CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The No. 6 seeded Virginia softball team (26-25) put up four runs in the top of the seventh but its rally fell short in a 6-4 loss to third-seeded Georgia Tech Thursday in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship.
Freshman Rachel Gillen (Wilmington, Del.) and sophomore Karli Johnson (Lovettsville, Va.) hit back-to-back pinch hit home runs to lead off the seventh, marking the first career home runs for each.
With the win, Georgia Tech (34-31) advances to face the winner of No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 7 NC State at 1 p.m. Friday in the first semifinal game.
Junior pitcher Melanie Mitchell (White Plains, Md.) matched a Virginia program record with her 112th start in the circle vs. the Yellow Jackets. She was named a second-team All-ACC selection Thursday.
Mitchell threw all six innings and gave up six runs on nine hits, but did not walk a batter and finished with five strikeouts.
Junior catcher Kristen Hawkins (Elizabeth, Pa.) set a school record when she was hit by a pitch for the 13th time this season in the third inning. The previous mark of 12 was set by current volunteer coach Sarah Tacke in 2010.
Additionally, Virginia and Georgia Tech matched a tournament record with five home runs combined in the game. Boston College and Georgia Tech hit five home runs at the 2006 event that was also held in Chapel Hill.
Senior Kennedy Byxbee (Paradise Valley, Ariz.) and sophomore Stephanie Harris (Knoxville, Tenn.) both doubled and sophomore Erica Cipolloni (Philadelphia, Pa.) singled to help pace the Cavalier offense.
The Yellow Jackets went up 2-0 in the first after Kate Kuzma doubled before Alysha Rudnik hit a two-run homer to left center. The game held with a 2-0 score and Mitchell retired 10 straight batters until the fifth when Georgia Tech put up three more runs on five hits, including a Shannon Bear leadoff homer. Hope Rush's leadoff homer in the sixth, the third of the game for GT, made it 6-0.
Virginia put together an incredible rally in the top half of the seventh. After Gillen and Johnson hit back-to-back pinch hit home runs, Alex Skinkis (La Palma, Calif.) and Alexa Martinez (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) recorded back-to-back walks with one out and junior Taylor Williams (Woodbridge, Va.) came on to run for Martinez. Cipolloni followed with a RBI single to left to plate Skinkis and cut the lead to 6-3.
Harris then reached on a fielding error by Georgia Tech's Hayley Downs in center, which allowed Williams to score. With Cipolloni on third and Harris on second, Rush got sophomore Marcy Bowdren (Fairfax Station, Va.) to ground out before Byxbee, representing the go-ahead run, flied out to deep center on a 2-1 count for the final out of the game.
Rush earned the win for Georgia Tech; she threw six scoreless innings until UVa's comeback in the seventh. She tallied four strikeouts and seven walks in the contest.
The Cavaliers left nine runners on base compared to just two for Georgia Tech.
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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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