Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
It was the shot heard around the world — or at least throughout Virginia Tech’s fan base — on Saturday evening.
When Alexa Milius hit a walk-off solo home run to mercy rule BYU, 11-3, and secure the Hokies’ spot in the NCAA Super Regionals by sweeping through the Tempe Regional, it was more than just a regional-clinching home run.
When the Central Connecticut State transfer drove a 2-1 rise ball into the tall palm trees behind the center field wall, Virginia Tech softball took that next step.
It was 2008 the last time the Hokies had advanced to the Super Regionals. That drought is now over as third-year head coach Pete D’Amour continues to move Virginia Tech back into the national spotlight. The Hokies are off to a good start after cruising through the Tempe Regional round with relative ease.
Speaking of D’Amour, when the former Kennesaw State coach took over back in June 2018, he was inheriting a program that was in need of retooling.
Inaugural head coach and D’Amour’s predecessor Scot Thomas was all the program in Blacksburg had ever known. The 23-year head man had done a fabulous job building Hokie softball up from scratch. But it was time to pass the baton after what Athletic Director Whit Babcock called “a job well done.”
D’Amour took over a program that was coming off a less than inspiring 2018 campaign. That season saw the Hokies go 23-30, which included a 7-16 record in ACC play. Virginia Tech was also coming off a second straight losing season. It had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2014.
The program had been really good before; it was time to make it really good again.
A Quick Tune Up
Virginia Tech softball saw eight NCAA Tournament appearances under Thomas, two ACC championships, and a trip to the Women’s College World Series back in 2008.
Thomas did his job, but it was time to pass the keys on to D’Amour. The transition on the field has been seemingly flawless.
D’Amour, a longtime Missouri assistant, has quickly revitalized the program into exactly what it should be year in and year out in just his second full season in Blacksburg.
He took the Hokies into the Lexington Regional final in just his first year at the helm before falling to No. 14 overall seed Kentucky. That’s when fans knew he was right to take over after quickly enduring a 24-win turnaround between 2018 and 2019.
Virginia Tech finished 47-11 in 2019. That included a 20-4 mark in ACC play, which resulted in the Hokies winning the ACC regular season title.
They’ve now taken the next step, clinching just their second Super Regional berth in program history.
D’Amour and his staff have just make Virginia Tech softball better in all facets as well.
On the field, they’ve molded star pitcher Keely Rochard into one of the best in the country. Rochard boasts a 1.24 ERA and .152 opponent batting average.
They’ve formed third-year players Kelsey Brown, Kelsey Bennett, and Jayme Bailey into some of the best hitters in the ACC. They’ve also recruited at a high level.
D’Amour used his Missouri connections to lure in No. 9 overall recruit Cameron Fagan. Her sister Sami Fagan played under D’Amour in Columbia. The younger Cameron Fagan has hit .402 for her true freshman season for Virginia Tech.
Thomas started it; D’Amour is building it.
The Lights Come On
So what does this Super Regional appearance mean for Virginia Tech softball? Well, it means consistency. It shows a big step up after taking a few back these past few years. Most importantly, it shines a bright light on Hokie softball from a national standpoint.
This team doesn’t have a single senior on the current roster. That spells trouble for the rest of the ACC.
The best-of-three Super Regional round will be tough as the Hokies will travel up the West Coast to face the No. 2 overall seed and defending national champion UCLA Bruins in the Los Angeles Super Regional.
But that’s what makes this time of year so much fun.
If Virginia Tech plays how it did in Tempe this past weekend, including scoring 24 runs across three games, it’ll be tough to beat.
First pitch for Game 1 is scheduled for Thursday evening at 9:30 p.m. ET. The contest will be televised on ESPN.