left stranded as senior pitcher Madison Harris got out of the jam.

The Cavaliers failed to score in the first, but they came back to the second inning better than ever. Virginia’s second frame consisted of five hits and five runs, a waterfall of scoring initiated by Cabral, who singled to begin the inning and later came around to score the Cavaliers’ opening run. The explosion brought Virginia back to the early lead they had gotten used to seeing all weekend.

Harris and senior pitcher Mikayla Houge kept Delaware quiet for the remainder of the game, seeing the Cavaliers to a 5-0 victory that marked their third shutout and fourth victory of the weekend. Virginia allowed just one run across the 28 innings it played in the Rawlings Classic, an outstanding showing from the team’s pitching and defense. Hardin was once again filled with praise when asked about the performance of her pitchers.

“The pitchers giving up only one earned run over 28 innings is a testament to the work they’ve put in with [Assistant] Coach [Jamie] Allred,” Hardin said.

The Cavaliers have now pushed their winning streak to six games as they inch closer to the start of ACC play in March. Virginia will look to keep that energy going this week when they play a double-header against Radford Tuesday. The first game will begin at 2 p.m., and the second will start at 4 p.m.


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