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Hard Work Is Paying Off For Virginia Tech's Keely Rochard

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(Photo by Virginia Tech Athletics)

Keely Rochard knew her fate at the age of nine. No other position on the diamond piqued her interest as much as the pitcher's mound. She was destined to pitch and no one was stopping her from chasing that dream, not even her own mother.

“I just really wanted to pitch and my mom was like ‘I don't really think that’s for you,’” Rochard said. “She wanted to get me lessons and I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter, get me lessons, I don't care, I'm going to do it.’ I was just really determined to pitch at that age. Even when I did pitch I was really bad and I walked everybody. I would just resume and be like, ‘OK, who’s next?’”

Little did she know at that age that she was going to be a rising superstar at Virginia Tech. Rochard was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the country during the 2020 season. She led the NCAA with 183 strikeouts, 15 wins and seven shutouts, including two no-hitters in the shortened season.

With the same passion and perseverance she's had since she was younger, Rochard is on a mission this season to go above and beyond her goals from 2020 and continue to attempt to break program records.

After striking out 42 batters to start the 2021 season, Rochard is currently ranked second in the country with three shutouts and fifth for victories. Not only is Rochard leading the ACC in wins, shutouts, strikeouts and innings pitched, but she also has an ACC-best ERA of 0.57, allowing only three earned runs in six starts.

“Every day in practice, I work just as hard as I did last year,” Rochard said. “I trust my teammates a lot, so I feel comfortable when I am pitching knowing they have my back behind me and that they will score runs for me.”

With a practice schedule unique to each Virginia Tech pitcher, Rochard found what works best for her so she has the ability to perfect her talent while also getting the well-needed rest she deserves.

“Every (pitcher) is different, but for me, I do better when I take breaks or when I don’t pitch as much,” Rochard said. “During the fall, we pitch basically every day and then we usually have weekends off, but in the spring, we only have one day off including traveling. The day of travel (the team) practices, but I don’t usually do anything that day. Even during the week of practice, some days will be light and some days will be heavy.”

Ultimately, Rochard wouldn’t be dominating in the ACC if she didn’t take notes and feed off of the rest of the Hokies' pitching staff along with pitching coach Doug Gillis.

“I learn from everybody,” Rochard said. “All pitchers are different and you (strike) people out in different ways. Even if you throw the same pitch, you still have a different way of (striking) people out. I personally might be biased, but I think (Doug Gillis) is the best pitching coach ever. I am constantly learning something new every day.”

emma ritter photo courtesy of virginia tech athletics.jpg

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