BLACKSBURG - The Virginia Tech softball team finished off a successful fall exhibition season this past weekend, completing a 7-1 session by wrapping up with a tournament at the Virginia Fall College Military Appreciation Tournament in Botetourt, Va. Tech opened the fall season with four games at Tech Softball Park in Blacksburg earlier in September.
The Hokies opened the fall season on Sept. 15 with an 11-1 win over UNCG before taking down a scrappy West Virginia Wesleyan team 2-0. In the opener, Courtney Liddle and Betty Rose each had solo home runs while JUCO All-America transfer Amanda Ake added a three-run shot. Freshman Maggie Tyler tossed four scoreless innings in the win over the Spartans. In the second game of the day, Beth Isaacs, Lauren Darden and freshman Kelly Heinz combined for the shutout in the win over Wesleyan. Offensively, Kelsey Mericka had a sacrifice fly, Logan Spaw had an RBI double and Katey Smith had an RBI single.
The following day, the Hokies took two more from Wesleyan, a 40-win team that made the Division II Tournament a year ago, winning 9-3 and 2-1. In the first game, Tech jumped out to a big lead as the offense picked up several big hits, including an RBI double from Spaw late after Wesleyan had cut into the lead. In the second game, WVW jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Anderson came through with a big two-RBI single in the third inning and Heinz went the distance for the win.
This past weekend, the Hokies took on four in-state rivals at the Botetourt Sports Complex, rolling up a 3-1 mark. On Saturday, Tech downed Longwood 3-1 in the opener before dispatching of JMU 4-1. In the first game, Kat Banks connected on a home run while Mericka and Liddle each had an RBI. Heinz went the distance, allowing just three hits while striking out nine. In the second game of the day, Mericka, Anderson, Rose and Kylie McGoldrick each had an RBI to lead the offense against the Dukes. Tyler tossed five innings and senior Jasmin Harrell got her first action of the fall, throwing two innings. Harrell had minor offseason knee surgery and is working her way back to full strength in the circle.
On Sunday, the Hokies opened up with a 13-5 rout of Liberty, but the bats went cold in the finale as the Hokies dropped a 2-0 decision to Radford. In the win over the Flames, Ake had a three-run home run, Liddle had a two-run blast and Jessica McNamara went deep with a two-run shot of her own. McGoldrick added a two-RBI triple.
“I’m very pleased overall with the way our fall has gone,” said head coach Scot Thomas. “We got a lot of different people opportunities and and many made the most of those opportunities. The pitching staff was very solid in all of their outings and we played great defense behind them, which should give them a lot of confidence heading into the spring.
“Offensively we showed a lot of depth, we just need to do a little better job of hitting with runners in scoring position, but hopefully that will come in the spring early and often.”
Tech is coming off a 42-21 mark in 2012 and returns pretty much its entire starting lineup this season, losing only two seniors from last year. In the infield, the Hokies return Liddle at first base, McGoldrick at second base, Bkaye Smith at shortstop and Mericka at third base. Ake brings a powerful bat to the lineup and will see action somewhere, either at shortstop or third base. Rose returns behind the plate and will be spelled again by Mericka. In the outfield, Banks, Anderson and Lauren Gaskill all return and Harrell will lead the way in the circle with help from Bailey Liddle, along with the freshmen duo of Heinz and Tyler. Spaw hit the ball well in the fall and is expected to be the leader for the designated player spot while Smith and Wolff provide solid options, either as a pinch hitter or at first base (Smith) or as a pinch runner or in the outfield (Wolff). McNamara is also another option at third base after a good showing in the fall.
A talented group of newcomers that includes Kiara Ota, Morgan McCoy and Alex Barnes will also push for action while Darden, Isaacs and Lauren Boitnott will give depth to the pitching staff and Nina Compton will again be a top choice on the base paths.
“We are extremely excited about the spring and the potential of this team,” Thomas continued. “Our focus needs to continue to get stronger and faster throughout the rest of the fall and winter, so we can hit the ground running and full force in February.”
Tech will open its 2013 season in February at the Dot Richardson National Collegiate Softball Invitational in Clermont, Fla. The Hokies will also play tournaments at Troy University and Kennesaw State (in Woodstock, Ga.) and will head west for a tough Spring Break trip at the Mayfair Tournament hosted by Long Beach State and the Judi Garmin Classic hosted by Cal-State Fullerton. On Spring Break, Tech will take on national powers UCLA (2003, 2004 & 2010), Arizona (2006 & 2007), Michigan (2005) and Arizona State (2008 & 2011), who have combined to win eight of the last 10 national championships.
Tech will host non-conference games against Radford, UNCG, Kent State and Longwood, as well as ACC series against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Maryland and NC State. The ACC Tournament will be at Florida State University.
The season begins on Friday, Feb. 9 against LIU-Brooklyn at 5 p.m., followed by a game with Southern Illinois immediately following.
For updates on Virginia Tech softball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Softball).