DURHAM, N.C. – The Virginia softball team (2-3, 1-2 ACC) split action at ACC pod play in North Carolina on Saturday (Feb. 20), dropping the morning contest with Louisville (2-4, 2-2 ACC) by a score of 5-4 before taking a 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh (1-4, 1-2ACC) to close the day’s action.

Freshman Mikayla Houge (Collins, Iowa) struck out 12 batters in her start against the Panthers, picking up her first career win. The 12 strikeouts is the most by a Virginia pitcher against an ACC opponent since Melanie Mitchell struck out 13 against Boston College on March 30, 2013.

The Cavaliers struck first in both games, but Louisville claimed the first game of the day with a walk off rally, while Virginia held off Pittsburgh in the seventh to win game two of the day.

GAME ONE: Louisville 5, Virginia 4
Virginia amassed 12 hits in the opener on Saturday, but left 11 players on base despite the bevy of hits. It kept the door open for Louisville starting pitcher Taylor Roby, who delivered a two-run walk off single in the seventh to give Louisville the victory.

Madison Harris (1-3) took the loss in relief, allowing the two runs on two hits with a walk in 1.1 innings of work. She entered the game with the Cavaliers holding a 4-3 lead to start the sixth inning. Morgan Murphy () worked 5.0 innings in her first career appearance, allowing three runs on six hits with a strikeout.

Gabby Holloway (1-1) picked up the relief win for Louisville, working the final 1.0 as she retired the side in order in the seventh. Roby worked 4.2 innings in the start, allowing three runs on nine hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Louisville used three pitchers on the day.

Virginia struck first, pushing a run home in the third inning when Ashley Jennings (Forest, Va.) singled off the wall in left center to drive in pinch-runner Abigail Barber (Providence Forge, Va.). Barber entered to run for Donna Friedman (Orange, Calif.) who had doubled to set up the two-out hit from Jennings.

Louisville answered in the fourth when the Cardinals’ Makayla Hurst came to the plate with runners at the corners and delivered a ground ball up the middle that was bobbled by the fielder, allowing the run to score from third and keeping two on with one out.

The Cavaliers moved back in front with a two-out rally in the fifth inning. Jennings drew the two-out walk before Kate Covington (McLean, Va.) doubled to bring her home. Arizona Ritchie (Stafford, Va.) then dropped a bloop single in down the right field line to score Covington before Louisville would go to its bullen and All-American Jennifer Leonhardt to get out of the inning.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Louisville answered with its own two-out rally in the bottom half of the inning when Taylor Roby hit a two-run shot to right and tied the game at three.

The back-and-forth game continued in the sixth as Virginia got back-to-back singles to start the inning before Friedman would double to center and push the Cavaliers in front, 4-3.

Virginia couldn’t hold Louisville off down the stretch, however. A hit batter and a single up the middle put two on with one out in the seventh before a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position. Roby then came up with the two-RBI single to give the Cardinals the win.

GAME TWO: Virginia 4, Pittsburgh 2
The Cavaliers got into the win column with the outstanding performance from Houge in the second game of the day – using her 12 strikeouts and a solid defensive performance to pick up the victory over Pitt.

Houge (1-0) worked 6.1 innings in the start, striking out the 12 batters while allowing two runs on five hits and retiring the first 13 batters faced. Mackenzie Wooten (Windsor, Va.) picked up the save as she worked the final two outs, entering with the bases loaded and allowing a sac fly on a foul ball before striking out the final batter.

Brittany Knight (0-2) suffered the loss for Pitt, allowing the four runs on one hit in 2.1 innings of work. She walked five and struck out three.

Virginia used a four-run third inning to take the lead, scoring the four runs with the benefit of only one hit in the frame. The unusual inning saw Virginia take advantage of four walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly to score the four runs. The Cavaliers then relied on the arm of Houge and its defense to make the four-run advantage hold up down the stretch.

Virginia’s third-inning rally started with a leadoff single from Winscott before back-to-back walks would load the bases. A strikeout followed, but consecutive walks of Covington and Ritchie brought two home and sent Pittsburgh to the bullpen for Becca Miller. A hit batter and a sac fly in the next two at bats brought two more runs home for Virginia and pushed the lead to 4-0 before Pittsburgh would get out of the inning.

Pitt cut into the lead in the seventh inning, loading the bases before Houge would record her 12th strikeout of the game. A walk brought in the first run of the game for the Panthers and Virginia turned to Wooten out of the bullpen. The Cavaliers traded an out for a run on a foul fly to right field from the first batter faced by Wooten before the reliever got a strikeout to end the game and secure the 4-2 victory.

NOTES ON THE DAY
• Morgan Murphy made her first career start and appearance when she started against the Cardinals.
• Murphy retired seven consecutive batters after giving up a single to the first Louisville batter faced.
• Mikayla Houge retired the first 13 batters faced against Pitt and struck out eight of those first 13 batters.
• Houge struck out 12 batters on the day, the first double-digit strikeout performance since Aly Rayle struck out 10 vs. Maine (2/21/20) and the most strikeouts against an ACC opponent since Mitchell’s 13 vs. BC (3/30/13).
• The save for Wooten against Pitt was her second career save – the other came against Bucknell (3/10/20).
• Virginia has now scored first in all five games played this season.

FROM HEAD COACH JOANNA HARDIN
“I’m really proud of the effort and grit the team showed today. We are learning and maturing every game. It will take every person on our roster, working together and executing the task at hand, to win games this season. Morgan (Murphy) threw really well in her first start of the year against Louisville. I loved her composure and competitiveness in the circle. Mikalya (Houge) followed her up with a great outing against Pitt to get her first win of her college career. They both had great tempo and gave us a chance to win. I’m confident we will keep pounding the stone, grinding every day and putting the pieces together. We are so grateful to be on the field competing together.”

UP NEXT FOR THE HOOS
Virginia will return to action on Sunday, playing both Louisville and Pittsburgh again to close out the weekend of ACC pod play in North Carolina. The Cavaliers will face the Cardinals at 11 a.m. and the Panthers at 1:30 p.m. Both games will be played at NC State.

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