M. Eleanor Schmalzl ’20
As most UVA Law students have begun outlining for finals, drafting final papers, and preparing for busy summers, several of them also attended and participated in the 36th Annual UVA Law Softball Invitational held this past weekend. This year’s Tournament Directors, Ali Goldman ’19 and Janie O’Connor ’19, have been preparing all year for this big weekend, working to make the event incredible for the ninety-six teams that traveled to play softball and enjoy a fantastic weekend in Charlottesville. And this year, the tournament came at a particularly special time as the UVA men’s basketball team advanced to the final round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in the UVA’s history.
After a day of rain (as seems to be the norm this year for Fridays in Charlottesville), the tournament kicked off on a turf field Friday at 5 p.m. with two UVA teams facing each other in a first-round matchup that kicked off a wild first round. UVA Co-rec Beach Bums played UVA Denim. The two so-called “fun” squads played a raucous and tight game. By the bottom of the last inning, Denim led 8-5. Beach loaded the bases with nobody out, with team captain Charles Condro ’19 batting and representing the winning run. What followed next was a literal comedy of errors worthy of SportsCenter (or a Little League blooper reel): Condro hit a fly ball to right field that David Rubin ’19 caught (one out). Rubin, embarrassedly nursing a sore elbow resulting from normal physical activity, lofted a rainbow to Martin at first base. Martin stepped on first base to force out the runner, Clay Davis ’19, who had run off first before tagging up thanks to a derelict first base coach (two outs). Derek Keaton ’19, on third base when the pitch was thrown, also ran off the base without tagging up. When he tried to go back to third, he found his base occupied by a smiling John Hale ’19, who had properly tagged up from second base and advanced to third. Keaton was caught in a run-down between third and home in which he was eventually vanquished by Martin (three outs). That’s right, folks: The game ended with a triple play, noted 9-3 in the scorebook, showcasing the excitement to come later on in the weekend.
Saturday games kicked off at 8 a.m. and ran through 8 p.m., with up to ten games being played every hour. Throughout the day, spectators could feel the energy of the teams as they shouted for their teammates, sprinted around the bases, and chugged lots of (likely 100% non-alcoholic) liquids out of red Solo cups. Games were hosted at the Park down the hill from the Law School, Copeley Field, McIntire Park, and the Darden Towe sports complex, meaning the energy of the tournament was felt throughout the community. Goldman commented about the weekend’s energy, saying, “I loved seeing all the teams from the various law schools coming together and having a great time! It was so cool that we were able to arrange almost 1,000 law students from around the country to come to one place to play softball.” O’Connor agreed with Goldman, adding “People kept the energy up the whole time, from the 8 a.m. games through until the 8 p.m. games which makes everything so much fun. I feel like people tend to think of law schoolers as a little competitive, which certainly comes out on the field from time to time, but ultimately all the teams seem to have a great time and are supportive of each other.”
While all this fun and comradery is a wonderful thing in and of itself, the tournament does more than just provide a memorable weekend for law students around the country. At around 4:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon, a group of students presented a $20,000 check to ReadyKids, a local charity with a mission to improve children’s futures in the Charlottesville community. Dean Goluboff and Professor Schragger attended the check presentation, both supportive and happy that the tournament was able to raise so much money for a very worthy cause. On this donation, O’Connor told the Law Weekly, “Donating the money to ReadyKids, especially after getting to tour the facilities and meet some of the amazing people who work there, was definitely the highlight of the entire weekend. What they do is so important and valuable to this community, and I only wish we could do more!”
As the day wrapped up and pool play neared an end, UVA’s Co-Rec Blue, Co-Rec Gold, Men’s Blue, and Men’s Gold made it through bracket play undefeated. To prep for Sunday playoff games, several of those on the various teams found themselves cheering on the Hoos playing in Minnesota for the Final Four game against Auburn. After an exhilarating win to clinch a trip to the championship for the men’s basketball team, the UVA teams playing in the tournament hoped to find similar success. However, UVA teams faced a rough day as those from the Sunshine State rained on their parade.
Men’s Gold fell to Florida State, the ultimate victors of the regular division of the tournament, in the semi-finals. On the other side of the bracket, Men's Blue lost in the quarter-finals to the JAG squad that went on to be defeated by the UVA alumni team. The alumni faced Florida State in the final, finding themselves with the second-place trophy as they did in last year’s tournament. In the co-rec division, Co-Rec Blue lost in the quarter-finals to the team that would ultimately take home the trophy, Florida Law. After a tight semi-final game against Georgetown, Co-Rec Gold marched to the final before losing 11-6 to the Gators. The UVA teams were hopeful for a better day on the diamond but hopefully found some silver lining from having the opportunity to participate in such a great weekend. In the final game of the co-rec division, a Georgetown spectator commented on his regret in not coming to UVA Law. He remarked on how wonderful the tournament is every year and how he wished he had realized how big softball is to the UVA culture.
As teams have packed up and left Charlottesville, the North Grounds Softball League and dozens of student volunteers remember the weekend with lots of great memories and a lot to look forward to next year. UVA Law participants are hopeful that, despite an overall rough go in this year’s softball invitational, the UVA teams can follow the basketball Hoos in making history by winning it all during next year’s big tournament.