Fresh off of an NCAA Super Regional loss to powerhouse UCLA in the Los Angeles Super Regional back in 2021, head coach Pete D’Amour knew Virginia Tech softball was in good shape, but acknowledged that the program still needed to take that next step.
Flash forward to 2022, the Hokies (30-5, 13-1 ACC) are rolling.
Ranked a program-best third in the nation, the maroon and orange are as hot as anyone in the country. And with the events that have unfolded over the past few days, it’s hard to debate anything but.
So who are the No. 3 Hokies? Let’s check in on this past week of action.
Series Win At Top 5 Florida State
Heading down to Tallahassee to take on then-No. 3 Florida State (37-4, 11-4 ACC) in a three-game set, Virginia Tech knew it had something to prove.
The Hokies had swung and missed earlier this season in both contests against No. 2 Alabama, so having an opportunity to knock off a program of this magnitude, especially in the ACC, would do wonders for the 2022 campaign.
Turns out, they did just that.
After trailing 2-0 early on in Friday’s opener at JoAnne Graf Field, junior Meredith Slaw gave Tech a bit of a lifeline. Her two-run shot to left field made it a 2-2 ballgame. And after three consecutive shutdown innings from ace Keely Rochard (16-2, 1.46 ERA), we remained tied heading to extra innings.
That’s when Slaw struck again. Another homer to left from the Warsaw, Va. native gave the Hokies a brief 3-2 advantage. And after the Seminoles countered with a run on their own in the bottom half of the frame, a Darby Trull two-run bomb down the right field line gave Tech the lead for good.
Virginia Tech had taken game one. 6-3 your final from Tallahassee.
Saturday’s contest had a slightly different feel.
A four-run first inning, a three-run second, four-run third and a 10-run seventh culminated into a school record 23 runs scored for the Hokies. And with 21 hits to coincide with a historical offensive outburst, Tech was able to overcome a nine-run fourth inning to secure the series victory on Saturday afternoon.
Cameron Fagan (3-for-5, HR, 4 RBIs), Kelsey Bennett (3-for-6, HR, 4 RBIs) and Slaw (3-for-3, HR, 4 RBIs) each led the way for Virginia Tech. And even after nearly surrendering an 11-0 lead, the bats came through for D’Amour’s team en route to a 23-9 beatdown of the Seminoles on their home turf.
Turning our attention to Sunday’s game, well, that’s the one that sparked quite a bit of controversy.
With Tech trailing 3-2 in the top half of the sixth, pinch hitter Addy Greene laced a 2-2 pitch down the right field line that resulted in an inside-the-park grand slam, giving the Hokies a 6-3 advantage.
The bottom half of the frame, though, is where it all fell apart.
With true freshman Emma Lemley (12-3, 1.65 ERA) in to relieve Rochard in the circle, a series of illegal pitches were called on numerous occasions, resulting in the ejections of D’Amour and pitching coach Doug Gillis, while extending the inning to the point where the ‘Noles’ Sydney Sherrill capitalized with a three-run double that gave Florida State an 8-6 lead.
It was one it would not relinquish, as the Seminoles salvaged the three-game series with a Sunday afternoon win to avoid the sweep at the hands of the Hokies.
Mid-Week Win At Liberty
The party didn’t stop in the Florida panhandle, though.
Returning home to the commonwealth, Tech drew a Liberty (28-13, 12-0 ASUN) team that’s given the Hokies some problems in recent years. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday evening.
Lemley, a Jefferson Forest High School graduate, returned home to the Lynchburg area to throw a sparkling five innings of one-run ball. And with Rochard following her up just in time to record her 1,000th career strikeout, the maroon and orange were in cruise control the majority of the evening.
Fagan (4-for-4, RBI) and Bennett (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBIs) led the way for the hot-hitting Hokies. And with relative ease, Virginia Tech extinguished the Flames 8-1 at Liberty Softball Stadium.
Up next for the Hokies, a much-improved Virginia (22-19, 8-7 ACC) team inside Tech Softball Park for a three-game set.
Because of the holiday weekend, games are scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with first pitch on Thursday scheduled for 6 p.m. ET.
The first two games of the series will be streamed on the ACC Network Extra.