Virginia Tech Softball Heads to UCLA for NCAA Tournament Play

Virginia Tech Softball
The Virginia Tech Softball team heads West for a four-team LA Regional to open NCAA play. (Keylan McCrimmon)

For the second time in four years, the Virginia Tech (39-12-1) softball team finds itself playing post-season softball in Los Angeles. In 2021, it was a Super Regional; this season it will be at the Regional level with three conference champions providing the competition: host UCLA (Pac-12), San Diego State (Mountain West) and Grand Canyon University (Western Athletic Conference).

The Hokies will open play Friday at 6:00pm eastern time against San Diego State in a game that will be televised on ESPNU. UCLA will take on Grand Canyon in the second game of the day at 8:30pm. The regional is a double elimination format with the games scheduled as follows:

The LA Regional has three teams that played in this regional last year – a regional that was ultimately won by San Diego State. The Aztecs advanced to the Supers by defeating Liberty twice and Grand Canyon once.   Grand Canyon shocked UCLA in the opening round and Liberty eliminated the Bruins in a losers’ bracket game on Saturday. 

Virginia Tech last played in Los Angeles during the best-of-three Super Regionals in 2021 and shocked UCLA 7-2 in the opening game. Seniors Emma Ritter, Addy Greene, Cam Fagan, and Maija Louko were all freshmen on that team, and Ritter believes that experience will pay dividends this trip.

“These (UCLA players) were girls I had watched for so long, and to get to play on the same field with them was pretty cool … I was a bit starstruck. (But) the cool thing about post-season is that every team has talent, and any team can beat any team on any given day … our underclassmen are ready, they’re prepared – they’ve played against a lot of big teams this year.”

Although the Hokies have won 13 of their last 16 games, all three losses have come in the last five games. The Hokies will be looking to reverse some recent struggles at the plate, where they have scored a total of just five runs and batted .162 in those three losses.

However, Virginia Tech Coach Pete D’Amour doesn’t seem worried.

“We’ve put a good resume together,” D’Amour said after the NCAA selection show. “Every team in the country goes through ups and downs. Ours just happened to be the last five games. Really good teams don’t last very long in their lulls and I don’t think we will either.”

“That’s just how the game works sometimes,” said Ritter. “We’ve seen it in the past four years where the ACC tournament hasn’t panned out the way that we hoped, but then in regionals, we’ve ended up coming out strong. The adversity motivates us … it allows us to go out knowing that we are a good team and that we’ve proved that throughout the season, and we just need to find it again.”

Since D’Amour took over the Hokies’ reins in 2019, Virginia Tech has received five straight bids to the NCAA tournament and is a perfect 6-0 in first games of the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals.

That confidence is reflected in the circle.

“I think we just have to play the way we know how to play,” added junior pitcher Emma Lemley. “I think a few of our losses have come from us just being too tight and overthinking a few things. But we’ve had some great practices the past few days and it’s been a good reset. We’re right on the edge of everything coming together like we want it to.”

Virginia Tech will encounter three quality opponents in Los Angeles.

UCLA Softball
(Marc-Anthony Rosas/Daily Bruin)


This will be UCLA’s 39th NCAA appearance and the 10th consecutive year that they have been chosen to serve as a Regional host.

After losing as a host in the Los Angeles Region last season, the Bruins (37-10) had a rocky start to the 2024 season, losing four of their first seven games, including run-rule contests to Texas (16-0) and Oklahoma State (9-1). Since then, however, Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez has righted the ship, with the Bruins winning 20 of their last 22 games, including the eight in a row on the way to winning the Pac-12 tournament title last weekend.

The Bruins are led by two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year Maya Brady, who is hitting .403 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs, and Pac-12 Tournament MVP (and All-Pac 12 first team selection) Sharlize Palacios, who is hitting .374 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs. The two led the Pac-12 in slugging percentage with .799 and .797 marks.

However, they are not the only dangerous Bruins at the plate. Six of the regular UCLA starters hit .305 or higher, and four have hit seven or more home runs, including All-Pac-12 First Teamers Megan Grant (.349 average, 7 HRs) and Jordan Woolery (.326, 8 HRs).

In the circle, sophomore right-hander Taylor Tinsley (15-8, 1.90 ERA) and freshman left-hander Kaitlyn Terry (18-1, 2.53 ERA) have started 42 of the Bruins’ 47 games and have thrown 92% of the innings. Both were named to the Pac-12 First Team, and Terry was named the Freshman of the Year. Tinsley has been extremely effective during the last seven weeks of the season with a 1.03 ERA that included recording three wins at #5 Stanford, where she threw 15.2 scoreless innings and struck out 20 while walking only one.

Defensively, Palacios is one of the best catchers in the country, having committed only three errors in over 500 chances at UCLA. She is a three-time All Pac-12 Defensive Team honoree. UCLA led the Pac-12 in the fewest stolen bases allowed with 14 and Palacios led the conference in runners caught stealing with five.

The Bruins are coached by Kelly Inouye-Perez, who is in her 18th season at UCLA. She has a career record of 812-207-1 and led the Bruins to their 12th and 13th national titles in 2010 and 2019. Inouye played at UCLA and won three NCAA titles as a player in 1989, 1990 and 1992 and three as an assistant coach in 1999, 2003 and 2004. This year marks her 36th consecutive season at UCLA.

