Picking up where they left off last season, the Virginia Tech softball team went on the road and swept a very good Kennesaw State squad this weekend by scores of 6-0, 6-0, and 4-0.
The pitching numbers were simply incredible: 21 innings, 0 runs, 8 hits, 20 strikeouts and only 2 walks. This was a Kennesaw State squad that returned eight of their top nine hitters from 2020 – a year in which the Owls batted .350 as a team – good enough for seventh in the country.
As usual, Virginia Tech All-American pitcher Keely Rochard put in a dominant performance, throwing two complete game shutouts, but what really has Hokies fans excited was the performance of true freshman Ivy Rosenberry in game two of Saturday’s double header. Displaying an impressive drop ball, Rosenberry limited the Owls to just three hits and induced Owl batters to hit 21 ground balls – 18 of them for outs. It’s only one start, but if Rosenberry can provide the Hokies with a dependable #2 pitcher to complement Rochard, they will be very, very tough to beat.
For Rochard, these two shutouts ran her consecutive scoreless inning streak (over two seasons) to 41. She has given up exactly ONE run in the last 82 innings that she has pitched and has struck out 113 during that streak. She is simply amazing. She also seems to get stronger as the game goes on – this weekend she struck out five out of six batters she faced in the two seventh innings that she pitched.
“If I were to grade our performance this weekend, I’d start by giving our pitching an A,” said Coach Pete D’Amour. Three shutouts, two walks and 20 strikeouts. The pitchers were ready.”
Also ready were some of the other VT freshmen. D’Amour said before the season that the Hokies freshmen had the physical ability, but needed to get the mental part down. Week 1 would indicate they may have done just that.
Cameron Fagan justified her preseason accolades as one of the top freshmen in the country. Batting leadoff, Fagan hit .455 (5 for 11), stole 2 bases, and fielded her shortstop position perfectly, displaying great range and an absolute cannon for an arm. Two more freshmen made positive debuts as well. Second baseman Addy Green and outfielder Emma Riter both blasted tape measure home runs in their first college game. Sophomore Jayme Bailey hit .364 for the weekend and led the Hokies in RBIs with 4.
Overall, however, as a team, the Hokies struggled a bit at the plate, batting only .241 – 83 points lower than last year’s average. Still, they found a way to score 16 runs in three games.
One positive was Hokie hitters making the Owl pitchers throw strikes. The Hokies drew 13 walks, led by five by Mackenzie Lawter and four by Meredith Slaw. The Hokies seem to chase very few bad pitches and only struck out eight times in three games.
Offensively, I would grade us a C,” said D’Amour. “We hit some balls right at people. KSU’s pitching was good but we need to stick with our approach better. But it’s early and I’m confident that we’ll improve.”
The Hokies defense was an up-and-down proposition. At times, there were some absolute SportsCenter highlight plays, but the Hokies also committed three errors and had some mental lapses that could have been costly, if not for outstanding pitching.
“Defensively, I’d give us a C+,” said D’Amour. “We made the plays we were supposed to make, and we saw areas that need improvement.”
However, D’Amour was extremely pleased with his non-starters. All the Hokies position players who made the trip saw action. “Bench play was an A,” he said. “We take bench play as serious as on field performances. The bench was as focused as any team I’ve seen.”
“Overall, I’d give the weekend’s performance a B,” said D’Amour. “This team has the potential to be pretty good. As always, we’re striving for continual improvement…I know I’m a tough grader!”
For a season opening series, the Hokies played well. Three solid wins against a very good team and the freshmen got thrown into the deep water and seemed to be able to swim. With both Clemson and Florida State on deck this week (six games in four days), this experience should come in handy. We’ll have a preview of Clemson and Florida State later this week.