Note: article submitted by Chip Grubb; home page image of sophomore catcher Logan Spaw courtesy hokiesports.com
After playing their first 22 games away from the friendly confines of Tech Softball Park, the Hokies come home this weekend with an impressive 18-4 record and the #19 spot in the ESPN/USA Softball rankings. Not a bad start for a team picked 4th in the ACC preseason coaches’ poll.
The Hokies spent spring break in Southern California, participating in the Long Beach State invitational and the Judy Garman Classic. Against some of the best softball teams in the country, the Hokies finished 6-3 with wins versus #9 UCLA, #14 Michigan, and #19 Arizona.
The Hokie bats have been very active so far this season, with the team averaging almost 5 runs a game (4.68). Lauren Gaskill has been outstanding in the leadoff spot, batting .371 with a team leading 4 homeruns. She also leads the team in stolen bases with 12.
Courtney Liddle has been on fire as well, leading the team in batting average (.415), RBIs (16), and on-base percentage (.530).
Three other Hokies are also batting over .300: Bkaye Smith (.340), Kylie McGoldrick (.333), and Kelsey Mericka (.328).
In the circle, the Hokies have the advantage of a nice 1-2 punch of senior Jasmin Harrell and Freshman Kelly Heinz. Harrell, the workhorse from last season this year, has started out with a 7-3 record with 45 strikeouts in 58 innings.
Heinz is the surprise of the year and has Hokie fans reminiscing about the feats of one Anglea Tincher. While a bit premature, that will happen when you throw a no hitter in your first college start. Heinz currently sports a 9-0 record and a 1.47 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 71 innings.
With two solid arms, the Hokies will have an advantage when conference doubleheaders (and NCAA tournament games) start to pile up. Hokie fans will remember that Harrell was outstanding last year in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments early, only to run out of gas when games 3 and 4 arrived.
This weekend, the Hokies open conference play against NC State. The Wolfpack is struggling a bit, having lost their last 8 in a row. But included in that streak are three losses to Florida State and losses to #1 Oklahoma, #10 Texas, and #14 Michigan.
NC State has an overall record of 11-13-1 and has the conference’s leading HR hitter in Renada Davis, who has hit 12 dingers, one more than the entire Hokie team.
On paper, the Hokies would seem to have an advantage. The Hokies have a .282 team batting average versus .240 for the Pack, and in the circle, VT’s team ERA is 1.91 versus 2.65 for NC State. Emily Weiman is a workhorse for the Pack, having started 23 of their 25 games and pitched 131 of their 163 innings played.
While it is still early, it’s hard not to get a little bit excited for the possibilities for this team. If the Hokies keep banging the ball and Harrell and Heinz share the workload, the upside is indeed bright.