Feb. 7, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—The Virginia softball team opens its 2013 season with the Campbell/Hampton Inn Invitational Friday and Saturday (Feb. 8-9) in Buies Creek, N.C.
The Cavaliers will play Robert Morris and the host Camels on Friday at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, before facing off with St. Bonaventure and George Washington on Saturday at 6:20 p.m. and 8:40 p.m., respectively. Live stats will be available and linked through VirginiaSports.com.
Virginia went 26-25 (8-13 ACC) in 2012 with junior Erica Cipolloni (Philadelphia, Pa.) leading the squad with a .300 batting average and seven home runs. Fellow junior Marcy Bowdren (Fairfax Station, Va.) tied for the team lead with 25 RBI and hit six homers, while senior Kristen Hawkins added five long balls.
Senior pitcher Melanie Mitchell (White Plains, Md.) led the pitching staff, going 19-13 with a 1.55 ERA and 278 strikeouts. One of the most successful hurlers in program history, Mitchell ranks second in career strikeouts (831), fourth in wins (63) and will set the school record for most career starts with her first start this season. She is currently tied for the most with 112 starts along with Lisa Palmer.
Up next, the Cavaliers will travel to Baton Rouge, La., for a tournament at LSU Feb. 15-17.
Senior Kristen Hawkins and Marcy Bowdren will both split time at catcher and third base. Hawkins saw most of the time behind the plate last year, but has been practicing at third during the preseason.
“Even though they are different types of players, Kristen is 6-1, Marcy is 5-1, both are quick and strong defensive catchers,” UVa head coach Eileen Schmidt said. “Their hand and foot reactions are unbelievable. Kristen hasn’t spent any time at third (before this year), but she looks pretty comfortable out there.”
“Both are very blue collar,” Schmidt said. “They make the routine plays, but will throw in some flashy moves every once in awhile.”
“We have always said that our second baseman runs the infield,” Schmidt said. “Erica is that type of vocal leader for us.”
Sophomore Megan Harris will make the move over to first base this year.
“Megan has picked up first base extremely well because she had playing time at third base,” Schmidt said. “I think she is enjoying how laid-back first base is compared to third.”
Junior Karli Johnson will also compete for playing time in the infield after recovering from an injury in fall.
“In the outfield, we have a lot of speed that can get to a lot of fly balls,” Schmidt said. “We have Taylor, Heidi and Shannon and Peyton has pushed them because of the offensive power she brings.”
In the circle, senior Melanie Mitchell will once again be the key cog on the Cavaliers’ staff. Two freshmen, Aimee Chapdelaine and Emma Mitchell, will complement the senior, as all three bring different styles.
“The key is to keep them healthy and fresh because it’s a very long season,” Schmidt said. “Melanie has become a mentor to Aimee and Emma and has really taken them under her wing, showing them what to expect their first year. Aimee and Emma are two very different pitchers. Emma is pretty much a floater, while Aimee throws a little harder with a lot of spin. It’s going to be a good combination to have behind Melanie.”
“A nice mixture of speed, contact and power,” Schmidt said. “It’s an interesting group because the little speedy athletes have added some power and pop to their game. Now that they are older too, they are getting better at reading the defense and getting the pitches they need to complete the task at hand.
“Alex Skinkis, Megan Harris, and Marcy Bowdren all are really good contact hitters. Megan is a little bit bigger so she brings more power, along with Kristen Hawkins and Erica Cipolloni. The nice part about the whole group is that while different sizes, they all run extremely well in their own way and all read situations well.
“They have been very good about owning their game this fall and this preseason, getting in extra work on little things like bunting, hit and run to move over runners, staying at bat longer and seeing more pitches. I feel like we will be able to produce when the big one is not there, but we do have the ability to hit the long ball too.”
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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