Expectations for the Virginia Tech softball team will be high this spring after an ACC regular-season title and NCAA Regional final a year ago, as the squad enters Year 2 of the Pete D’Amour era.
The new era of Hokie softball kicked off with a bang in 2019. The team set more than 20 school records, including 20 ACC wins, 97 home runs, batting average (.334) and fewest errors committed (47).
But the Hokies don’t return the ACC Pitcher of the Year, an All-American outfielder and the school’s home-run record holder at shortstop. They do, however, have six starters coming back, four of whom were NFCA All-Region selections last spring.
Of those four all-region picks, sophomore Kelsey Bennett leads the charge offensively after winning ACC Freshman of the Year and being named to Schutt Sports/NFCA Freshman of the Year Top 10 list. Her 14 home runs was a VT freshman record. First-team All-ACC selection Keely Rochard looks to be the team’s ace, following her impressive 22-3 record and three no-hitters (one perfect game) last year.
But with the three holes in the starting lineup entering February, really, there’s just a couple of spots that have a question mark. With Rochard, who had a team-best 1.81 ERA in 2019, and D’Amour, the reigning ACC Coach of the Year, and his staff, the 2019 NFCA Mid-Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year made up of Doug Gillis and Kirin Kumar, welcome in a highly-touted freshman class blessed with athleticism and a blue-collar mentality that should fit the culture in Blacksburg. Twins and utility players Ansley and Ashley Whitley should contribute right away, as should designated player Maddie Rountree, while Kelsey Brown, a transfer from James Madison University who is a speedy, slap-hitting lefty, will push for a starting role in the outfield after a stellar fall.
Tech will face another tough non-conference schedule, playing all four weekends on the road before ACC play heats up. The Holies will face three teams in their conference that finished in the top 40 RPI last year in Florida State (No. 6), North Carolina (26) and Notre Dame (39).
RETURNING STARTERS (2019 stats)
C – Mackenzie Lawter (.278, 30 RBI, 11 HR)
1B – Jayme Bailey (.380, 16 RBI, 6 HR)
2B – Maddi Banks (.259, 12 RBI, 4 HR)
3B – Kelsey Bennett (.369, 45 RBI, 14 HR)
CF – Darby Trull (.406, 37 RBI, 7 HR)
RF – Al Velazquez (.335, 28 RBI, 4 HR)
STARTERS LOST (2019 stats)
P – Carrie Eberle (25-8, 1.84 ERA, 164 K)
SS – Caitlyn Nolan (.299, 55 RBI, 19 HR)
LF – Emma Strouth (.404, 68 RBI, 13 HR)
TOP NON-STARTERS (2019 stats)
P – Keely Rochard (22-3, 1.81 ERA, 193 K)
2B – Olivia Lattin (.545, 2 RBI, 1 HR)