SDSU softball
(SDSU Athletics)

San Diego State

San Diego State (31-18), champions of the Mountain West Conference, are playing in Los Angeles for the sixth time out of their 14 appearances in a NCAA Regional. They have a 13-10 record at Easton Stadium and advanced out of the Region last season, winning all three games in LA to advance to the super regionals, beating Liberty 7-0, Grand Canyon 6-0 and Liberty again 6-3.

 The Aztecs have had four Power Five wins this season with wins over Illinois, Nebraska, then-No. 11 Missouri, and then-No. 25 Kentucky.

The Aztecs finished the season on fire, sweeping through the Mountain West tournament in three games, outscoring their opponents 19-5. That came on the heels of finishing the regular season with a 13-4 run-rule win over UNLV.

San Diego State is led at the plate by Mountain West Co-Player of the Year Mac Barbara, a junior who batted .383 for the season with 14 home runs.  Barbara finished the season red hot, going 11 for 16 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in her last five games, earning the Mountain West Tournament MVP award.

Also batting over .300, for the Aztecs are senior (and transfer from UCLA) Alyssa Garcia (.325 average, .416 on-base pct) and junior Cali Decker (.305 avg). San Diego State has only hit 25 home runs this season and only Barbara has hit more than three.

In the circle, the Aztecs use a three-headed monster with freshman Cece Cellura (8-5,2.60 ERA) and senior Allie Light (12-7, 2.63 ERA) having each started 18 games. Both are right-handers. Junior left-hander Dee Dee Hernandez (10-4, 2.53 ERA) ranks third in innings with 72.  Both Hernandez and Light were named to the Mountain West First Team.

San Diego State is solid defensively, having led the Mountain West in fielding pct. (.973), double plays (25), and fewest stolen bases against (23).

San Diego State is coached by former Team USA Gold Medalist Stacey Nuveman Deniz, who is in her third season as head coach (career record of 109-51). Nuveman Deniz was named the Mountain West Coach of the Year this season for the second time in three years. She also won in 2022.

Grand Canyon Softball Virginia Tech
(GCU Athletics)

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon (48-11) won the WAC tournament for the third consecutive year, and was rewarded with a trip to UCLA for the third straight time.  They enter the Regional on an 8-game winning streak.

The Lopes are hoping for a repeat of last year’s first round game when they shocked second seeded UCLA 3-2, one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

The Lopes are led by WAC Player of the Year Ashley Trierweiler, a graduate student transfer who led the WAC in batting average (.464), runs scored (65), and on-base percentage (.518). She leads the nation in hits with 90.

Grand Canyon has seven starters hitting over .300, including WAC Freshman of the Year Savannah Groshong-Kirk, who is second on the team in hitting (.384). Graduate students Ramsay Lopez (.351) and Kristin Fifield (.357) lead the team in home runs with 14 and 13, respectfully. Lopez has 69 career home runs, tied for fourth for active D-1 players with UCLA’s Brady.

Senior Hailey Hudson (15-5, 2.27 ERA) was named the WAC Pitcher of the Year after going 8-0 in conference play with a 1.89 ERA. Junior Meghan Golden (12-3, 1.90 ERA) is usually the Lopes second starter. Both Hudson and Golden are right-handers, and the duo threw back-to-back no hitters versus CSU Bakersfield last season.

Although head coach Shanon Hays is only in his third season at Grand Canyon, but is in his 15th season as a head coach and has a career record of 602-220-5.                     

Virginia Tech played Grand Canyon on February 17th this year and lost 11-2 after giving up home runs to Lopez, Gomez, and Fifield.  Rachel Castine was hit by a pitch in the first inning and was lost for the year. The Hokies left the bases loaded in that inning and could never get going.

Tale of the Tape

Virginia Tech Softball LA Regional Tale of the Tape

Audio Preview from Carter Hill and Chip Grubb on “TSL Today”

4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I doubt any other bracket has a team facing 3 conference champions, and all three being close to home and only the #2 seed as the only east coast team. I do think we will play well versus this adversity. Looking forward to the first game at 6pm. Let’s go…

  2. Good stuff, thanks Chip. Looks like our girls have a tough task this weekend and I hope the breaks fall their way. GO HOKIES!!!

  3. Chip – 1st off great write-up. Do you think VT could have got in a worse bracket as far as tough teams and location? Did VT have any fans presence the last time in LA? I can’t imagine the support matching if the team was on the east coast. I have no knowledge of other brackets or expertise in knowing if it’s appropriate, but it seems like we got hosed.

    Hope the bats get hot again.

    1. We didn’t get hosed, we hosed ourselves! Leading into the last week, we were ranked 15 with an RPI of 18 and fighting for the last regional seed. We lost TWO to Syracuse, we cancel the Robert Morris game(s) and were the only lower seed in the ACC tourney to lose, to GT, a team we swept earlier in the season. So, we limped into the selection show like a Deer hit by a car, losing 3 of our last 4 games, to less than stellar competition.
      We brought this upon ourselves!

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