Virginia Tech softball proved its elite status after its performance at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational Feb. 13-16. After a sluggish loss to No.16 Oklahoma State, the Hokies were victorious over No. 18 South Carolina, No. 14 Minnesota and No. 21 Northwestern. However, the Hokies also dropped a close game to No. 19 Missouri to go 3-2 for the tournament. Tech advanced to 7-3 overall.
“I am very encouraged with a 3-2 showing against this weekend’s competition,” said second-year coach Pete D’Amour. “We proved that we can compete with anyone in the country.”
After a close four innings, Oklahoma State scored seven runs in the fifth inning against the Hokies to hand them a 14-6 loss in six innings. The Cowgirls hit back-to-back home runs to start the game, and scored another run before the end of the first inning. But Virginia Tech answered with four runs of its own in the second inning to take the lead.
The Hokies kept it a two-run game through five innings, but could not come back from the Cowgirls’ seven-run inning in the top of the sixth. Pitcher Keely Rochard threw 11 strikeouts.
Virginia Tech bounced back with a 8-6 win over South Carolina the next day. The Hokies came from behind scoring four runs in the sixth inning to take the lead over the Gamecocks. Sophomore Kelsey Bennett was the key to success, hitting two home runs and racking up three RBIs.
“This team is starting to gain an identity of being a hard-nosed bunch that will grind out all 21 outs,” D’Amour said after the game.
The next day, though, the Hokies lost 5-6 to Missouri. The Hokies and Tigers went scoreless through three innings. Virginia Tech finally got on the board in the fourth inning with a run from Darby Trull, and scored four runs in the fifth inning. However, Missouri scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game, and one more in the sixth to secure the lead.
Later in the day, Tech edged out Minnesoa 2-1 for its second-ranked win of the weekend. The Hokies were up on the scoreboard first after Olivia Lattin and Maddi Banks hit back-to-back home runs for a two-run lead. Minnesota scored a run in the sixth inning, but Rochard pitched three strikeouts in the seventh to end the comeback effort.
Virginia Tech’s last win came against Northwestern, 6-5 in eight innings. After being down a run, the Hokies scored five runs in the fourth inning to gain a one-run lead. A Wildcat run in the sixth inning tied the game up, and the lack of offense for both teams in the seventh inning sent the game into extra innings. Bennett reached home in the eighth, courtesy of a pop-up ball to left field hit by Mackenzie Lawter. Rochard held Northwestern off one more time for the win.
The Hokies look forward to the Charleston Invitational, where they will compete against Army, Dartmouth, Bradley, North Carolina A&T and College of Charleston. The tournament will take place in Charleston and start on Feb. 21.