The No. 10 (then No. 8) Virginia Tech Softball squad faced stout competition during this past weekend's TaxAct Clearwater Invitational as they went 2-3 over the course of the five-game set.
Game 1: No. 5 Oklahoma State 10, No. 8 Virginia Tech 9
Pete D'Amour and his side opened with a barn burner in game one as they took on No.5 Oklahoma State. After a relatively quiet three hit inning one, between the two sides, inning two took on a lot more action.
Madison Hanson opened the scoring, launching a two run homer into center field, as she brought in Maija Louko (who pinch ran for Bennett who acquired the single) from second, with two outs on the board. Junior Emma Ritter popped up to second base to end the top of the second. With two outs through the bottom frame, Lyndsey Grein walked graduate Cheyenne Factor. Redshirt freshman Micaela Wark then sent another home run up center field to tie the game at two all. Those would turn out to be the only runs scored in the second for Oklahoma State.
Addy Greene stepped up as the second batter in the third inning for the Hokies, following a Cameron Fagan groundout. Greene would not follow the suit of her teammate though, as she strung in what would be the third home run thanks to a beaming ball to right field, to give the Hokies a 3-2 lead at the top of the third. Just one hit would be registered by the Cowgirls in the third inning, but it was an all important homerun by infielder Kiley Naomi, to tie the game at 3.
It was a quick four-batter side for the Hokies in the fourth. Meanwhile, in just a matter of three pitches, the tide of this game was completely changed. A two-RBI single from Rachel Becker gave the Cowgirls a two-run lead. Next into the box was freshman utility Tallen Edwards. An Edwards' single led Megan Bloodworth to advance home from third. At this point, the Oklahoma State lead was up to three and the Hokies desperately wanted to stop the bleeding. Kiley Naomi had the number of freshman pitcher Lyndsey Grein though as her second at bat resulted in her second home run of the morning via a left field shot which sent in three more runners including Edwards and Becker. The offensive onslaught gave the Cowgirls a healthy six-run lead to finish off the fourth.
The Hokie offense wasn’t going away easy, as a home run followed for Jayme Bailey in the fifth, bringing in Addy Greene and Cameron Fagan. The response would trim the Cowgirls lead to just three, leading 9-6.
Virginia Tech relieved Grein entering the bottom of the fifth and opted for sophomore arm Molly Jacobson.
Jacobson had a strong outing allowing just two hits through the rest of normal innings. Yet, it would be up to this Tech offense, as it was faced with the duties of mounting a three-run comeback with time being a factor.
The sixth inning was proficient enough for the Hokies, as an RBI single from Emma Ritter brought freshman Teagan Thrunk from second base home. Yet, Ritter was stranded on the base paths. To end its half of the second inning sixth inning, Virginia Tech would remain behind 9-7.
A speedy four at-bat bottom sixth, with only one hit allowed, meant Virginia Tech would only have to pull two runs back to take this game to extras. The Hokies did just that, with a Bre Peck right field home run and a Kelsey Bennett left field homer the game was squared at nine all. However, Virginia Tech could not push that all important run in to give itself a lead.
It was the play of Cheyenne Factor that pushed the Cowgirls through as her play ended up sealing victory for Oklahoma State. Her movement to second base opened up the opportunity for freshman Katie Lott to walk the game off. Lott’s double did precisely that, and the Hokies first loss of the season came to Oklahoma State.
Game 2: No.8 Virginia Tech 6, Nebraska 4
Later that afternoon, the Hokies were tasked with a less daunting opponent as they took on unranked Nebraska. Starting on the mound for the Hokies was Sophomore Emma Lemley. Lemley pitched all seven for the Hokies and surrendered 10 hits to the Cornhuskers.
A pitching error from the Huskers allowed Cameron Fagan to move from first all the way home to give the Hokies the first run of the game.Addy Greene, who was in the batter's box, advanced to first on the dropped third strike. Troubles only continued for Nebraska as the following hitter Jayme Bailey was then walked. Next up after Bailey was Bre Peck. With Peck up to bat, another error from the infield, allowed Greene to score the second unearned run of the night. This would be the last of Tech scoring in the first.
