No. 22 Virginia Tech Brushes Past Louisville in ACC Championship Quarterfinals
No. 22 Virginia Tech defeated Louisville in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship on Thursday, advancing to the semifinals Friday.
Emma Lemley started within the circle for the Hokies, giving up an early run in the first inning after a pair of singles and a fielder’s choice double-play. The dominant pitcher settled in as the first inning closed out, striking out two in the second.
As the Hokies entered the third inning, the bats started to heat up, with catcher Kylie Aldridge knocking a double and Kelsey Brown reaching base on an error in the infield. Two runners in scoring position, Cameron Fagan stepped up with a three-run homer to left, taking a 3-1 lead in the game. A few pitches later, Addy Greene did the same, marking Tech’s first set of back-to-back home runs in the match.
Virginia Tech holding a comfortable 4-1 lead, the Hokies stepped back up to the plate in the fourth inning with confidence. At 94 homers on the season, the NCAA-leading Hokies had no plans of slowing down, confirmed by Bre Peck’s first-pitch shot over the wall to lead off the fourth, quickly followed by Kelsey Bennett’s long ball to left-center.
Louisville immediately subbed out freshman Alyssa Zabala after the fourth homer, tying the record for the most by one team during an ACC Championship game. Taylor Roby stepped in, walking Rachel Castine on five pitches before two grounders and a popup would end the inning.
The Cardinals finally brought some offense back to the home dugout in the bottom of the fourth, with Hannah File slamming one over Brown in left field, bringing shortstop Daisy Hess along for the ride to home plate for two.
By the fifth inning, Virginia Tech had taken charge, scoring its seventh run when Jayme Bailey hustled home on a fielder’s choice. Down 7-3, Louisville was headed for a few innings of game-deciding at bats as the later innings loomed ahead.
Foot still planted on the gas, Tech brought in another pair of runs to go up six in the sixth inning, Castine starting off the action with a double off a 10-pitch at bat. Aldridge bunted a single to third, moving up Castine, and Brown followed with a double of her own to bring both runners in.
Despite bringing in two more runs, the sixth was all about Louisville. The Cardinals put five runs on the scoreboard during a two-out rally, cutting the deficit to one before the final inning. As Lemley retired the first two batters, the Cardinals found the spark they needed during crunch time. Vanessa Miller started off Cardinal’s batting practice with a single and pinch hitter Makayla Hurst brought her back to the dugout with the game’s sixth homer.
Leadoff Korbe Otis walked to keep the momentum going before Tech decided to sub Lemley for freshman Lyndsey Grein at pitcher. Four singles popped off the bat next for the Cards, with Easton Lotus, Roby, Sarah Gordon, and Hess cooking up a 9-8 ballgame before the end of the inning.
Once again Peck came in clutch, sinking a double down the left field line, Kelsey Bennett poking a single up the middle to score her. Up 10-8, Tech tried to score a few more but left a pair stranded. The bottom of the seventh closed out with just one Cardinal runner on base, the Hokies moving on to the semifinals on Friday.
Virginia Tech will prepare for No. 3 Florida State in the semifinals, a very difficult opponent that swept the Hokies at home in late April. The Hokies will look to move past FSU and the semifinals, where they closed out their ACC Championship run the last two years against Clemson.