DURHAM, N.C. – Earning its third ranked win of the season, No. 19/16 Virginia Tech softball used a balanced attack at the plate to defeat No. 12/14 Duke 4-1 on Friday night at Duke Softball Stadium.
The Hokies (21-5, 14-5 ACC) got an RBI from four players and scored two runs in the second and seventh innings to take Game 1 of the four-game series against the Blue Devils (26-4, 14-4), who have now dropped five in a row to Tech.
Pitcher Keely Rochard (17-2, 0.87 ERA) pitched another gem, holding the league leader in runs (176) to just one run with a four-hit, seven-strikeout outing in the circle. Duke’s pitcher Peyton St. George (11-2, 1.57 ERA), who is no slouch herself (2-time ACC Pitcher of the Week), held Tech to just six hits, but the Hokies were timely with them and got some insurance runs late to make it a three-run victory.
QUOTING TECH DESIGNATED PLAYER CANA DAVIS
On her RBI double that proved to be game-winning run:
“I was just looking for a pitch around my knees and was trying to hit it on the ground,” designated player Cana Davis said. “It was a great feeling to get some runs on the board for Keely [Rochard], because she worked so hard for us in the circle so we had to work hard for her on offense.”
On facing a ranked team and how important it is to win the first game in a series:
“It’s always a good feeling to get the first one,” Davis said. “I’m proud of everyone today. Multiple people stepped up and got the job done for us to win.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
In the top of the second inning, third baseman Kelsey Bennett lined a ball to left field and Duke’s left fielder took a chance on diving to catch it and missed it, with Bennett using her speed to leg out a stand-up triple.
Center fielder Darby Trull would earn a five-pitch walk on the next at-bat and then swipe second after right fielder Emma Ritter pulled back her bunt attempt on the first pitch she saw. Ritter would follow with a sacrifice fly to right field after the Duke right fielder made a snag down the right-field line, but pinch runner Maddy Federico tagged up and made it safely to home plate for the game’s first run.
Davis would follow suit and delivered an RBI double down the right-field line to score Trull, marking her second straight game with a two-bagger. Catcher Mackenzie Lawter earned a five-pitch walk and then left fielder Kelsey Brown would get a single up the middle, which would have knocked in Davis most likely, but Brown was called out by the home plate umpire due to her stepping out of the box when making contact with the ball for the third out.
Duke would make it a one-run game in the bottom of the fourth, getting its leadoff on via a hit by pitch and would get to second after a grounder to third. The Blue Devils hit it to right center and it was a tweener between Trull and Ritter, with Ritter making the catch, but barely clipped Trull and would fall to the ground, but held on to the ball. However, Duke’s leadoff runner would tag up and use her speed to touch third and eventually home for the sac fly after Tech’s relay was not in time.
The Blue Devils got within striking distance again in the bottom of the fifth, as they got a runner on third base with two outs. But Rochard delivered a clutch strikeout to keep the one-run lead intact.
Tech exploded for two crucial runs in the top of the seventh, getting a clutch pinch-hit single through the left side by Grace Chavez to score Lawter and then a double to center by first baseman Jayme Bailey that scored second baseman Addy Greene.
With a three-run cushion now, Rochard allowed Duke’s first two runners on via a hit by a pitch and single up the middle, but the righty buckled down and got the next three outs (foul out, K, K) to seal it.
– The four Hokies who tallied an RBI were Bailey, Chavez, Ritter and Davis, while four separate players scored a run in Greene, Federico, Trull and Lawter.
– Tech had zero errors and did so for the 11th time this season and is now 9-2 in such instances.
– The ranked win for Tech coach Pete D’Amour brings his record versus ranked opponents at Tech to 8-7 (.533), while Rochard racked up her fifth win against a ranked foe.
– The Hokies will be back at it tomorrow for a doubleheader against Duke, with it beginning at 5 p.m. ET on ACC Network. The second game of the day will be on ACC Network Extra.