Rediscovering their early season offensive form, #21/#22 Virginia Tech Softball (35-13) now find themselves one win away from moving on to the NCAA Super Regionals. The Hokies won their opening round game on Thursday against a scrappy BYU team 5-2 before blasting Regional host #12/#8 Arizona State (32-15) 8-2 on Friday. The Hokies will now play the winner of the elimination game between Arizona State and BYU on Saturday at 6:00pm, needing only one more win to advance to the Super Regionals next weekend. Their opponent will have to beat the Hokies twice to advance.
The Virginia Tech bats have simply been on fire in Tempe, blasting 12 hits on Thursday followed by 14 hits on Friday. The middle of the Hokies lineup, Alexis Milius, Jayme Bailey, and Kelsey Bennett, have combined to hit .619 (13 for 21) with two home runs, seven runs scored, and five runs batted in. Even more significant, Hokie batters struck out only three times in 65 at bats in the two games
“Nothing surprises me with my offense,” said Coach Pete D’Amour. “We’re seeing the ball really well. I said in the fall that this was one of the best offenses that I’ve ever been a part of it. We can hit. We just have to hit our pitch…It seems like we’re peaking right now.”
Kelsey Bennett, who has batted.750 (6 for 8) for the two games, echoed her coach’s thoughts. “We were just being selective and swinging at strikes that we knew we could hit pretty well,” said Bennett. “We stuck to our game plan, which is just see strikes, smash strikes, be selective at the plate, know what you can hit, know what you’re seeing well.”
In the circle, Keely Rochard has thrown all 14 innings for the Hokies, giving up 4 earned runs and striking out 16 in the two games. Her performance against Arizona State, one of the best hitting teams in the country, was especially impressive and got noticed throughout the country, including by Justin McLeod of Justin’s World of Softball.
There are three things that are guaranteed in life: Death, Taxes, and Keely Rochard's right arm. @HokiesSoftball
— Justin McLeod (@justfactsmaam) May 21, 2021
Rochard was especially effective against the Sun Devils’ Maddi Hackbarth (.402) and Jazmine Hill (.346), the two leading hitters in the ASU lineup. Rochard struck them out all six times she faced them.
“Right now we’re just clicking on all cylinders,” said Rochard. “We’re still reaching our stride, and I think we’re starting to prove that we’re getting there.”
One of the concerns going into the regional series was how the Hokies’ younger players would react to the bright lights, but that hasn’t seemed to be a problem.
“I haven’t seen a lot of butterflies,” said Rochard. “We just go out and play our game.”
“This is what we played for all year,” said Bennett. “Everybody strives to make the Regionals. Now that we made it, keep it simple. Follow the game plan. Just relax. It’s big, but you have to keep it small.”
The Hokies have done just that and D’Amour believes the results go far beyond just the diamond.
“It’s a different feel from two years ago (the Kentucky Regional in 2019),” he says. “It’s a sense of belonging. It’s the evolution of the program. We are appreciative of where we are and we have to take advantage of our opportunities.”
That next opportunity comes on Saturday. Virginia Tech will play at 6 PM, and if a second game is necessary, it will follow immediately after.