Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
The Virginia Tech softball team is back in the NCAA Tournament. The Hokies learned their destination on Sunday night.
The Hokies (33-13, 23-11 ACC) are Tempe, Ariz.-bound. There, they’ve been slated as the No. 2 seed in host and No. 15 overall seed Arizona State’s NCAA regional.
The Hokies just narrowly missed hosting their first-ever NCAA regional. Blacksburg was selected back as one of the 20 potential host sites on May 10. A new piece of the puzzle this year to allow the NCAA to set up testing/additional COVID-19 protocols prior to teams’ arrivals before they square off in this double-elimination format.
With Selection Sunday behind this Virginia Tech team, which does not feature one senior on the roster, it’s full speed ahead for third-year head coach Pete D’Amour’s ballclub. D’Amour has done a remarkable job bringing Hokie softball back from the dead in just a short amount of time in Blacksburg.
Directly in front of them – West Coast Conference champion BYU. BYU will be Virginia Tech’s opening round opponent on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Cougars are the No. 3 seed in the Tempe Regional. The contest will stream on ESPN3.
The No. 4 seed in the regional will be Missouri Valley champion Southern Illinois. The Salukis will face the host Sun Devils in sun-splashed Tempe.
Whether it’s hard or not to believe, the selection wasn’t even the best thing to happen all weekend to D’Amour. His wife Anna gave birth to their first child prior to the selection show. It’s fair to say that it was a busy weekend in the D’Amour household.
His household certainly has plenty of new noise. Now, that’s what D’Amour’s team will try to make in the NCAA Tournament.
A Dominating Presence
Star pitcher Keely Rochard has been absolutely dominant in the circle all season long. She’s regarded as one of the nation’s best.
The ACC Pitcher of the Year gets the swing and miss. Rochard leads the nation in strikeouts with 299, and also leads the country in shutouts thrown with a whopping 13.
The Williamsburg native holds a conference-best ERA at just 1.12. She boasts a 0.79 WHIP while garnering a 25-8 record for the Hokies. Rochard has held opponents to a .146 batting average — also the best in the ACC.
She’s been Virginia Tech’s MVP, and is one of the major reasons why D’Amour’s team finds itself as a threat in the NCAA Tournament.
Good at the Dish
Offensively, the Hokies are pretty solid as well.
Slap-hitting Kelsey Brown (.400, 0 HRs, 17 RBIs) is an outstanding leadoff hitter for Virginia Tech. Star true freshman shortstop Cameron Fagan (.400, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs) follows her up nicely in the No. 2 hole. The Florida native missed 18 games due to injury in the middle of the season, but the No. 9 true freshman in the country, according to D1Softball.com, certainly has helped out the Hokies in her first year in Blacksburg.
Brown and Fagan are joined on the All-ACC second team by fellow Hokies, Jayme Bailey (.315, 7 HRs, 40 RBIs) and Kelsey Bennett (.273, 11 HRs, 36 RBIs). Both had a strong impact on the Virginia Tech offense.
Fagan also cracked the ACC All-Freshman team. Second baseman Addy Greene (.309, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs) couldn’t have been too far behind.
Connecticut native Alexa Milius (.304, 5 HRs, 17 RBIs) also was a big boost to the team late in the season as well.
Time To Red Eye
Had the Hokies avoided a sweep against Notre Dame at home in late-April, we’re probably talking about Virginia Tech hosting a regional. The Hokies may have even sneaked in had they defeated ACC regular season champion Clemson in the ACC Tournament semifinals.
But they’ll get a chance to prove they should’ve been a host when they go to Tempe. Virginia Tech will likely, at some point, face a solid Arizona State team. To have a shot at winning the regional, the first game is key. BYU is first.
The winner of this regional will take on the winner of the Los Angeles Regional in the Super Regional round.
No. 2 overall seed UCLA could very well be on the docket for the winner of what should be a very exciting regional in Tempe.