Maija Louko’s Grand Slam Paces Virginia Tech In Sweep Of Irish

Maija Louko’s grand slam paced Virginia Tech in its sweep of Notre Dame on Sunday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Going into Virginia Tech softball’s 11-5 win against Notre Dame, senior Maija Louko had one career hit — a single on Feb. 9 against Illinois.

In over three seasons, Louko had almost exclusively been used as a pinch runner, having only seen seven career at-bats. She had never sniffed an extra base hit, let alone a home run.

Until Sunday.

Louko pinch-hit for catcher Kylie Aldridge in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and two outs, while Tech (15-3-1, 3-0 ACC) hung onto a 6-4 lead against the Irish (8-8, 0-3 ACC). Louko took the first three pitches, working a 2-1 count, and blasted a grand slam into straightaway center field, sending the ball further than she ever had since arriving in Blacksburg.

“When there were two balls, [Hokies head coach Pete D’Amour] gave me the take sign, so I took the third one and I was able to get some timing down,” Louko told Tech Sideline after the game. “Other than that, I saw the next pitch and it was right where I wanted it. I was just swinging as hard as I could.”

Louko’s teammates understood the significance. As she rounded the bases, the third base dugout immediately emptied as the players erupted to greet Louko at home plate.

 “It feels good,” Louko said, while a “Yeah Maija!” cheer from across the stadium briefly interrupted her answer. “A lot of people were asking me in the dugout, they were asking, ‘Oh my gosh, how awesome do you feel right now?’ I go into every day with a clean slate, so it’s not like anything means any more to me. I’m extremely blessed, extremely grateful to be able to play with this team.”

Maija Louko only had seven career at-bats before her home run on Sunday that lifted Virginia Tech past Notre Dame. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Louko wasn’t the only contributor on offense, however. First baseman Michelle Chatfield blasted a second-inning solo home run, hitting the ACC Network tower in center field. Chatfield has homered in her last four games and has eight during her freshman season.

“She’s had professional at-bats since she’s gotten here, so the moment never seems too big for her,” D’Amour said of Chatfield. “She seems to square a lot of balls up.”

Lyndsey Grein — who threw all seven innings for the Hokies — wasn’t flawless, but she didn’t need to be. She pitched with a lead until the fifth, and when the Irish jumped in front in the fifth, 4-2, Tech scored eight runs right after.

“We took a shot in the nose with the three runs we gave up, then we came back and scored eight,” D’Amour said. “The resiliency showed today.”

Grein threw 127 pitches, allowing four earned runs, seven hits and five walks while striking out seven.

“I love all 23 [players] behind me,” Grein said. “They hit well; they played defense really well. I obviously wasn’t giving them the softest of hits coming their way, and they just handled it like champs.”

In 11 conference series dating back to 2002 in the Big East, the Hokies had never swept Notre Dame. But they obliterated the Irish in Blacksburg, outscoring them 29-9 across three games. In fact, only four of Notre Dame’s runs were earned.

The series sweep was one sign of many that Virginia Tech can have unprecedented success. Of its seven players to start at least 15 games, all of them have a batting average over .300. The team has combined for 40 home runs. It has four viable pitching options, all of whom have earned run averages under three. And it has no shortage of bench players who can fit any void that may open.

Regardless of if the rankings reflect it or not, those inside the program know the team can make a deep run while they click in the process.

“Our team, we love each other genuinely,” Louko said. “Everyone wants to play for everybody.”

Box Score: Virginia Tech 11, Notre Dame 5 

5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Have not been able to make it to Blacksburg much this winter / spring (only 1 VT wrestling match), but we’re looking forward to cheering for the girls at Charlotte next week!

  2. Congratulations to Maija! I hope she has more moments like this this season. It has to feel real good to come through like that when the team needed a bit of a jolt.

  3. Maira’s grand slam was an amazing moment that will be remembered for a very very long time.

    Any Hokie fan who hasn’t been following VT Softball or hasn’t ever been to a game is missing out. There’s something special happening here and the gameday atmosphere is as exciting as there is in Blacksburg. Go Hokies!!

    1. I am watching/tracking every game, but have not seen them live since they played in a super regional at Michigan with Tincher pitching (i live in the Detroit Metro area). I need to drive to Blacksburg to see the at TSP.

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