The ladies of Virginia Tech softball are on the verge of greatness. With Tech’s recent home sweep of the Louisville Cardinals, the Hokies (36-6, 18-2 ACC) have inched even closer to their second ACC title in the Pete D’Amour era. The first was pre-pandemic back in 2019 when the Hokies won 20 conference games and over 40 overall. Sweeping Louisville also marked the fifth sweep this team has notched this season. Here’s how they did it.
Friday: Virginia Tech Wins, 4-3
Game one on Friday evening ended up being the closest contest of the series, though Tech still pulled it out winning by a score of 4-3. The always excellent Keely Rochard (20-2) got the start in the circle for Virginia Tech and she delivered seven stellar innings of work. Her line across those seven frames was eight hits allowed, which yielded three Cardinal runs and 12 strikeouts to zero walks. On the offensive side of the diamond, Virginia Tech tacked on nine hits for four runs.
Darby Trull was the only girl to get multiple hits with two on the day. Meredith Slaw, or “Sluggin Slaw,'' as some call her, had two RBIs in the form of a run-scoring groundout, and a single she ripped up the middle to plate Emma Ritter. Kelsey Bennett and Ally Repko each delivered RBIs as well with Bennett hitting a single and Repko a double into left-center field, respectively. While Louisville showed some fight by recording four straight singles and cutting the lead to one, Bennett gunned out the potential tying run at the plate with a great tag from Mackenzie Lawter to clinch the game one win.
Saturday: Virginia Tech Wins, 3-0
In game two, Tech’s No. 2 Emma Lemley (14-4) pitched one of the best games of her young career. Lemley too threw seven innings of shutout ball, striking out 11 while surrendering just three hits and one walk all day long. Both sides didn’t see much offense as the Hokies only had four hits themselves. However, the key difference was Virginia Tech was able to manufacture runs out of those hits.
A combination of good plate discipline to draw a total of six walks and clutch hitting got those runs across for Tech. In the third inning with the bases juiced, Bre Peck looped a single into left field which scored Ritter from third base and Cameron Fagan from second. Later in the fourth inning, Ritter herself hit an RBI double down the third baseline which scored Jayme Bailey and extended the Hokies' lead out to 3-0. After some more shutdown pitching from Lemley, that was all Virginia Tech needed to clinch the official series win.
Sunday: Virginia Tech Wins, 7-4
Sunday’s matinee represented Senior Day for six members of the maroon and orange. With Trull, Lawter, Rochard, Kayleigh Addington, Alexa Milius and Repko all being honored postgame after securing the series sweep. Rochard stepped back into the circle for the Hokies and despite a day of elevated emotions, the Tech ace delivered a cool, calm and collected outing. She went through six innings that saw her strike out seven and allow just three hits and one earned run. Three runs came across that were unearned and all in the third inning.
Fortunately for Virginia Tech, the offense helped bail out two key errors in the field by the true freshman Peck.
It all started when the Hokies got out to a quick three-run lead that was catapulted by a Morgan Overaitis RBI double to put Tech up top. A Fagan RBI single later, and the maroon and orange had a 3-0 advantage through the first two frames. The Cardinals answered with a four spot in the top half of the third to take a 4-3 lead. But the Hokies weren't just done yet.
The senior Lawter slugged a homer over the fence in left-center field to tie the game up at four. And later in the fifth, after a Peck single and a Trull walk, in stepped Repko to pinch-hit. The transfer from Elon ripped an RBI double to score both Peck and Ritter and give the Hokies a 6-4 lead.
Virginia Tech tacked on one more run in the top half of the sixth inning to give Rochard an even bigger cushion. But it actually wasn’t Rochard who finished the job. D’Amour gave the senior pitcher one final regular season moment at Tech Softball Park, as the Williamsburg native exited the circle to a standing ovation, handing the keys off to the true freshman Lemley. Almost as if it was the changing of the guard.
Lemley finished the job for the Hokies, who were victorious once again in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech now turns its sights to New England this upcoming weekend, when they travel to Boston College for a three-game set with the hometown Eagles. Win the series, and the Hokies are ACC regular season champions. First pitch for Friday evening is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.