BLACKSBURG, Va. (BVM) – A historic season for the Virginia Tech Hokies softball team had to include a historic highlight. That moment came Sunday during the 2022 NCAA College Softball Bracket Selection Show as the Hokies were given the No. 3 national seed and were made the host of an NCAA Regional round for the first time in program history.
“We earned it. Really proud of our kids. Our plan worked out,” Hokies head coach Pete D’Amour said following the selection show. “Now we just got to go out there and win more games.”
For the first time in school history…
𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙗𝙪𝙧𝙜 𝙍𝙚𝙜𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡. pic.twitter.com/PdmcgPddV1
— Virginia Tech Softball (@HokiesSoftball) May 15, 2022
The Hokies have been among the top teams in the nation throughout the season. Finishing the year an astounding 41-7, Virginia Tech has reached highs the program had never seen before including earning its first time ever being ranked higher than No. 13 in the nation. In fact, the Hokies this season achieved the seven highest poll rankings in school history, earning weekly rankings in spots No. 8, No. 7, No. 6, No. 5, No. 4, No. 3 and No. 2.
No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Softball Poll
*highest ranking in program history
Started 13-0 in ACC play
*best start in program history
23 runs vs. FSU (April 9)
*most runs in a game in program history
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) April 21, 2022
Finishing with a 21-2 conference record, Virginia Tech won the Atlantic Coastal Conference regular season crown en route to the best conference winning percentage in program history. While the team would drop its ACC Championship tournament semifinal game to No. 15 Clemson on May 13, the loss doesn’t diminish the history made by the program in the regular season.
“The regular season championship is a big deal for us…Going 21-2 in a league that has six teams ranked in the top 25 speaks to the talent this team has but also how good our chemistry has been,” D’Amour said after clinching the championship in a press release. “We’ve moved our focus to the rest of the year…but we’ll be able to look back when the season is over and realize the regular season record was pretty special.”
𝘼𝘾𝘾 𝙍𝙚𝙜𝙪𝙡𝙖𝙧 𝙎𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙤𝙣 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙢𝙥𝙨. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/csfFmKbLTf
— Virginia Tech Softball (@HokiesSoftball) April 30, 2022
Virginia Tech earned the third-highest winning percentage in the country, ranking behind No. 1 seed Oklahoma and No. 2 seed and ACC rival Florida State. The Hokies earned this through a balanced attack offensively and on the mound as the team finished No. 15 in the country in team batting average, No. 18 in scoring offense and No. 20 in slugging percentage while also finishing No. 7 in strikeout-to-walk ratio and No. 13 in team earned run average.
While the Hokies deploy a solid mix of both youthful and experienced players to achieve their balance, this combination is perhaps best reflected in the team’s two ace pitchers in senior Keely Rochard and freshman Emma Lemley. The experienced veteran, Rochard came off of a 2021 All-American season with another strong campaign this year where she has a 1.73 ERA over 178 innings pitched with 293 strikeouts to just 51 walks. Her strikeouts rank her at No. 4 in the country while her average of 11.5 strikeouts per seven innings put her also at No. 4 in the country. This performance has gotten national attention as Rochard was not only named the ACC Pitcher of the Year, but also was named one of 10 finalists for USA Softball’s Collegiate Player of the Year.
While Lemley hasn’t received the same level of attention as her older counterpart, that hasn’t stopped the young pitcher from making a name for herself. With a 1.72 ERA over 118 innings pitched with 193 strikeouts and only 38 walks. Though her total strikeouts rank No. 41 in the country, it is Lemley’s efficiency getting strikeouts that stands out as her strikeouts per seven innings, 11.8, is No. 3 in the nation, even better than her teammate Rochard. The ACC Freshman of the Year, Lemley has drawn national eyes as well as she was also named a finalist for a national award, being named a Top-10 Finalist for Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year.
Possessing two of the nation’s top arms as well as a balanced unit on both sides of the plate, the Hokies have a chance to make their already historic season even more memorable. Playing in front of their home crowd fans during the regional round for the first time, Virginia Tech could continue its momentum into a super regional round, where it would again host if it wins the regional, and even an appearance in the Women’s College World Series, where the team hasn’t appeared since 2008.
“It’s going to help a lot, especially in this environment,” Rochard said about the home field advantage. “Again, it really helps that this fanbase has shown up so much this season. We’re used to playing in front of a packed home crowd and I hope that happens for regionals and supers.”