Leading off for Nebraska was junior infielder Billie Andrews. Andrews started Nebraska’s offense on the right foot, sending Lemley’s pitch out of the park towards left field to bring the Nebraska deficit to just one. Although the Hokies did find themselves in hitter’s counts, they were able to escape the first inning up by one.
Early into the third, a Bre Peck homerun out to center gave Virginia Tech a small cushion as their lead extended to two, 3-1. Tech’s pitching continued to find its footing, as a quiet third inning followed for Nebraska second consecutive inning without a hit registered.
The fourth inning started out poorly for the Hokies as their first two batters found themselves out, due to a ground and fly out respectively. Yet, the Hokies recovered well as Cameron Fagan punched an RBI single, extending the Tech lead to three.
A quick single for the Huskers then led to a Caitlynn Neal home run out to right field, energizing this Nebraska side who were feeling as if this game may have been slipping away from them. An out and two singles followed, leading to an important bases loaded at-bat for Billie Andrews, Andrews popped out to right field allowing Abbie Squier to advance from third. All of a sudden this game was tied at four all. The Cornhuskers couldn’t take the lead though, as a Courtney Wallace fly out ended the fourth, leaving two Cornhuskers on base.
Going into the fifth inning, momentum was clearly swinging the way of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers had just erased a three-run deficit and were poised to add more. Thankfully for Virginia Tech, a Kelsey Bennett home run to left field gave the Hokies the lead almost immediately after Nebraska had tied it up. This caused Nebraska to bring in Kaylin Kinney at pitcher who then did not allow a single run for the rest of the inning. Not much action followed though for either side headed into the with Tech holding onto the one-run lead.
The sixth inning found no batter on base for either squad and it left the Hokies with one more solid inning left in order to move their TaxAct invitational record to be moved to 1-1.
Kinney pitched two consecutive outs including one strikeout against Bennett. With two outs in the inning, Madison Hanson picked up her first homerun of the game and her second of the day to give the Hokies a two-run lead.
Despite back-to-back singles for the Cornhuskers at the bottom of the seventh, they were not able to claw back into the game and ultimately lost 6-4. This moved the Hokies record to 1-1 at the invitational.
UCLA was next on this very challenging docket for the Hokies as they took on the No.2 Bruins the next day.
The top of the first found just one hit for the Hokies via a Ritter single. Ritter would move to second, but would advance no further.
On the mound for Tech was Bre Peck, although the sophomore made it through just 2/3 of the first before she was replaced by Lyndsey Grein.
UCLA got off to a hot start, thanks to a Savannah Pola single and a Maya Brady single. Brady advanced to third on an outfield error, putting runners on second and third for the Bruins. Megan Grant then singled up the middle, scoring both Brady and Pola, as UCLA got an early 2-0 lead. A Jordan Woolery single sent Grant to second. Junior Sharlize Palacios singled up the middle to score Megan Grant and advance Woolery to second. At this point, the Bruins lead was up to three with zero outs on the board.
The Hokies finally recorded an out, as a Seneca Curo ground out advanced Palacios to second and Woolery to third. Freshman Kennedy Powell was sent to first off a very well executed bunt, as the small ball tactic loaded the bases for UCLA. Alyssa Garcia was able to snag an RBI, slapping a single to left field which sent Woolery home and moved Powell to second and Palacios to third. The Garcia single extended the UCLA lead to four. Peck then struck Kelli Godin looking to put two outs on the board. The order was reset as Savannah Pola was up to her second at bat in the first inning. A Pola double to left center scored two runs as Palacios and Powell touched home, thus extending the lead to six.
Maya Brady was then walked, which caused coach D’Amour to bring Lyndsey Grein onto the mound in order to attempt to end the stellar inning the Bruins put together. Grein did just that, not allowing a single run through the rest of the first, which included a strikeout for the freshman. The threat to add more to the already sizeable lead was ended by Grein, stranding three Bruins on the basepaths.
