Virginia Tech released its 2022 softball schedule on Wednesday, and it seems to be the perfect schedule for a team that made a Super Regional appearance last season and is poised to take the next step. The Hokies will be challenged early and often.
Pete D’Amour & Co. will play 17 games against teams who were ranked in the Top 51 of RPI at the end of last season, including two road games against No. 2 Alabama and three vs. No. 3 Florida State. Both the Crimson Tide and the Seminoles made the College World Series last season.
A total of 12 Hokies’ opponents made the NCAA tournament last year, including four teams that were national seeds in the NCAAs – Alabama (No. 3), Tennessee (No. 9) Florida State (No. 10) and Kentucky (No. 14).
“Yes, we have a demanding schedule in ’22, but we have an experienced team and we have some lofty goals as a program,” Tech head coach Pete D’Amour said. “Playing an aggressive schedule will hopefully help us achieve our goals.”
The Hokies will play 15 games in the friendly confines of Tech Softball Park, including three-game ACC series against Syracuse, North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisville.
In the conference, Tech will travel to Clemson, Pittsburgh, Florida State and Boston College. The league schedule rotation has Tech missing Duke, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and NC State this season. The conference tournament is scheduled to be played in Pittsburgh from May 11-14.
The combination of cold weather and VT’s emergence as a national power limits the number of non-conference opponents willing to visit Blacksburg. Consequently, D’Amour has elected to seek out top competition on the road in hopes of building a strong RPI that will result in the Hokies being selected to host a Regional this season.
Last year, Tech was one of 20 preselected regional sites, but single-game losses to Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, NC State and a sweep by Notre Dame eliminated the Hokies from consideration.
In addition, the typical Blacksburg weather in February and March limits the opportunities for not only home games, but sometimes even outside practice. Those types of obstacles inspired Mark Allister to put together the Northern Lights/Southern Nights Invitation in Leesburg, Fla., where the Hokies will open the season on February 11.
The event, which invites “top teams who never or only occasionally practice outdoors before the season begins,” will match the Hokies against Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State, Missouri and Kentucky. The Missouri game is probably privately circled by D’Amour, as he spent 10 seasons with the Tigers as an assistant coach and an associate head coach.
The following weekend, the Hokies will visit Alabama for two games against the Crimson Tide, who made the College World Series last season, and single games against Middle Tennessee State and Evansville. That will be followed by another SEC road trip the following week to Columbia, S.C. to tackle the Gamecocks, as well as Ohio State, Troy and Miami of Ohio.
South Carolina, Troy, and Miami (coached by former VT Assistant Coach Kirin Kumar) all made the NCAA tournament last season.
In-season road trips to NCAA participants Central Florida (three games) and Tennessee will be mixed into the schedule. There will also be a challenging stretch of 11 consecutive road games beginning March 22 that will test the Hokies.
Here is the complete schedule, along with season ending RPI and Massey rankings:
The Hokies return players who made 497 combined starts in 2021 and have added several talented newcomers. NFCA All-American pitcher Keely Rochard and fellow NFCA All-Mid Atlantic First Team honorees Kelsey Brown, Jayme Bailey and Cameron Fagan, along with NFCA Second Team infielder Kelsey Bennett, return to lead a veteran core.
Coach D’Amour told Evan Hughes during a recent podcast (November Fall Update by Hokies Softball Podcast) that sophomore pitchers Mackenzie Osbourne and Ivy Rosenberry are throwing “as well as I’ve ever seen them – they’ve gotten a lot better.” He added that freshman Emma Lemley “is striking out everybody. … They will give us a chance to compete against anybody.”
“We have a goal set to get to where we were last year (Super Regional) and even further,” D’Amour said.
This schedule should certainly help achieve that goal. As long as the Hokies take care of business, their RPI should put them in good shape for potentially hosting a regional, which is certainly preferable to being assigned to a western regional as they did last year.
Full Schedule: Link