The Virginia softball team had scored just one run in 12 innings of play Saturday when junior second baseman Arizona Ritchie stepped into the box in the sixth inning against George Washington. After a loss earlier in the day to JMU, the Cavaliers needed a clutch hit.
Ritchie delivered, smacking a ball to the outfield that snuck by the glove of George Washington right fielder Faith Weber. It eventually made its way toward the wall and Ritchie ran into third base for a two-RBI triple. UVa took a 2-1 lead after a sluggish start at the plate.
“Resilient,” head coach Joanna Hardin said of her team. “That’s been the word we’ve used a lot in the last 12 months.”
The go ahead-hit helped propel UVa to a 3-2 win over George Washington on Saturday. The victory for Virginia (4-5, 2-3 ACC) gave the Cavaliers a split in their Saturday games, beating the Colonials by one and falling to JMU, 5-1.
“I was really proud of the team for how they bounced back,” Hardin said. “We’re learning how to put together a pitching outing and a complete seven innings of offense and defense. You’re always happy with a win, even though you scrape it out at the end.”
In the loss to the Dukes, the Cavaliers looked much-improved from a season ago against a JMU team that looks almost identical to its 2020 version. Many of JMU’s top upperclassmen returned from last season. Virginia opened Palmer Park against the Dukes last season, but fell 10-3 in their first home game at the new facility. They allowed 10 runs in the final three innings of the loss.
This time around, facing JMU ace Odicci Alexander, the Cavaliers hung tough. They trailed just 3-0 after six innings before JMU’s Logan Newton hit a two-run home run. UVa’s Donna Friedman added a solo home run for the Cavaliers to break up Alexander’s shutout.
Despite losing by four runs, the Cavaliers threatened multiple times against the Dukes and left 10 runners on base in the loss.
“I was really proud that the result was a little bit different,” Hardin said. “Obviously, you want to win that game, but we kept bringing it, kept getting after it.”
After losing to JMU, UVa turned to sophomore pitcher Morgan Murphy against GW. The youngster delivered, throwing 6 2/3 innings and allowing just two runs. Freshman Madison Harris came in and earned the save.
“Really proud of Morgan coming out in the second game and throwing really well,” Hardin said. “She’s worked really hard, so it’s really rewarding to see her earn that win.”
The pitching was solid in the 3-2 win over George Washington, but it was Ritchie’s triple that ensured the Cavaliers wouldn’t lose both Saturday games. With the game in the balance and the Cavaliers scoreless, Ritchie delivered the critical two-RBI hit. She came home to score on an error by the Colonials, giving Virginia a 3-1 lead.
While GW added a run in the top of the seventh, Harris recorded a final strikeout to squash the scoring threat.
“Really, really proud of them for not only taking the lead back but holding it out in the last inning,” Hardin said.
UVa will play a doubleheader against George Washington on Sunday. The first game is set to begin at noon.