Hokies open the 2017 campaign at the Sportco Kick Off Classic

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BLACKSBURG - The Virginia Tech softball team opens the 2017 season this weekend in Las Vegas at the Sportco Kick Off Classic, hosted by UNLV, from Feb. 10-12.

The Hokies will face Indiana State and the Rebels on Friday and CSU Bakersfield and Southern Utah on Saturday. Tech will wrap up the weekend with a 2:15 EST contest with the Thunderbirds on Sunday. Friday’s tilt with the Rebels will be streamed on the Mountain West Network via TheMW.com. Live stats will be available for all games and can be found on HokieSports.com

Head coach Scot Thomas enters his 22nd season leading the Virginia Tech softball program and he brings back 12 letterwinners and seven starters from a team that barely missed the NCAA Tournament last season. The Hokies finished with an RPI of 44 and an overall record of 29-28, just a few wins shy of clinching an at-large bid to the ninth NCAA Regional in program history.

One of the top returners for Tech this season is reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Lauren Duff, who led the Hokies with a .347 batting average, 13 doubles and a 1.047 OPS in 2016. She also threw out 13 runners behind the plate, the second-most in the ACC last year. Tech’s offensive returnees scored 204 of its 239 runs in 2016 and 158 of their 211 runs driven in.

In the circle, the Hokies will have multiple options with redshirt sophomore Chelsea Whitcomb, junior Aysha Richardson and junior Mikaela Aiken serving as the top returners. Freshmen Carrie Eberle and Taylor Barnes, both considered to be two of the top players in their regions coming out of high school, are also expected to pitch for the Hokies right away.

Last time in Vegas
•The Hokies went 4-2 in their previous trip to the Sin City back in 2006.
•In Tech’s 6-5 win over Nevada in 11 innings on March 3, 2006, current assistant coach Angela Tincher struck out
a school record 26 batters.

Exhibition Game
3/6/06 vs. Chinese National Team L, 0-7 Las Vegas, Nev.
UNLV Invitational
3/5/06 at UNLV W, 2-1 Las Vegas, Nev.
3/4/06 vs. Southern Utah W, 10-2 (6) Las Vegas, Nev.
3/4/06 vs. Arizona State W, 2-1 (8) Las Vegas, Nev.
3/3/06 vs. Nevada W, 6-5 (11) Las Vegas, Nev.
3/3/06 vs. Portland State L, 1-3 Las Vegas, Nev.

Hokies picked to finish fifth in ACC coach poll
•The Virginia Tech softball team was picked to finish fifth in the ACC preseason poll by the league’s head coaches.
•The Hokies earned 58 total points from the coaches and Florida State was predicted to win the conference for the fourth-consecutive season. Louisville (86), Notre Dame (84) and North Carolina (67) joined Tech in the top five of the poll.
•Tech finished in a tie fifth last season with a 13-11 record in the ACC.

Freshmen look to make an impact immediately
•After productive fall seasons, a few freshmen could step in right away and make an impact for the Hokies early on in the 2017 season.
•Carrie Eberle, the Charlotte Observer Player of the Year as a senior at Charlotte Catholic HS, could eat up some innings in the circle and pack a punch at the plate in the DP spot.
Hannah Jones showed in the fall that she can hit for power and could give the Hokies another look as a second left-handed bat in the lineup alongside Breanna Davenport.
Taylor Clark and Taylor Barnes also provide depth defensively and, in Barnes’ case, in the circle.

The return of Aysha Richardson
•After being sidelined for almost two years due to an injury and transferring, junior Aysha Richardson is back and ready to compete for a starting job entering the 2017 season.
•Richardson hit .286 in 21 at-bats with seven starts as a freshman before her season ended due to injury.
•Head coach Scot Thomas could see Richardson help the team in a myriad of areas including the outfield, infield, in the circle and as a pinch runner.

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