After cruising past Bowling Green with 10-2 victory in the opening game of the National Invitational Softball Championship, Virginia struggled against Central Arkansas and fell 5-3 on Tuesday afternoon in Fort Collins.
After a scoreless first inning, the Cavaliers got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning as Sarah Coon blasted a solo home run to center field.
Other than that, pitchers Mikayla Houge and Kayla Beaver kept the game quiet through the first three innings with just four baserunners combined.
In the top of the fourth, the Bears’ offense came to life. Morgan Nelson hit a two-run home run with one out and then Kristen Whitehouse hit another two-run homer with two outs to take a 4-1 lead. Mikayla Houge finished her outing allowing five hits and four runs as Savanah Henley came in to relieve her.
Morgan Nelson added an RBI single in the top of the fifth inning for her third RBI of the day. Through five innings, Sarah Coon had two of Virginia’s three base hits as Central Arkansas starter Kayla Beaver got the better of the UVA batters for most of the game.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Cavaliers managed to load the bases with two walks and an error, but were unable to capitalize and the Bears escaped the inning with the 5-1 lead.
Madison Harris pitched a scoreless seventh inning, and then it was time for the Cavaliers to attempt a comeback. Abby Weaver reached on an error, Lauren VanAssche singled, and Arizona Ritchie walked to load the bases with one out, bringing the tying run to the plate. Leah Boggs came in clutch with a two-run single to right field, cutting the deficit to two runs and chasing Beaver from the game.
Katie Goldberg singled after the pitching change, but the new pitcher, Jordan Johnson, managed to get two strikeouts to end the rally and preserve the 5-3 victory for Central Arkansas.
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This game mirrored the ACC quarterfinals against Florida State in a lot of ways, with the Cavalier bats rallying in the seventh inning, but not enough to complete the comeback. However, Virginia will get a second chance in this tournament with its double elimination format, unlike the ACC Championship.
Now facing elimination, Virginia will face Kansas on Wednesday at 10:30am (ET). If the Cavaliers are able to beat the Jayhawks, UVA will move on to play another game on Wednesday against No. 2 seed Baylor at 3:30pm. The winner of that game will advance to the championship round.
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