CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia softball team (0-0) opens its season this weekend with four games at the Red and Black Showcase in Athens, Ga. The Cavaliers are set to play two games each against No. 14 Georgia (0-0) and South Alabama (0-0).
VIRGINIA’S SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEKEND
Virginia vs. No. 14 Georgia – 2:15 p.m.
Virginia vs. South Alabama – 5:30 p.m.
Virginia vs. South Alabama – 10 a.m.
Virginia vs. No. 14 Georgia – 1:15 p.m.
Due to potential for inclement weather in the area and multiple games throughout the day, expected start times could change.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE ACTION
The two games against the hosting Bulldogs will be streamed on SEC Network+ which is available for stream on the ESPN app to subscribers who have the network as part of their television package. Links to the broadcast and live stats for all games are available at VirginiaSports.com. Fans can also get updates by following the program’s official Twitter account (@UVASoftball).
Virginia returns nine position players from the abbreviated 2020 season who started at least 18 games, including junior Donna Friedman (Orange, Calif.) who led the team with a .324 batting average and 13 RBI, while tying for the team lead in home runs with three. Another key part of the offense in Bailey Winscott (Clinton, Miss.) returns as a top base-stealing threat for the Cavaliers after going 7-for-7 last season to help Virginia go 28-for-32 in steal attempts a year ago.
In the circle, the Cavaliers return four of five pitchers who saw action a year ago and those returning hurlers accounted for 136.2 innings of work in the circle out of 151.1 innings played last season. Among those returning is junior Aly Rayle (Herndon, Va.) who tallied a team-leading 74 strikeouts, the versatile Mackenzie Wooten (Windsor, Va.) who made a team-leading 15 appearances and sophomore Molly Grube (Chesterfield, Va.) who led the team with nine starts.
CAVALIERS WELCOME SIX NEWCOMERS
Virginia has six new faces as part of the squad this season with five freshmen and sophomore transfer Gabby Baylog from Coastal Carolina. A utility player, Baylog joined the squad at the start of the semester and is eligible immediately. The five freshmen comprise a recruiting class that was ranked No. 30 nationally by Extra Inning Softball and has three players who were ranked among the top 100 nationally: catcher Leah Boggs (Mansfield, Ohio) was ranked No. 55, and pitchers Madison Harris (Forest,, Va.) and infielder Lauren VanAssche (Chesapeake, Va.) were ranked No. 91 and No. 95, respectively.
THE CAVALIERS AGAINST GEORGIA AND SOUTH ALABAMA
The Cavaliers don’t have a rich history against either program in the weekend tournament, having never faced South Alabama and only played Georgia once. The Bulldogs and Virginia squared off in the opening weekend of the 2019 season at the FAU First Pitch Classic. Georgia was ranked No. 6 nationally at the time.
A LOOK AT THE BULLDOGS
Georgia enters the season ranked No. 14 in the preseason coaches’ poll released by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The Bulldogs were picked to finish seventh in the SEC this season’s preseason vote of league coaches after posting a 23-5 record a year ago and bringing in a 10-member signing class that was ranked fourth nationally. Returning is last year’s leading hitter, Sydney Kuma, who batted .438 as a freshman 28 runs scored and 24 RBI. Georgia returns Mary Wilson Avant in the circle who posted an 11-4 record through a team-leading 14 starts a year ago with a 1.39 ERA and 120 strikeouts.
A LOOK AT THE JAGUARS
South Alabama returns the bulk of a roster that posted an 8-17 record a year ago, including the top hitter on the team in outfielder Amanda Flynn with a .343 average. The Jaguars also get back 2019 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, Victoria Ortiz, who missed last spring with an injury. In the circle, South Alabama also returns Jenna Hardy who started 13 games last spring with a 3.48 ERA to go along with 39 strikeouts and 38 walks. Opponents hit .290 against her in her 74.2 innings of work.
UP NEXT FOR THE HOOS
Virginia will continue to play on the road next weekend, traveling to compete in one of the ACC pods in games against Louisville and Pittsburgh. Virginia will play three games each against both ACC opponents across four days at Duke and NC State. The games against the Cardinals and the Panthers will count in the ACC standings and competition begins on Thursday (Feb. 18).