In an announcement that may cause Virginia Tech softball fans to take to the streets in celebration, All-American and ACC Pitcher of the Year Keely Rochard announced today that she will return to play softball for Virginia Tech next season.
— Virginia Tech Softball (@HokiesSoftball) June 22, 2021
Rochard, who has already played four seasons for the Hokies, will take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to spring sport athletes after the 2020 season was impacted by COVID-19.
Rochard pitched 244 of the Hokies’ 339.2 innings this past season (71.8%) with 348 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.38. She won all three games in the Arizona State Regional and shut down #2 UCLA in the first game of the Super Regionals.
Rochard’s return was welcome news for Hokie Coach Pete D’Amour.
“Fans of Hokies Softball know what it means to have Keely back from just an on field/results perspective, so I won’t even touch on that,” said D’Amour. “Her accolades will bring us more coverage nationally. She should continue to solidify herself as one of the best athletes to ever play for Virginia Tech. Every year that she’s worked with Doug (Gillis, pitching coach)), she’s gotten better and better. I hope that trend will continue.”
A “better” Keely Rochard would be scary for Virginia Tech opponents. Rochard has 792 career strikeouts, which ranks third all-time at Virginia Tech. She is second all-time in strikeouts per seven innings at 9.4 and has thrown seven no hitters in her career along with 31 career shutouts.
An easily overlooked benefit of Rochard’s return should be her positive influence on sophomore Pitchers Ivy Rosenberry (6-4, 3.06 ERA) and Mackenzie Osborne (2-1, 2.76 ERA), as well as incoming pitching recruit Emma Lemley. Both Rosenberry and Osborne have credited Rochard with mentoring them in their transition to college, and her impact on the youngsters was noted by D’Amour.
“Her return means way more to the future of our program than just potential on field success,” said D’Amour. “Our returning and freshmen pitchers get to spend another year being mentored by Keely, and that is big for their development.”
Rochard’s work ethic has been regularly noted by D’Amour as a great example to the rest of the team.
Fresh off the school’s second ever appearance in the Super Regionals, the Hokies look to return almost their entire roster from this past season, including NFCA All-Mid Atlantic honorees Jayme Bailey, Kelsey Brown, Cameron Fagan and Kelsey Bennett. The Hokies also welcome one of the most highly-ranked recruiting classes in school history.
Rochard’s return, combined with an additional year of experience for the rest of the team and some talented newcomers may vault the Hokies into the Top 10 preseason conversation.
“From a purely selfish point of view, I am thankful for what she said about our coaching staff and why she’s coming back. We work hard on player development, and she’s appreciative of Doug and what he’s meant to her career. Had she gone in the transfer portal, she could have gone wherever she wanted, but instead she stuck with us. I’m looking forward to seeing her in the circle for us again next year.”
After being eliminated in the Super Regionals by UCLA, Rochard told reporters that the Hokies “are definitely on the upward trend. People are going to see Virginia Tech as more of a powerhouse team.”
She just made sure of that.