Behind a dominant weekend from All-American pitcher Keely Rochard, the Virginia Tech softball team won three out of four games from the Pittsburgh Panthers this week at Tech Softball Park. The ACC series win was the Hokies fourth of the season and moves the Hokies to 15-4 overall and 10-4 in the ACC.
After throwing four shutout innings in the Hokies’ 9-0 series opening run-rule win Friday night, Rochard threw back-to-back one-hit complete game shutouts Saturday and Sunday, striking out 19 each day. For the weekend, Rochard pitched a total of 18 innings, gave up three hits, NO runs, struck out 46, and walked just three, which should result in multiple Pitcher of the Week Awards.
Rochard was simply dominant against the Pittsburgh lineup. The Panther’s top three hitters, Cami Compson (.333 average), Morgan Batesole (.322), and EC Taylor (.304) were a combined 1 for 20 against Rochard and struck out 17 times. Katlyn Pavlick, who prior to the weekend had reached base safely in 14 straight games and had an eight game hitting streak, struck out all seven times she faced Keely. Pittsburgh Coach Jodi Hamanek used eight different pinch hitters in Saturday’s game – seven of them struck out. It was simply shut down mode.
It’s safe to say she her performance blew up Twitter and even resulted in a response from Alexa Milius, her catcher.
yeah NOT messing around….my hand hurts… https://t.co/W5VwS7C0uy
— alexa (@Alexa_Milius) March 20, 2021
Her performance left everyone in awe, including her coach.
“From a pitching perspective, Keely’s last two games were as dominant as any I’ve ever been a part of,” said Coach Pete D’Amour. “She will keep us in any game we play for the remainder of the year if she throws like that.”
Rochard was humble as always.
“I guess I just like pitching at home,” she said. “Everything was working for me.”
That may be the understatement of the year and could spell big trouble for future Hokie opponents.
It’s a good thing for the Hokies that Rochard was in a zone because the usually potent VT bats struggled a bit on Saturday and Sunday.
After run-ruling Pittsburgh Friday night 9-0, the Hokies would score just 10 runs in the next three games, leaving 16 runners on base during those contests. With Rochard in the circle, the Hokies were able to record 5-0 and 2-0 wins, but without her, Pittsburgh was able to register a 5-3 victory in the first game Saturday.
“I told the team that I thought we were a little too ‘outcome based’ thinking-wise this series,” said D’Amour. “We need to do a better job of getting back to playing pitch to pitch. The first at-bat of a game has zero bearing on a hitter’s third or fourth at bat. I’d like for us to take the emotion out of a particular outcome, good or bad, as that will help with our consistency. I don’t expect us to score 10 runs a game, but I do expect us to “think” better. That’s going to be a factor in how good this team can be.”
The good news is that the top of the Hokies’ lineup continued to be red hot. Kelsey Brown scored six runs and hit .500 (6-for-12) while Cameron Fagan hit .538 (7-for-13), scored four runs and drove in three more.
Coach D’Amour tried to manufacture some offense this weekend as the Hokies stole 13 bases, led by Fagan with four and Brown with three. Ten of those stolen bases ended up scoring, so the strategy was a good one.
The Hokies are still leading the ACC in hitting with a .324 team batting average so they should be fine. There is perhaps a bit of anxiety regarding the Hokies pitching depth, but D’Amour isn’t worried.
“Ozzy (Mackenzie Osborne) came in and shut down Pitt Saturday and Ivy (Rosenberry) threw three solid innings,” he said. “Both are 20 innings into their college careers. I see some positives some days, and I see that they’re freshmen others. They’re going to get their chances.”
Next up for the Hokies is a Wednesday non-conference game against UVA at 4:00 followed by an ACC series at Louisville next weekend.