UCLA opted to go with Brooke Yanez on the mound. Making up for a tough start on the mound, Bre Peck kickstarted the Hokie comeback effort well as she doubled down the infield line. She would eventually come around to score unearned, as the Hokies chipped away at the Bruins lead with one run in the first.
Jordan Woolery was able to keep the Bruins hot streak going as she sent a double to left center. Following the Woolery double, a Palacios single batted in Woolery to extend the UCLA lead back up to six, leading 7-1.
A quiet third inning for both sides meant that the score sat at 7-1 in favor of the Bruins. A Hanson single resulted in the Hokies sole run of the, bringing the Hokies within five runs.
A quick top of the fifth for UCLA meant that Tech was given a lifeline. Despite a quick groundout from Fagan, an Addy Greene single to center field along with a Jayme Bailey homerun dropped the Bruins lead to just three. Two quick outs followed and the score read 7-4 in favor of UCLA.
After two quick groundouts for UCLA in the bottom of the fifth, up stepped Maya Brady who would end up sealing the game with her homerun to right center. This would be the last major action of the game, as there was only one more hit recorded throughout the sixth and seventh innings. This was possibly due to the pitching change for the Bruins, as they brought in Megan Faraimo. Faraimo would not allow a single hit in her two innings pitched.
Barring the first inning, the Hokies either outscored or tied UCLA in every inning, yet they could never gain enough momentum to pull another comeback. This second loss dropped their record to 1-2 at the invitational.
Virginia Tech then took on the No.10 Arizona Wildcats in what would turn out to be a defensive duel. It was pitcher Emma Lemley who took the mound for the Hokies against pitcher Devyn Netz for the Wildcats. Through the first full three innings, there was not a single hit registered. Finally, the Wildcats drew first blood in the fourth inning. It was two consecutive Wildcats in Dakota Kennedy and Allie Skaggs who doubled, which set up the Kennedy RBI to give Arizona the first lead of the night.
The Hokies kept the game within reach, as Lemley recorded consecutive strikeouts to end the inning. A single was registered in the bottom of the fourth for the Hokies off the bat of Cameron Fagan, yet three consecutive outs followed to keep the Hokies quiet. In the top of the fifth, a DiNardo double (who was then pinch run for,) and an Altmeyer single to left field, allowed Blanchard to grab the second run of the night.
Headed into the fifth the Hokies needed a spark. Morgan Overaitis came through as she sent a homer outside of the park towards left field. That ended up being the only action of the fifth, leaving the Hokies down by one with two more opportunities to level the contest.
A quiet sixth inning ensued for both sides with just one hit recorded. The seventh inning proved quite prosperous for the Wildcats, as a DiNardo solo homer was followed by a three-run homer from Blaise Biringer that brought in Altmeyer and Tayler Biehl, extending the Arizona lead to five.
Although a single from Jayme Bailey and a double from Bre Peck did inject a short burst of energy into the Hokies, that energy was quickly shot down thanks to two fielder's choice and a strikeout swinging for Netz on the mound. The Hokies series record fell to 1-3 with just one game remaining.
Tech ended the invitational on a high beating USF 4-1. This game was defined by a lead kept at an arm's length by the Hokies thanks to outstanding pitching from Emma Lemley. The Hokies scored with back-to-back batters in the bottom of the third in Emma Ritter who batted in Maija Louko from second, and a Fagan single which in turn batted in Ritter from second as well.
The Bulls sole run came in the fourth thanks to sneaky play by Jordyn Kadlub. Kadlub originally bunted to reach first, she then stole second and was batted in by Emilee Hanlon.
At the bottom of the sixth however, Virginia Tech ultimately put the game away, thanks to a walk by Bennett which allowed Jayme Bailey to score from third to give Tech their third run of the game. A Tegan Thrunk fly out then batted in Bre Peck who even more ensured the Hokies victory.
Virginia Tech finished the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational 2-3 which dropped their overall record to 7-3. The Hokies will travel to Austin, Texas next Friday to take part in the Lone Star State Invitational where they will face stout competition in Abilene Christian, Texas and Texas Southern.