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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Virginia softball team improved to 12-6 on the year with wins over Illinois State and Long Island Saturday as play continued in the Citrus Classic at the ESPN Wide Wild of Sports. The Cavaliers defeated the Redbirds 3-0 in eight innings and went on to beat the Blackbirds 9-4 in a come-from-behind effort.

It was a pitchers’ dual in the first game between UVa sophomore Melanie Mitchell and Illinois State freshman Taylor Baxter. Through seven compete innings, both teams were scoreless, with the Redbirds holding a 4-3 hit advantage.

In the top of the eighth, the Cavaliers were able to generate some offense. Sophomore Taylor Williams was placed on second to start the stanza, per international tiebreaker rules. She moved to third on a Giannina Cipolloni groundout and Alison Pittman reached first on a fielder’s choice, as Illinois State looked Williams back at third and did not throw to first.

Freshman Marcy Bowdren stepped with the plate with runners on the corners and proceeded to belt her first career home run over the left field fence. The Redbirds (10-7) went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth and Virginia claimed a 3-0 victory to mark its second extra innings win of the season (in as many games).

Mitchell (7-5) threw all eight innings and recorded her fourth complete game shutout of the season. She finished with 11 strikeouts and did not walk a batter.

The Cavaliers then used a five-run sixth inning to come back and beat Long Island (3-14) in the second game of the afternoon.

Trailing 3-0 in the fourth, Virginia cut the deficit to 3-2 after back-to-back singles by junior Alison Pittman and freshman Marcy Bowdren. Pittman scored on an Erica Cipolloni single to left and Bowdren came in on an Alexa Martinez fielder’s choice to the right side.

After the Blackbirds extended the lead to 4-2 in the fifth, the Cavaliers were able to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning. Giannina Cipolloni led off the stanza with a bunt single and stole second. Pittman followed with a walk. The next batter, Bowdren, laid down a bunt single. An overthrow by a LIU player into the outfield on the play allowed both Cipolloni and Pittman to come around and score.

Virginia put up five runs on five hits in the top of the sixth. Giannina Cipolloni tallied a RBI double to right, Stephanie Harris had a two RBI single to left and Erica Cipolloni had a two RBI double left.

Erica Cipolloni, a freshman, had another solid outing, working six innings and allowing two earned runs on four hits. She also tallied three strikeouts. Mitchell came on to throw the final inning and sat down LIU 1-2-3.

For the game, Virginia outhit the Blackbirds 11-4.

The Cavaliers conclude play in the Citrus Classic at 9 a.m. Sunday against top-ranked Alabama.

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