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ELON, N.C. – The University of Virginia softball team (1-1) dropped a hard-fought battle to Elon, 10-8, in the final game of the Elon Tournament Sunday in Elon, N.C. The Cavaliers trailed by as many as six runs in the contest but battled back on three different occasions.

For the second straight game, the Cavaliers registered 10 hits, including three home runs against the Phoenix. Senior Nicole Koren (Warminster, Pa.) hit her second on the day and the 14th of her career. Classmate Sarah Tacke (Merced, Calif.) also homered while freshman Alex Skinkis (La Plama, Calif.) belted her first career long ball.

Both Koren and Tacke finished with three hits in the contest. Each had a double and a single to go along with their respective home runs.

All three UVa pitchers saw action against Elon. Freshman Melanie Mitchell (White Plains, Md.) came on to throw the final 2 2/3 innings and did not allow a run while striking out seven. Sophomore Stephanie Coates (Gloucester, Va.) took the loss for the Cavaliers.

Elon (2-0) jumped out to a quick lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. After a leadoff walk and a bunt single, Emerald Graham homered to left center, giving the Phoenix and early advantage.

Virginia, however, responded in the top of the second. Koren and Tacke led off the inning with back-to-back homers. Then with two outs, senior Abby Snyder (Cantonment, Fla.) walked and successfully stole second. The throw went into center field and Snyder scored on the play.

The Phoenix went up 4-3 with a run in the third. Graham singled and stole second. After back-to-back outs, Kaitlyn Piazzolla singled to right to score Graham.

Again the Cavaliers were able to battle back. In the top of the fourth, Koren doubled down the right field line to lead off the inning. Tacke then doubled to left center, scoring Koren to tie the game.

Koren, who started the game in the circle, was relieved in the bottom of the fourth by Coates. But Elon had a big inning, scoring six runs on five hits to take a 10-4 lead. Mitchell came on in relief for Coates and struck out the last two after the Phoenix had batted around.

Virginia chipped away at Elon’s six-run lead. In the fifth, sophomore Giannina Cipolloni (Philadelphia, Pa.) tripled to right center. With two outs, Skinkis then belted her first career homer to left to cut the deficit to four runs.

Mitchell struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth, and the Cavaliers added two more runs in the top of the sixth. Snyder reached on an error and Clara Kendall (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Cipolloni followed with back-to-back walks. Pinch hitter Kennedy Byxbee (Paradise Valley, Ariz.) then earned another base on balls to score Snyder. Skinkis notched another RBI with a foul pop out to short that scored Kendall on the tag.

Elon was shutout in the sixth, but Virginia was unable to score in the seventh, and the Cavaliers took their first loss of the year.

Koren threw the first three innings and allowed four runs on five hits. She also struck out four and walked five. Coates faced eight batters in the fifth, throwing just 1/3 of the stanza. She gave up six runs (three earned) on four hits, walked two and struck out one.

Elon’s Lauren Taylor earned the victory in the circle, throwing 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs (five earned) on 10 hits. She walked four and struck out four. Erin O’Shea came on to toss the final 1 2/3 innings.

Virginia returns to action next weekend at LSU’s Tiger Classic. The Cavaliers will take on nationally ranked Michigan at noon central (1 p.m. eastern) Friday in Baton Rouge, La.

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