Resilient Keely Rochard Helps Virginia Tech Find A Way
Virginia Tech has demonstrated resilience all season long, and that did not change on Thursday in the opening round of the ACC Tournament.
The Hokies, who are the 2022 ACC regular season champions, carried their No. 1 seed into a 2-1 nail-biter contest against Syracuse, but emerged victorious behind a solid effort from ACC Pitcher of the Year Keely Rochard.
Rochard, who now has 23 wins on the season, struck out 10 Syracuse hitters on Thursday, despite surrendering an early solo home run, to help the Hokies advance to the tournament's semifinals on Friday.
“I trusted my pitches and my defense behind me, and went right after them,” said Rochard in a postgame interview.
Virginia Tech head coach Pete D’Amour said that Rochard improved in the circle as the outing went along.
“She got better as the game went on,” D’Amour said following the contest. “With this game under her belt, she will be ready for the postseason.”
And that's been the story of Rochard's career to date—getting better and better as the innings and games go on, and focusing on the task in front of her.
For the soon-to-be professional softball player with Athletes Unlimited, there was never a doubt in her mind that she'd get through Thursday's test against Syracuse.
“I didn’t really look at the score because it does not help me,” Rochard said after Virginia Tech's win. “I trust what I got and go right at batters. I trust what my catcher is calling and trust the rest of my team.”
Despite not playing for more than a week before Thursday's game, D’Amour had faith in his talented team when they were trailing the Orange early on. He said that while the time off contributed to the Hokies' slow start on Thursday, he knew they were going to find a way to get the job done like they have all season long.
“There was no panic in our bench,” D’Amour said. “We had an eight-day layoff, but that is not an excuse. We got out of the gates slow, but there was no panic in the team.”
Now ahead for the Hokies is a date with Clemson, who was last year's ACC regular season champion. Virginia Tech started off its difficult run through the much-improved ACC by sweeping the Tigers on the road in March. And while much has happened for both teams since then, one thing is always certain for Virginia Tech: with All-American Keely Rochard in the circle, the Hokies always have a chance to do something special.