It may have been just the first weekend of conference play, but No. 6 Virginia Tech (14-3, 3-0 ACC) wasted no time in securing what could be its most impressive series of the year with a three-game sweep over No. 9 Clemson (12-6, 0-3 ACC).
Pitcher Keely Rochard (8-2) led the way for the Hokies with two winning decisions; in her 11.2 innings pitched over the weekend, the senior ace didn't allow a single earned run, giving up just six hits and striking out 17.
Although the Williamsburg, Va. native delivered captivating results on Friday and Sunday, the standout act in the circle came on Saturday, when true freshman Emma Lemley notched a complete game shutout, surrendering just three hits and striking out 10 en route to a 4-0 victory over the Tigers.
Truly a dominating weekend for those to toe the rubber for Virginia Tech.
Friday: Virginia Tech Wins, 6-1
Friday evening’s series opener resembled just that. The Hokies and Tigers traded a pitcher’s duel in the opening three frames, but it wouldn’t last. Tech’s bats got red-hot, and a six-run top of the fourth put the game away early on for Virginia Tech.
A bases loaded eight-pitch walk from Bre Peck broke the ice, but that was just the appetizer to the upcoming main course. The very next at-bat, Jayme Bailey cleared the bases with a grand slam to deep center field, giving the Hokies a 5-0 advantage. That was all they needed.
Her first home run of the season encapsulated a solid offensive showing by Virginia Tech. Kelsey Brown, Emma Ritter and Kelsey Bennett each tallied multi-hit contests, with Brown adding three singles to lead the way for the maroon and orange.
With the Hokies holding on to a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth, head coach Pete D’Amour made his first call to the bullpen by bringing in Ivy Rosenberry. The sophomore hurler held her own for an inning and a third, allowing just one earned run and totaling two strikeouts, closing out a 6-1 win for Virginia Tech.
Saturday: Virginia Tech Wins, 4-0
Moving onto Saturday, the Hokies got out to a much better start with a two-run first inning that got going with a throwing error by the Tigers, followed by a Bennett RBI single to bring home Ritter.
Not only did Tech get out to a solid start with the barrels, but the Hokies’ defensive play was sparkling, as well. Brown made a web gem of a play in foul territory, certainly setting the tone for what was to come all weekend long from Virginia Tech in the field.
In addition to Bennett’s RBI double in the first inning, her production in driving in runs was only just beginning. The junior from Georgia produced two more knocks throughout the day, totaling three hits and three RBIs to lead the Hokies in the aforementioned 4-0 win.
Sunday: Virginia Tech Wins, 6-2
To close the series out on Sunday, Rochard and Clemson’s Valerie Cagle gave the fans at McWhorter Stadium quite the show in the circle. The pair only gave up a combined-six hits in the first five frames.
A true display from some of the nation's best.
That script flipped in the top of the sixth as Morgan Overaitis, who came in to pinch hit, belted a three-run home run to deep center field, breaking the doors off a scoreless tie and giving the Hokies their first offense of the afternoon.
The Tigers were able to cut the deficit down to a single run in the bottom half of the frame with a sacrifice fly, but Peck came through with a single in the top of the seventh to give Virginia Tech the insurance it needed to pull out the 4-2 victory.
After a mid-week slip up on the road against Charlotte, the Hokies needed to prove themselves that they are truly a national contender, and with a road sweep over one of the premier teams in the ACC, that’ll surely do the trick.
With the 17-game road trip coming to an end, the Hokies will finally get to start their home slate of action with a doubleheader against Norfolk State on Wednesday, March 9 at 4 p.m. Both of these games will be broadcasted on the ACC Network Extra.
Following a pair of in-state matchups against the Spartans, the Hokies will host the Syracuse Orange for a three-game set to kick off their home portion of conference play. That series starts on Friday, March 11 at 6 p.m. All three games will be streamed on the ACC Network Extra.