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Virginia softball wins three of five games at the Easton Bama Bash

Although the Cavaliers finished the weekend strong, the Crimson Tide proved too great a hurdle for Virginia

<p>Sophomore infielder Jade Hylton belted a pair of home runs in the Cavaliers' 9-3 win over St. Thomas Sunday.</p>

Sophomore infielder Jade Hylton belted a pair of home runs in the Cavaliers' 9-3 win over St. Thomas Sunday.

Virginia softball was on the road again this weekend, as the Cavaliers (6-4, 0-0 ACC) traveled south for the Easton Bama Bash hosted by Alabama. Although Virginia had strong showings against Southern Indiana (1-4, 0-0 OVC) and St. Thomas (1-9, 0-0 Summit League), the Cavaliers could not get past the No. 11 Crimson Tide (10-0, 0-0 SEC) in either of their two matchups.

Game 1 — Virginia 5, Southern Indiana 2

The Cavaliers started the weekend off against Southern Indiana Friday, where sophomore infielder Jade Hylton put Virginia on the board in the third inning with a two-run home run.

The Screaming Eagles halved the deficit in the bottom of the third due to senior infielder Lexi Fair’s RBI single. After the run scored, senior pitcher Savanah Henley was relieved by sophomore pitcher Eden Bigham, who was up to the challenge in her place. Bigham set down the next two batters to end the inning and proved to be a crucial player throughout the game, recording 11 strikeouts and allowing only one run across 4.2 innings of work. 

That run for Southern Indiana came in the fourth inning to knot the score at 2-2, but junior utility player Sarah Coon’s two-run home run in the sixth inning gave the Cavaliers a comfortable 4-2 lead. Another clutch hit for Coon in the seventh inning allowed Hylton to score, and three runs of insurance was enough for Bigham to close out the game comfortably. 

Game 2 — Alabama 3, Virginia 1

After taking down the Screaming Eagles, Virginia returned to the field Friday evening to face the Crimson Tide. It was clear early on that this would be a significant challenge, as Alabama fifth-year utility player Lauren Esman started things off quickly with a two-run home run in the first inning. Play cooled down with three scoreless innings to follow, but the Crimson Tide pulled further ahead in the fifth after sophomore infielder Abby Duchscherer’s RBI single.

Down three runs heading to the seventh, the Cavaliers needed a big rally to pull off a victory. Things started positively for Virginia, as Coon and freshman infielder Macee Eaton ripped a pair of singles that brought the tying run to the plate with only one out. A flyout from junior infielder Shelby Barbee brought one run home and left junior outfielder Kailyn Jones with the chance to tie things up for the Cavaliers, but Jones grounded out to end the game. 

Game 3 — Alabama 3, Virginia 2

Virginia came back on the second day of the Easton Bama Bash for a rematch against Alabama Saturday. The Crimson Tide struck first yet again in this one, with junior infielder Kali Heivilin earning an RBI single in the first inning. Alabama added two more runs in the second behind a home run from senior infielder Bailey Dowling and an RBI single by freshman outfielder Lauren Johnson, which put the Crimson Tide up 3-0. 

Virginia finally got on the scoreboard in the third inning when Eaton cashed in with a two-run single that brought junior utility player Kelly Ayer and freshman infielder Bella Cabral home. However, that hit would mark the end of scoring for both teams, as neither one could break through in the final few innings. Bigham shone for the Cavaliers, pitching six innings and allowing only four hits and three runs. She was unlucky to take the loss, moving to 2-2 on the season.

Game 4 — Virginia 3, Southern Indiana 1

The Cavaliers returned to the field Saturday afternoon to face Southern Indiana once again. Virginia opened the scoring this time, getting on the board early with a sacrifice fly from Cabral that helped Ayer score. 

Virginia struck again in the second inning after poor defense from the Screaming Eagles. A wild pitch followed by a throwing error allowed sophomore catcher Mary Caroline Eaton to score from second base. Later on in the fourth inning, the Cavaliers’ third and final run of the game — this time from sophomore outfielder Kassidy Hudson — arrived on yet another wild pitch from Southern Indiana.

The Screaming Eagles were able to get on the board in the fifth inning on freshman utility player Sydney Long’s RBI double, but that run finished the scoring for the day as the Cavaliers ended on top with a 3-1 victory. 

Virginia’s pitching sealed the deal in this matchup, as senior pitcher Madison Harris had a remarkable game with a career-high nine strikeouts while senior pitcher Savanah Henley tossed 3 innings and allowed just one run. 

Game 5 — Virginia 9, St. Thomas 3

The Cavaliers took on St. Thomas Sunday in their fifth and final game of the weekend. Virginia started strong, earning an immediate lead with Hylton’s two-run home run in the first inning. That advantage proved to be beneficial for Virginia, as the next 4 innings turned into a battle between the pitchers. 

With the score still 2-0 heading into the sixth inning, the game kicked off in grand fashion. The Cavaliers poured in four runs in their half of the sixth, as a pair of singles from Jones and senior utility player Abby Weaver plated two runs before Ayer padded Virginia’s lead with a two-run triple.

Harris earned 3.0 scoreless innings, allowing only 1 hit and 4 strikeouts — her second straight win of the weekend. 

The Tommies responded with three runs in the sixth inning to trim their deficit to three runs, but Virginia put a stop to the comeback in the seventh inning with a home-run from Hylton — her second of the game — and a two-run double from Weaver. Bigham and senior pitcher Mikayla Houge recorded three consecutive outs to seal the Cavaliers’ third and final win of the weekend.

Hardin noted that the team evolved throughout the weekend, emphasizing the importance of Virginia’s pitching contributions throughout the tournament. 

“Our goal every weekend is to learn ourselves and take clear feedback home with us so we know exactly where and how to work,” Hardin said. “In that sense, the weekend was a huge success. I thought the pitching staff made some excellent adjustments from opening weekend to this weekend.”

The Cavaliers left the Easton Bama Bash with increased confidence on the mound, but with some work to do at the plate. Virginia earned only three runs in its two games against Alabama last weekend, a similar issue to the one faced against South Carolina a weekend before. The Cavaliers will need to have more commanding offensive showings if they want to take down top teams. 

Looking ahead, Virginia is preparing to play at home for the first time this season. The Cavaliers are hosting the Rawlings Classic, where Delaware, Lehigh and Iowa State will travel to Charlottesville to play in the three-day tournament. Virginia will start the tournament Friday with a game against Delaware at 3:30 p.m., which will be streamed on ACCNX.


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