Cavaliers Make NCAA Debut Friday vs. Louisville
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Virginia softball team (33-21) will make its NCAA Tournament debut at 4 p.m. Friday against Louisville (29-17) in Knoxville, Tenn. The regional, which also includes No. 15 national seed Tennessee and Ball State, is being hosted by the Lady Vols at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Tennessee (42-13) will play the Cardinals (43-14) in the second game at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The Cavaliers are having a historic season. Its 13 wins in the ACC this year set a school record. Prior to 2010, the Cavaliers had never reached double digit wins in league play. UVa previously won nine conference games during the 2005 campaign, which also marks the last time the Cavaliers won 30 games in a season.
The NCAA bid for the Cavaliers marks yet another milestone. The softball team became the 25th program at the university to receive an invitation to NCAA postseason competition; all 25 programs currently sponsored by Virginia have earned bids to NCAA postseason play.
Along with the UVa’s first bid in school history, third-year mentor Eileen Schmidt earned her first NCAA Tournament bid as a head coach. She previously coached two seasons at Northwestern State (2003-04) and three years at Kentucky (2005-06-07) before returning to Charlottesville. Schmidt, however, is no stranger to the national tournament. She served as an assistant at both South Carolina and Arkansas, helping the Gamecocks to a regional appearance in 1995 and the Lady Razorbacks to two NCAA berths in 2000 and 2002.
The Cavaliers are coming off play in the ACC Championship, where No. 2 Virginia was upset by No. 7 Virginia Tech, 1-0, in the first round.
Fifth-year senior Sarah Tacke leads UVa at the plate this season with a .362 average, which also ranks fourth among ACC players. Tacke’s 10 doubles and 42 also lead the squad; her 10 home runs are second behind teammate Nicole Koren’s 10 long balls. Koren is hitting .308 and paces Virginia in scoring with 34 runs.
Freshman pitcher Melanie Mitchell remains one win shy of tying the school record for victories in a season. She posts a 26-16 mark with an ERA of 2.67. Mitchell also has 280 strikeouts on the year in 267 2/3 innings of work.
Louisville, making its seventh consecutive NCAA regional appearance, is 39-17 overall (16-6 BIG EAST) and is coming off a runner-up finish in the BIG EAST Tournament. The host Cardinals defeated Pitt (9-1 in six innings) and Notre Dame (5-2) in the conference tournament before falling to Syracuse, 2-1, in the championship game.
Five U of L players post a batting average above the .300 mark: senior Melissa Roth (.398), freshmen Alicja Wilny (.321) and Jordan Trimble (.311), junior Chelsea Benis (.311) and senior Vanessa James (.303). Roth also boasts a team-best 57 runs scored, 16 home runs and 47 RBI. Wilny has a squad-best 20 doubles in addition to 27 RBI while Benis has contributed 12 home runs and 44 RBI. On the basepaths, three U of L players lead the way: freshman Jennifer Esteban (18 stolen bases), James (16) and Roth (14).
In the circle, sophomore Tori Collins is 17-4 on the year with a 2.36 RBI. Teammate Kristen Wadwell, a senior, is 18-11 with a 2.74 ERA. Collins has 147 strikeouts in 151 innings of work while Wadwell has 158 punchouts in 186 1/3 innings.
Virginia and Louisville have met just twice before, with the series tied 1-1. The last meeting came a year ago at UNLV’s Desert Classic. The Cardinals defeated the Cavaliers, 5-4, on Feb. 15. UVa’s win against Louisville came in the first meeting, a 6-0 victory on Feb. 23, 2003.
The winner of the double-elimination regional will move on to face the winner from the Ann Arbor, Mich., regional (Michigan, Notre Dame, Illinois State, Wright State) May 28-29 in Super Regional competition.
Knoxville Regional – May 21-23 at Knoxville, Tennessee
Friday, May 21
4 p.m. Louisville vs. Virginia (Game One)
6:30 p.m. Ball State vs. No. 15 seed Tennessee (Game Two)
Saturday, May 22
1 p.m. Winner Game One/Winner Game Two (Game Three)
3:30 p.m. Loser Game One/Loser Game Two (Game Four)
6 p.m. Loser Game Three/Winner Game Four (Game Five)
Sunday, May 23
1 p.m. Winner Game Three/Winner Game Five (Game Six)
3:30 p.m. Rematch of Game Six