A magical season for Virginia Tech softball came to an end Saturday night in Los Angeles as the Hokies fell to UCLA 6-0 in the deciding game of the Super Regional. The loss ends the Hokies’ season at 37-15 as the team fell one win short of qualifying for the College World Series.
“There’s nothing to hang our heads about,” said Coach Pete D’Amour. “We’re just going to build on it…. Everybody’s back so we should be pretty formidable for the next couple of years, at least. If we do our jobs recruiting-wise and build on it, we should be good for the foreseeable future.”
After exploding for 11 hits in Game 1 of the series, the Hokies’ bats followed up their one hit performance of Friday night with a two-hit performance Saturday night. D’Amour was quick to credit UCLA ace and Team USA Olympian Rachel Garcia, who was much more effective Saturday night than in the series opening game Thursday.
“Garcia had more zip tonight,” said D’Amour. “She was throwing harder. We just couldn’t get the barrel (of the bat) on the ball.”
Garcia ended up striking out 13 Virginia Tech batters.
The Hokies’ Keely Rochard was a warrior to then end, but it became apparent early that the Bruins had zeroed in on her.
“It’s hard facing any team three times,” said Rochard. “And they’re really good…they made great adjustments.”
Nevertheless, Rochard was proud of what she and her Hokie teammates accomplished this year.
“I’ll remember how well this team meshed together,” said the Hokies’ ace. “We really clicked on all cylinders. I’m just glad I’ve helped put our team on the map. Hopefully people will see Virginia Tech as more of a powerhouse team in the future.”
D’Amour was proud of his Hokie hurler.
“Keely is the kid you want to build your program around. I’m just thankful that she’s in our program. She didn’t have a lot tonight, but she went out and gave us what she had. I’m proud of her.”
One of the bright spots of the night was the play of Virginia Tech catcher Mackenzie Lawter, who made three highlight plays: a diving tag at the plate, a diving catch of a foul pop, and a bullet throw to second to catch a would-be Bruin base stealer.
“(Lawter) is awesome,” said D’Amour. “She plays her heart out every game. She’s caught 99% of our games this year, battled through an injury. She’s blue collar – a hard worker. She’s an example of the type of kid that I want to build the program around.”
Just like in the Hokies’ Regional loss at Kentucky two years ago, D’Amour feels there are lessons learned that the program can build on.
“We wouldn’t let them hang their heads after the game,” he said. “They’re one of the best 16 teams in the country. The first game, we were loose and really had no expectations and we win the first game and then it’s ‘uh-oh, where do we go from here?’ Now we know what to expect (going forward).”
“We’re close to the World Series,” D’Amour said. “There’s an extra 2% that we need to do in everything in our entire program. There’s nothing to hang our head about, but we have to get better in the weight room, get better at practice, get better at scouting. We’re close. UCLA could win the national championship and we beat them one time on their field. We were in all three games until the last couple of innings tonight.”
Finally, D’Amour wanted to acknowledge the Hokies fans.
“We definitely felt the following of Virginia Tech,” said the coach. “Hopefully, they saw the brand of softball that we play. We’re not a major sport, but people watched us this weekend that might not have ever watched softball before. I think we fit the bill of Virginia Tech as well as any sport on campus. We play hard, we’re respectful. I got a lot of comments that we were a professionally acting team this weekend, and that’s about the biggest compliment that I could have. So I appreciate the following that we’re gathering, and I hope people keep supporting us because we definitely need it and we felt it.”
TSL will have a look back at the season and a look at the future of the program in the near future.