KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Virginia Tech softball team’s dramatic run to the final of the NCAA Knoxville Regional came to an end Sunday afternoon at Lee Stadium as the Hokies fell to fifth-ranked and seventh-seeded Tennessee 2-1 and 10-2. With the losses, Tech’s season comes to an end as the Hokies finished with a 42-21 record. The Hokies opened the weekend with a 4-1 win over UAB and a 6-0 win over Miami (Ohio) to reach the finals.
“I’m just really proud of this team,” head coach Scot Thomas said. “Hats off to Tennessee, they have a great program and I felt like we came down here and played hard and I’m real proud of this program.”
Needing just one win to advance to the Super Regionals, Tech had a great chance in the first game, but couldn’t pull it out. Tennessee hit a solo home run in the first inning that bounced off the top of the wall and over, and then scored one more in the fifth inning to take a 2-0 lead. Tech had a great chance in its half of the fifth inning, putting runners on the corners, but couldn’t get a sac fly or a hit to plate a run. Finally, in the seventh inning, Logan Spaw singled up the middle to plate Kat Banks to cut the lead in half, but Tennessee’s Ivy Renfroe got a strikeout to end the game.
Tech’s Jasmin Harrell pitched a masterful game, giving up two runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts. At the plate, Spaw, Banks, Kylie McGoldrick and Betty Rose each had a hit.
In the second game, the hard-hitting Lady Vols woke up and scored 10 runs on 16 hits as they pulled away for the win. After Tennessee scored two runs in the top of the first inning, the Hokies fought back, scoring one of their own when Kelsey Mericka drove in Lauren Gaskill with a sacrifice fly. The Vols put a five-spot on the board in the third inning to widen their lead, but Rose’s ground out plated Gaskill to make it 7-2. Tennessee scored a run in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh inning to account for the final score.
After throwing 83 pitches in the Tennessee heat of the first game, Harrell gave a gutsy effort in the second contest, but wasn’t as effective this time around. She ended up tossing 121 pitches in the second game, going 6.2 innings before being pulled to a standing ovation from the crowd with one out left in the last inning. The junior allowed 10 runs (6 earned) on 14 hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Bailey Liddle got the last out, but gave up two hits. Harrell finished the season with a 31-16 record and a sub-2.00 ERA. The 36 wins are the third-most in program history for a single season and her 288.1 innings pitched are the third-most in program history for a single season, as well.
“I think I was actually on today but they just made adjustments from the first game and hit better in the second game the pitches that they didn’t hit well in the first,” Harrell said. “From this weekend, I just take a lot of the pressure and the situations that we got put in. There are a lot of good teams in this regional and I just take the experience basically from it because obviously this is our whole team’s first time at Regionals. So really, we just take the experience from it all.”
At the plate, Tech was led by Gaskill, who picked up two more hits. She finished the season with a .312 batting average, highest on the team and scored 47 runs, a new freshman record at Tech. Also picking up hits were McGoldrick and Courtney Liddle.
The Hokies set program records for home runs (46), hit by pitch (47), sacrifice flies (19), assists (629), fielding percentage (.975) and double plays turned (31) in breaking the 40-win plateau for the seventh time in program history. The NCAA appearance was the fifth in the program’s history.
The end of the season marked the ends of the career of Tech’s two seniors, Kristen Froehlich and Marra Hvozdovic. The Hokies didn’t start any seniors on Sunday and will welcome in a strong class of newcomers this fall, setting up the potential for another strong season in 2013.
Tennessee (50-11) will host 10th-seeded Georgia next weekend in the Super Regionals. The winner of the best two-of-three series will advance to the Women’s College World Series.
For updates on Virginia Tech softball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Softball).