For the first time since 2008, the #21/#22 Virginia Tech softball team is headed back to the Super Regionals. The Hokies (36-13) capped off an amazing three days in Tempe, Arizona with a walk-off, 11-3 run-rule win over Brigham Young Saturday afternoon to clinch the Tempe Regional championship.
The Hokies blasted five home runs in the victory, capped off by Alexis Milius’ solo shot in the bottom of the fifth that created the run-rule margin of eight runs and caused the Hokies to come pouring out of their dugout to celebrate. Milius’ dinger followed earlier round trippers by Kelsey Bennett, pinch hitter Grace Chavez, Jayme Bailey, and Cameron Fagan.
“It’s awesome,” said Bennett. “It’s a moment to remember for us. Twenty-six players showed up and twenty-six players did their job, and the outcome is good for us. What a team. BYU battled back and forth, but we didn’t let up – we came right back at them.”
“It’s hard to describe what winning a regional means to us,” Tech head coach Pete D’Amour said. “There’s just a mindset on this team…When one kid is not performing another picks it up. That’s what good teams do.”
The Hokies’ offensive numbers for the three-game regional series were impressive: a team batting average of .456 (42 for 92), 24 runs scored, and eight home runs.
“We’re just hot,” said D’Amour in the understatement of the weekend. “I’ve said since the fall that we could hit. I’m just glad we brought the bats on the planes with us.”
The Hokies were led by Bennett, who was an amazing 9-for-11 for the weekend, including two home runs that extended her team leading total to 13. Alexis Milius has settled in nicely in the third spot in the batting order, hitting .636 (7-for-11) for the series with two HRs of her own. She led the team in runs batted in this weekend with five.
“I’m just seeing the ball, being selective at the plate and swinging at my pitches,” said Bennett. “Just knowing what you can hit hard and swinging.”
The Hokies wasted little time jumping on the Cougars in the first inning when two BYU errors created VT baserunners, and singles by Milius and Bennett drove in two runs. The second of the two scores came on a controversial obstruction call that led to BYU Coach Gordon Eakin being ejected from the game for arguing his case. The Hokies would end up scoring in every inning on the way to the lopsided win.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to them, said BYU Associate Head Coach Pete Meredith. They’re a good team, they played hard, and they were the better team today.”
The top of the order continues to set the table for the Hokies with Kelsey Brown and Cameron Fagan going a combined 9-for-24 this weekend (.375).
In the circle, the Hokies were once again led by Ace Keely Rochard, who picked up her third win in as many days. Rochard was one out away from a five-inning run-rule shutout when she surrendered a three-run home run to the Cougars Huntyr Ava, a batter that she had struck out four times during two games. But the Hokies responded in the bottom of the fifth with Fagan blasting a two run shot to center field and Alexis following with her game winner.
All the feels 🤧
— Virginia Tech Softball (@HokiesSoftball) May 23, 2021
With having a one loss cushion entering the day’s play, D’Amour admitted he struggled a bit with the decision of whom to start in the circle.
“I was back and forth all night,” he said. “I probably didn’t sleep an hour all night. But it came down to what got us here. Why change anything. You don’t want to get to game two where anything can happen. So we went with what got us here and that was Keely.”
Rochard justified his decision, striking out 11 on the day. “I thought Keely had good velocity,” he said. “She had better spin than she had the first time against BYU. To get 11 Ks the second time you see a team, you’re doing something right.”
D’Amour was understandably pleased with his team’s performance this weekend. “I came to Blacksburg to win at this level,” he said. “I thought we could do it. We have Keely, a good offense, good defense, and good team chemistry. To do it on the road is hard. To do it at a Regional is hard. But it’s sweet no matter where it is.”
Now the Hokies turn their attention to their next opponent – the winner of the region that is being hosted by #2 national seed, UCLA. Most observers believe that it’s a foregone conclusion that the Bruins, a College World Series favorite, will be the winners of the region, but the Hokies aren’t intimidated.
“Our approach will be the same,” says Bennett. “Swing and be selective. Keely is the type of pitcher that we’ll go to war for. She has our back and we have hers. We won’t change anything.”
We’ll have more about the Super Regional later this week.