GREENVILLE, N.C. - The Virginia softball team (2-0) picked up two victories on opening day with a 5-2 win over Drexel and a 3-1 defeat of East Carolina Friday in Greenville, N.C. Junior pitcher Melanie Mitchell (White Plains, Md.) tallied 13 strikeouts in UVa's win against the host Pirates.
Three Virginia freshmen - Megan Harris, Rachel Gillen and Heidi Velk - earned their first starts in the first game of the day vs. Drexel (0-1) and all recorded at least one hit in the winning effort.
The Cavaliers put up three runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh against the Dragons. Sophomore Erica Cipolloni (Philadelphia, Pa.) led the offense with three singles and three steals while Harris (Knoxville, Tenn.) added two singles.
Gillen (Wilmington, Del.) collected her first collegiate win in the complete game outing. She allowed one earned run on six hits and finished with three strikeouts.
After four scoreless innings, Virginia got on the board in the top of the fifth. With two outs, Cipolloni singled through the left side and stole second. After a Stephanie Harris (Knoxville, Tenn.) walk, a passed ball allowed both runners to move up a base. Alex Skinkis (La Palma, Calif.) stepped to the plate and belted a single to center, allowing both Cipolloni and Harris to score. The next batter, Marcy Bowdren (Fairfax Station, Va.) tripled off the wall in right to bring home Skinkis and give the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead.
UVa added two more runs in the top of the seventh. Cipolloni led off the inning with a single up the middle and stole second. Stephanie Harris walked and after a pitching change, Skinkis moved over the runners on a sacrifice bunt. Bowdren was hit by a pitch and took second then third on a Gillen fielder's choice, which also allowed Harris t o score after a Drexel throwing error. Bowdren would score on Megan Harris' RBI infield single to second and Virginia led 5-0.
The Dragons were able to concoct two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning on three hits and a Virginia error. They left the bases loaded as the Cavaliers won the first game of the year for the fourth consecutive season.
Shelby Taylor took the loss for Drexel, throwing six innings and giving up five runs on eight hits. She also tallied two strikeouts and four walks. Shyann Beach came on in the seventh and allowed one hit.
Jenn Reading and Sylvia Llamas each had two hits for the Dragons.
In the second game, Mitchell was perfect through five innings. She allowed one ECU run on four hits in all seven innings of work and did not walk a batter.
Virginia collected four hits against the Pirates, led by Skinkis, who finished with a single and a triple. Giannina Cipolloni (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Megan Harris also had singles in the victory.
The Cavaliers struck first with a run in the second inning. With one out, Skinkis tripled to right and was brought home on Bowdren's RBI groundout to the right side for a 1-0 lead. In the third, Megan Harris led off with a single through the left side and moved to second on a Velk groundout. She would score on Giannina Cipolloni's RBI single through the right side to give Virginia a 2-0 lead.
UVa added another run in the fourth to go up 3-0. Erica Cipolloni led off the stanza taking first on a hit by pitch. When Stephanie Harris laid down a sacrifice bunt, Cipolloni not only advanced to second, but was also able to take third with no one covering. Skinkis then scored Cipolloni on her RBI single to left.
East Carolina (0-1) put together back-to-back doubles in the sixth inning from Jasmine Robbins and Cicely Lopez to cut UVa's lead to 3-1, but Mitchell struck out two in the seventh to end the game.
Courtney Smith took the loss for ECU. She tossed six innings and finished with two strikeouts.
Virginia continues play in the Pirate Classic with two more games Saturday. The Cavaliers will meet Canisius at 10 a.m. before playing Drexel at 12 p.m.
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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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