Backstrom’s Gem Not Enough as #15 Virginia Tech Sweeps Doubleheader 2-0, 11-6 – Longwood Athletics

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FARMVILLE, Va. – A pitcher’s duel between Longwood’s longtime ace and one of the best in the ACC made for a nail-biter of a 2-0 Virginia Tech win in the opener, but the 15th-ranked Hokies flexed their top-25 prowess in game two with an 11-6 victory to sweep a Wednesday doubleheader against the Lancers at Hokie Softball Park.
 
Virginia Tech (25-6, 16-6 ACC), which jumped four spots to No. 15 in Tuesday’s USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll after a series win at No. 12 Duke, won close and won big in two matchups against the underdog Lancers, edging out a two-run win in the opener and then fighting off a late-inning Lancer comeback in game two.
 
The Hokies, who have now won five straight home games and seven of their past eight overall, rode a two-hit shutout from Keely Rochard in game one to deal Lancer ace Sydney Backstrom a hard-luck loss in a showdown between two of the best right-handers in the Commonwealth. The two combined to allow just seven hits in an 84-minute matinee in which solo homers from ACC RBI leader Jayme Bailey and power-hitting catcher Alexa Milius made the difference for the Hokies.
 
Game two had Virginia Tech just three outs away from a mercy-rule win before Longwood mounted a late-inning rally in which they outscored the Hokies 5-0 over the final five frames, only to fall 11-6 in seven innings. A early surge, highlighted by an eight-run first inning and a four-RBI day from Kelsey Brown, provided a large-enough cushion for Virginia Tech to outlast that rally and overcome a three-RBI day from Lancer sophomore Lauren Taylor.
 
“I was pleased to see the grit and fight we showed,” said Longwood first-year head coach Dr. Megan Brown. “We made good adjustments and are on the road to where we need to be at this time of year.”
 
Virginia Tech is the fourth top-25 opponent Longwood has faced during a non-conference gauntlet that has featured a combined 11 games against teams who have either been ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll Top 25 or received votes in the poll every week this spring. That gauntlet will continue for the Lancers later this spring when they host James Madison on April 21.
 
Before that home doubleheader at Lancer Field, however, Longwood will play three consecutive three-road series at UNC Greensboro (April 9-10) Radford (April 13-14) and Presbyterian (April 17-18).
 
Game One: Backstrom’s Gem Not Enough as No. 15 Hokies Eke Out 2-0 Win in Opener
 
All-Big South ace Sydney Backstrom gave No. 15 Virginia Tech all she could, but the national powerhouse Hokies edged out a 2-0 win over Longwood in game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Tech Softball Park.
 
In her Big South-leading 14th complete game of the season, Longwood’s workhorse scattered just five hits and two runs over her 6.0 frames, but the Hokies (24-6, 16-6 ACC) used solo homers from three-hitter Jayme Bailey and six-hitter Alexa Milius to provide just enough cushion for All-American ace Keely Rochard.
 
The five hits and two runs were both the fewest a non-conference opponent has allowed the high-powered Hokies this season, but they were enough to back an ACC-leading 11th shutout by Rochard. Virginia Tech’s 5-8 right-hander entered the game holding batters to an ACC-leading .140 average and the league leader in strikeouts, wins and innings pitched, and was nearly untouchable in allowing just two Lancers to reach base – on singles from Lancer graduate student Kasey Carr and senior Leah Powell – and striking out 10.
 
Carr and Powell’s hits were the lone blemishes on the day for the All-American first-teamer Rochard, as the Lancer seniors tagged her for a leadoff single in the top of the third and a two-out knock in the top of the fifth. Neither got past first base, however, as Powell was caught stealing second to end the third, while Carr was left on first after Rochard snuffed out the rally with an inning-ending strikeout.
 
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech made two of its five hits count, as Bailey launched her fifth homer of the season in with two outs in the first for a 1-0 lead and Milius followed with her third knock of the year with two outs in the fourth.
 
For Backstrom (11-9), the loss was her third this season in a complete game in which she allowed three or fewer runs.
 
Game Two: Hokies Cruise Behind Early Outburst, Outlast Lancers 11-6
 
After Lancer ace Sydney Backstrom held the Hokies down in game one, Virginia Tech’s bats awakened in game two and turned seven hits into an 11-6 in game two of Wednesday’s twinbill.
 
A combined 11 runs in the first two innings made the difference for the Hokies, who led by as much as 11-1 before the Lancers mounted a late-game charge in which they outscored Virginia Tech 5-0 in the game’s final five innings.
 
Leadoff batter and the ACC’s No. 3 leader in batting average Kelsey Brown led that charge with four RBI during a 2-for-3 effort that jumped her team-leading batting clip to .417 and sent the Hokies to their fifth straight home win. Brown was the lone Hokie with multiple hits in the nightcap but led a multi-headed attack that saw five players drive in runs and eight cross the plate.
 
That production helped Virginia Tech survive a midgame surge that featured a pair of solo homers from Lancer first baseman Sydney Jacobsen and sophomore Lauren Taylor, who cranked their respective shots in the third and sixth innings – both on two-strike counts. Both of those shots were the team-leading fifth of the season for the junior Jacobsen and sophomore Taylor, whose blasts were only the 13th and 14th allowed by Virginia Tech in 31 games this season.
 
But Taylor’s three RBI, Jacobsen’s solo shot and a sacrifice fly from Alexis Wayland chipped away only partially at Virginia Tech’s early lead, as Hokie reliever Molly Jacobson entered the game in the top of the seventh and fired a perfect innings to end the threat.
 
Hokie designated player Grace Chavez and second baseman Addy Greene also drive in two runs apiece, including a two-run double from Chavez in the first inning and a two-run single from Greene in the second. The performance was Virginia Tech’s fourth double-digit scoring outburst of the season and extended a midseason surge in which the Hokies have won 16 of their past 19 games to climb back into the top 15 of the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll.
 
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