Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
For the first time since 2008, Virginia Tech softball (36-13, 23-11 ACC) will compete for a spot in the Women’s College World Series.
Fresh off a sweep at the Tempe Regional this past weekend, the Hokies will make the six-hour plane trip up to Los Angeles to face No. 2 overall seed and defending national champion UCLA (44-4, 19-2 Pac-12) in a best-of-three super regional round.
It’s going to be a tough ask for third-year head coach Pete D’Amour’s ballclub to go up to Hollywood and take two of three from one of the greatest programs in college softball. But after putting up a combined 24 runs and 42 hits over the course of three games with both BYU and No. 15 overall seed Arizona State, this Virginia Tech offense is coming in as hot as ever.
That’s a statement that’ll make D’Amour and company sleep well at night. The Hokies already boast one of the top pitchers in the country in Keely Rochard. Rochard has been dominant in the circle all year long, posting a 28-8 record across 38 appearances, while adding a 1.24 ERA and a .152 opponent batting average.
She won’t be the only star to toe the rubber this weekend. This Super Regional likely features three of the top 10 pitchers in the country in Rochard, and UCLA’s duo of Megan Faraimo, and Rachel Garcia, who’s arguably the best in the country. Garcia happens to be a two-way player.
It’s shaping up to be a fun Super Regional as Virginia Tech will attempt to head to Oklahoma City for the first time in 13 years.
First pitch for Game 1 will take place at 9:30 p.m. ET on Thursday evening on ESPN.
What To Watch For – Virginia Tech
One thing is for sure this weekend. All the pressure is on UCLA.
The No. 2 overall seed is expected to be in Oklahoma City each and every season. The Hokies would be a surprise team to see in the eight-team field.
We mentioned the offensive outburst last weekend in sun-splashed Tempe. A lot of that credit is due to two particular women in particular for Virginia Tech.
Designated Player Alexa Milius (.344, 7 HRs, 22 RBIs), and shortstop Kelsey Bennett (.315, 13 HRs, 40 RBIs) both had quite the weekend during the regional round.
Milius went a combined 7-for-11 (.636) with two home runs and five RBIs, which included the walk-off home run in the regional final to send the Hokies to Los Angeles. She’s done quite the damage in the No. 3 hole for D’Amour.
Bennett somehow exceeded that performance, with an outstanding 9-for-11 (.818) weekend, adding two homers and four RBIs. It was a sensational showing from the Georgia native.
Rochard kept opposing hitters locked down in the circle. She allowed just a combined seven earned runs over 19 innings and 344 pitches thrown between the three games.
Don’t expect D’Amour to make many changes to the Virginia Tech lineup; here’s how it’ll likely shake out.
Projected Starting Lineup
- LF Kelsey Brown
- 3B Cameron Fagan
- DP Alexa Milius
- 1B Jayme Bailey
- SS Kelsey Bennett
- 2B Addy Greene
- RF Emma Ritter
- C Mackenzie Lawter
- CF Darby Trull
P Keely Rochard
What To Watch For – UCLA
Where do you start for a program that matches the brand name of Duke basketball, or the New York Yankees, or the Dallas Cowboys, or the Boston Celtics in college softball?
Well, let’s start in the circle with the ace. She is one of the greatest softball players to ever wear a collegiate uniform.
Rachel Garcia (16-0, 0.78 ERA) is absolutely masterful each time she takes the field. The stats speak for themselves.
But it’s not just that, the Pac-12 Player of the Year also has garnered a .373 batting average – which is tied for the team-best – and smacked 12 home runs to go with 32 RBIs.
The Shohei Ohtani of softball also resides in Los Angeles.
But it’s not just Garcia who’s elite in the circle for Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Kelly Inouye-Perez.
Megan Faramio (18-3, 1.18 ERA) is another wizard of a pitcher for one of the best teams in the country. That’s what makes UCLA so tough, and what makes the Bruins one of the primary favorites to win the national championship. They can run out two elite pitchers at any given time.
There is certainly no lack of firepower at the dish, either.
Lead-off hitter Briana Perez (.373, 12 HRs, 40 RBIs) is one of the toughest outs the Hokies will face. Kelli Godin (.362, HR, 6 RBIs), Anna Vines (.358, 2 HRs, 13 RBIs), and Maya Brady (.339, 11 HRs, 32 RBIs) are also all threats sprayed throughout the Bruins’ order.
Here’s how UCLA likely lines it up against the Hokies.
Projected Starting Lineup
- SS Briana Perez
- RF Aaliyah Jordan
- P/DP Rachel Garcia
- C Delanie Wisz
- CF Maya Brady
- 1B Kinsley Washington
- 2B Anna Vines
- 3B Thessa Malau’ulu
- Kelli Godin
P Rachel Garcia
P Megan Faraimo