Virginia Tech Softball Reloads For The 2023 Season

After back-to-back historic seasons, Jayme Bailey and Virginia Tech softball have momentum heading into 2023. (Ivan Morozov)

The sports adage about “reloading” instead of “rebuilding” may be an appropriate description for the 2023 Virginia Tech softball team.

After back-to-back Super Regional appearances, the Hokies lost three long time contributors to graduation. Two-time All-American and ACC Pitcher of the Year Keely Rochard (97 career wins, 1,120 strikeouts in 800 innings), center fielder Darby Trull (189 career starts) and catcher Mackenzie Lawter (170 starts) moved on to post-graduate life – although Lawter is serving as a graduate assistant coach for the Hokies.

However, even with those key losses, expectations are high for the 2023 team. Both the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll and the ESPN/USA Softball poll have the Hokies No. 11 in their preseason rankings while Extra Innings Softball has the Hokies at No. 10.

“This team can compete with anybody,” Tech head coach Pete D’Amour told Tech Sideline. “You can’t replace players like Keely, Mac and Darby, but we have players that can step up and get the job done.”

Key returning players include the ACC Freshman of the Year Emma Lemley and three other preseason All-ACC selections: infielder Cameron Fagan, outfielder Emma Ritter and designated player Meredith Slaw.

Seniors Kelsey Brown (.352 career average), Kelsey Bennett (.332) and Jayme Bailey (.332) also return, and along with several new faces, provide the logic for the Hokies’ lofty expectations.

Here is a look at this year’s team by position:

Emma Lemley could be even better in 2023. (Ivan Morozov)


Lemley returns to anchor the pitching staff after a stellar freshman season. She started 23 games last year, compiling a 16-6 record with 212 strikeouts in 139 innings. Her mark of 10.7 strikeouts per seven innings was ninth in the country.

Lemley was occasionally plagued by illegal pitch calls last year, but both she and D’Amour are confident that the issue is behind her.

“Pitching delivery is muscle memory,” D’Amour explained, “and it’s not something you can change during the middle of a season. But she now has it corrected and is throwing just as hard as she ever did, and I think she may even be better than ever. That’s saying a lot.”

Lemley should have several players to help her carry the load in the circle.

Freshman Lyndsey Grein already impressed D’Amour in the spring. He described the Chicago area native as having a demeanor that “is similar to Emma – she always wants the ball.” He said Grein effectively uses three different speeds that should challenge opposing hitters.

Sophomore Bre Peck, who led the Hokies in home runs in 2022 with 11, will also see some action as a pitcher this season. She won the 2018-19 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year award as a sophomore with her 16-1 record and 0.80 ERA in the circle. For good measure, she threw a perfect game in the 6A playoffs. D’Amour said she’s reached 65-67 in recent months.

“Bre is another option for us,” D’Amour said. “She has thrown well this spring,” but quickly added that “we have to have her bat in the lineup somewhere.”

Sophomore Molly Jacobson also had a good offseason and D’Amour expects her to get some innings as well.

Though Mackenzie Lawter is a graduate assistant with the program, Tech has to fill her void behind the plate. (Jon Fleming)


Filling the shoes of Lawter will be a huge challenge and it may take some teamwork to do so.

Freshman Kylie Aldridge, who was an Extra Innings All-American last year, has “been good defensively,” said D’Amour, and gives the Hokies another “left-handed hitter with power.”

Another option behind the plate is Bennett. Though she played infield throughout her first four seasons in Blacksburg, she caught in high school. She “has good hands and a great arm,” D’Amour said, quickly adding that “versatility is a good thing.”


The Hokies have a number of options in the infield, including Peck and Bennett when they are not manning their new positions. Bennett started 189 games in her VT career and Peck led the Hokies in home runs last season while batting .320.

Bailey started 184 games in her career and D’Amour called her one of the best defensive first basemen in the league. She and Fagan (career batting average of .373) will anchor the right side of the infield.

“She’s really consistent and plays at a really high level,” D’Amour said of Fagan.

Freshman Teagan Thrunk, another Extra Innings All-American, has been steady at shortstop and has “good range.” She’ll push for playing time along with sophomore Rachel Castine, who has “been as good defensively as anyone on the team.”

Emma Ritter and Virginia Tech are stacked in the outfield this year. (Ivan Morozov)


The outfield is another area of depth for the Hokies.

Ritter, who led the Hokies in hitting last season (.400 average) as a sophomore, was named an All-American. She played right field in 2022 but should slide over to center this spring with the departure of Trull.

Brown and fellow senior Morgan Overaitis (.341 average) both earned All-ACC honors last season and will compete for playing time in the outfield with junior Addy Greene, who batted .300 as a sophomore. She is versatile enough to play infield if needed.

Freshman Emma Jackson, another Extra Innings All-American, may also make an appearance in the lineup.

Designated Player

Slaw started 34 games last season at Designated Player and led the team in RBI (41) while hitting .353. Junior Madison Hanson had a good spring as well and provides D’Amour with additional depth.

Final Thoughts

This appears to be the deepest team that D’Amour’s since coming to Virginia Tech in 2019. He has numerous options – from this preview, there are 13 potential starters for 9 positions. Eight of the Hokies’ top nine hitters return from last year – a team that hit .314 and averaged almost six runs per game.

Pete D’Amour loaded the schedule for Virginia Tech in 2023. How will the Hokies fare? (Jon Fleming)

“We have a lot of lineup options on this team,” D’Amour said. “Figuring out our most productive lineup keeps me up at night, but it’s a good problem to have.”

Lemley is one of the top pitchers in the country, and if Grein and Peck can effectively share the load, the ceiling is high.

D’Amour once again scheduled aggressively this season. There are 30 games on tap against teams that played in the NCAA tournament in 2022, and seven contests are against programs that finished in the top six of the RPI. The Hokies face national runner-up Texas twice and have five contests against teams that made the College World Series.

“The RPI plays a big role in the rankings, and it should really help us when it comes tournament time,” D’Amour said. “Playing a challenging schedule gives you some margin for error, and if we play well against that schedule, we could be looking at hosting again. But we’ll play them one game at a time.”

The Hokies with open the season on Friday in a tournament at UNC Wilmington with games against East Carolina, Purdue-Fort Wayne and the host Seahawks.

10 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Well done Chip! Coach D’Amour has assembled an impressive group of players. I just hope a lot of games are on TV, even if just ESPN+.


  2. Thanks Chip. Let’s hope for a great season with a healthy team. Look forward to all of your write ups.

  3. Great article Chip. So excited to get back out there and cheer them on. I was curious about not seeing Peyton List mentioned. Anything to that?

  4. So cool rooting for and watching high caliber Hokie Softball and baseball now. Love it!!!

  5. Just like department stores putting out their Christmas decorations in the (not so late) fall to let you know Christmas season is here, a preview article by good ‘ol Chip on TSL lets us know that once again it’s SOFTBALL SEASON!!! As always, GREAT article Chip – your blend of facts and quotes is as good as ANY sportswriter out there! Man, it’s hard NOT to be excited about not only this season but the future of the program in general. Not only is there LOADS of talent, a lot of that talent is also young so things are indeed looking bright for VT softball on into the future. I can’t wait!

  6. Excellent article. It will be great to have multiple options at all positions this season. It will be strange to see Bennett at catcher though. But she does have a great arm.

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