WISE, Va. – The UVa-Wise softball team was defeated 5-1 by fifth-seeded Shepherd University in the first game of the 2017 NCAA Division II Atlantic 1 Regional Thursday evening at Cavalier Field. The fourth-seeded Cavaliers (36-17) were only able to collect three hits against the Rams (39-20) in the two teams’ fifth meeting this season. Hosting the NCAA Atlantic Regional, UVa-Wise is the first athletics program in school history to earn a NCAA at-large bid and host a NCAA postseason event.
A solo home run by senior first baseman Olivia Cleary (Riner, Va.) in the bottom of the second inning was the Cavs’ lone score of the game. Shepherd lined six hits in the game and scored three runs in unearned fashion due to a pair of Cavalier fielding errors. The Rams’ right-handed pitcher Tara Hanson (21-6) struck out five UVa-Wise batters and needed just 87 total pitches in seven complete innings to pick up her 21st win of the season.
Shepherd took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning after a two-run home run down the right field line by left fielder Jessica Robinson. The Cavs responded in the bottom of the frame on Cleary’s solo homer over right field, making it a one-run game at 2-1.
UVa-Wise’s defensive struggles in the top of the third inning led to three runs for the Rams as Shepherd mounted a 5-1 advantage. Right fielder Paige Buckworth reached on an infield fielding error as first baseman Connor Gilligan advanced to third and then scored. Later in the inning, center fielder Kaitlyn Konopka reached on a dropped fly to center field, allowing both Buckworth and pinch runner Bailee Jackson to reach home plate.
The Cavs had chances to score in both the fifth and the sixth innings but left base runners on second and third in each frame. After a single, hit by pitch and sacrifice bunt, UVa-Wise had runners on second and third with only one out in the fifth but couldn’t bring anyone across home after a strikeout and ground out. The Cavs loaded the bases in the sixth with only one out after a walk, single and hit by pitch but a pair of pop-ups erased any chances for the home team.
Cleary finished the game 1-for-2 at the plate with her home run, while Shepherd shortstop Sarah north went 2-for-3 and Buckworth scored twice.
After recording Shepherd’s first four outs of the game with strikeouts but walking three, junior right-handed ace Taylor Brandts (King George, Va.) was retired after just two innings of work. She took the loss to drop her record to 22-7 on the season as senior right-hander Emily Kale (Shelby, N.C.) tossed four innings in relief without giving up an earned run and striking out one. Freshman Raychel Lapallo (North Chesterfield, Va.) pitched one inning for UVa-Wise.
The Cavs will now face eighth-seeded Chowan University in the first round of the consolation bracket tomorrow afternoon. The Hawks (36-19) fell 2-1 to No. 1 Seed West Chester University (45-10) Thursday night. First pitch from Cavalier Field is slated for 2:30 p.m. The winner will move on to the consolation bracket final, while the loser will be eliminated from the regional championship.
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