Virginia Tech softball began ACC play this week by winning two out of three games against both Clemson and No. 13-ranked Florida State. The four victories were all convincing wins, including two run-rule games (9-0 vs. Clemson and 9-1 vs. Florida State). The other two wins were Keely Rochard shutdown games, 4-1 versus Clemson and 6-0 versus FSU.
- L, 1-8
- W, 9-0 (5 innings)
- W, 4-1
vs. No. 13 Florida State:
- L, 1-7
- W, 9-1 (5 innings)
- W, 6-0
“I’m very proud of the way our team competed this weekend,” said Virginia Tech Coach Pete D’Amour. “We knew how good both Clemson and Florida State were, and we came out of the week with two series wins.”
The softball world has taken note:
The Hokies take it home!
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) February 21, 2021
And another one that I simply couldn’t avoid re-tweeting and commenting:
— Chip Grubb (@Hokiechip) February 21, 2021
You’ll have to forgive Hokie fans if they’re a bit giddy over the series win over FSU. Not only was FSU the preseason pick to win the ACC, but before Saturday’s Hokies’ win, the ‘Noles had won 13 straight in the series and 19 of the last 20.
Hokie pitching was its usual excellence this week, despite Clemson and FSU having potent hitting attacks. Hokie hurlers surrendered a total of nine earned runs in six games, holding the two opponents to a .179 batting average and recording 30 strikeouts in 37 innings. That was against two teams that averaged over six runs per game last season.
Keely Rochard was her usual brilliant self, allowing just three earned runs in 23 innings and striking out 24. In the Sunday finale, Rochard was dominant, throwing a one-hit shutout while striking out nine.
“I felt really good,” she said. “No soreness from yesterday and my ball was really spinning.” FSU would certainly attest to that.
Tech’s freshmen pitchers also had some stellar moments during the two series. Ivy Rosenberry threw her second consecutive shutout as she blanked Clemson 9-0 in five innings and Mackenzie Osborne pitched a total of five innings against the two opponents, surrendering just one hit and no runs.
The Hokie bats began to warm up this week as Virginia Tech scored 30 runs and hit almost .300 against quality pitching.
- Kelsey Brown has probably reclaimed her leadoff spot for good, hitting .400 this week, scoring six runs, and stealing five bases. And she made two outstanding catches in the Clemson series, even leaving the outline of her body on the left field padding. She is the Hokies’ second leading hitter with a .333 average.
- True freshman Cameron Fagan hit .350 this week and drove in five runs, including three on a monster home run on Sunday against FSU. She leads the Hokies in hitting with a .387 average.
- Grace Chavez homered in each of the last four games of the week, driving in six runs.
- Jayme Bailey had six hits this week, scoring and driving in five runs with a homerun and a couple of doubles. She is currently third on the team in average at .323.
- Darby Trull returned to form this week, going 6 for 15 and raising her season average to .316.
- Kelsey Bennett hit for a .333 average that included a home run and a double, and she also drew five walks.
- True freshman Emma Ritter continues to hit over .300 for the season (.313).
The Hokies have quickly gotten back to where every hitter in the lineup is dangerous.
Another important asset is the Hokies’ depth. If they are not starting, Meredith Slaw, Maddie Rountree, Morgan Overaitis, and Cana Davis all give Coach D’Amour numerous options. All had hits this week in pinch hitter roles and all are capable of moving to the starting lineup, if needed. That may even vary by opposing pitcher and the situation.
Defensively, The Hokies’ performance was a bit bipolar. Defensive breakdowns caused significant damage in the two losses. Against Clemson, an errant throw not only scored two runs, but it kept the Tigers alive in the inning, and Clemson’s Marissa Guimbarda made the Hokies pay with a two-run home run. Against FSU, a combination of errors and ill-advised fielding choices (throwing to the wrong base instead of just getting the out) led to a six-run inning for the Noles. Those mistakes are hard to survive.
However, the Hokies didn’t lose confidence, and in both cases, bounced back the next game to run-rule their opponent.
“I don’t know if I can explain it (the bounce back),” said Coach D’Amour. “During the losses, we seemed to try to do too much when things started going sideways instead of getting sure outs. Next thing you know, they had big innings.”
But the defense recovered and in the other four games, the Hokies were almost flawless, committing just one error and executing five double plays.
“We learned a lot about our team this week,” said Coach D’Amour. “If we play acceptable defense and pitch like we have, this team will be tough. It was a very positive sign to see us respond after getting punched in the nose Game 1 against Clemson and Florida State.”
I certainly agree with Coach D’Amour. More than ever, I really believe this team is good enough to make a lot of noise this season. If they don’t beat themselves, they have the potential to win A LOT of games.
Now for D’Amour’s grades for the week:
- “Pitching was an A even in the two losses. Keely continued being Keely and Ivy and Ozzy threw extremely well.”
- “Defense was an A in the wins and a D in the losses. The Hokies are making strides on defense and playing more consistently.”
- “Hitting was probably a B. Tech faced top tier pitching and made adjustments as the games progressed. I’d still like to see a little more discipline at the plate.”
- “The confidence level of the team is a B+. We’re starting to see that we can be a handful for anyone we play against.”
The Hokies will potentially get a break in their schedule. The Radford game that was scheduled for Wednesday has been cancelled –apparently due to field conditions at Radford. The Hokies were already off next weekend, so there is a possibility of a couple games being added should an opponent be found.
Editor’s Note: Virginia Tech added two games on Saturday after this article was written:
🚨 SCHEDULE UPDATE 🚨
We have added a home doubleheader vs. Army for this Saturday starting at noon
— Virginia Tech Softball (@HokiesSoftball) February 22, 2021
This was the first time that the ACC tried the Pod Play concept and personally I like it. It adds two more ACC teams to each team’s schedule and I think that’s a good thing. The alternating of home and away team added a sense of fairness to the setup.
The Hokies drew a bit of a tough challenge in Clemson and Florida State, but now it looks like the Hokies are in a good place if they build on this week.
In the rest of the conference, Duke is off to a surprising start, going 4-1 in Pod Play and owning a win over #5 LSU.
North Carolina also went 4-1 in pod play, but their opponents were Boston College and Syracuse.
Notre Dame is 1-3 in the ACC, with Duke getting them twice and Syracuse winning their only matchup that was played (bad weather).
Should be an interesting rest of the season.
Let’s Go Hokies.