No. 24 Virginia Tech KO’s No. 6 Clemson in Doubleheader
No. 24 Virginia Tech took both games of a doubleheader, defeating Clemson 5-4 and 3-1 in a Saturday afternoon stunner.
“We put everything together. We pitched, we played defense, and we hit. Sometimes we pitch but don’t hit very well, or hit but don’t pitch, we just put them together” head coach Pete D’Amour said.
The first game originally began on Friday, but had to be paused after just two innings due to rain. Play resumed on Saturday, with Clemson firmly controlling nearly the whole game.
Caroline Jacobsen got the scoring started off in the third inning, sending a solo-shot over the left field wall to take the 1-0 lead. Reedy Davenport quickly followed up with her own in the fourth inning, further growing the lead without an answer from the Hokies.
By the fifth inning, things weren’t looking good for the home squad. Jacobsen was on the receiving end of a five-pitch walk, immediately followed by Maddie Moore’s no-doubt home run over the head of Kelsey Brown in left field. The Tiger’s 4-0 lead held until the bottom of the seventh, with Tech entering crunch time.
“Our team can feed off this crowd. It was 3-1 against Florida State last weekend, and it felt like a home game for them. The crowd was unbelievable, and they fed off it. Our crowd was awesome today, the louder they get the better we play,” D’Amour said.
The stars aligned in Blacksburg in the seventh inning, starting off with an encouraging single from Emma Ritter to build up some momentum for the struggling team. Bre Peck stepped into the box next, and the centerfielder sent a missile into right-center field, nearly making contact with the scoreboard.
Down 4-2 with no outs in the final frame, the Hokies couldn't be stopped. Senior Morgan Overaitis came in to pinch hit and had a clutch single through the 5-6 gap in the infield, backed up by Madison Hanson’s single in the same area.
Brown tried to move up the runners, but couldn’t make fair contact, going down for the second out. Runners on first and second, Cameron Fagan stepped into the box with swagger, taking her first pitch nearly to Beamer Way in left-center for the three-run walkoff.
“I think it speaks to where we’re going. We just have to keep working and getting better. We struggled a little bit earlier in the season. We’re a really unified team and we love each other a lot. We really played together this weekend. If we can keep doing that and keep going with our momentum, then we’ll be okay,” Fagan said.
Tensions were understandably high headed into game two, culminating into two ejections on the Clemson side before the top of the first could end. While Ally Miklesh was on second and McKenzie Clark on third, Jacobsen hit into a fielder’s choice, leading to McKenzie getting caught in a pickle between third and home. Kelsey Bennett on the chase, flicked over to Jayme Bailey covering the plate, and Clark decided to deck Bailey instead of sliding. Clark was called out, and soon ejected for the dirty play.
Naturally, Tech coach Pete D’Amour wasn’t happy as trainers left the dugout to check on Bailey, and Clemson coach John Rittman had a few choice words for the umpires, but Brade Newton wasn’t having it, sending Rittman home for the day.
Things cooled off for a little while after the first, until VT reactivated the offense in the fourth. Brown slapped one into shallow left to lead off the inning. Fagan popped up for the first out, then Addy Greene reached first on an error. Runners in the corners, Overaitis hit one to the pitcher Millie Thompson, reaching first safely while Brown sped her way into home for the first run.
“We came and did our thing. We didn’t care what they were ranked, who they were. We were ready to play our last series at home and show everyone what Virginia Tech softball is all about,” Overaitis said.
Peck was quickly retired with a popup to right, but Ritter followed up with a single to draw up another run on the board for the home team with two outs. Bennett pulled through with her own single afterward, scoring Tech’s third and final run of the game before Grace Chavez grounded out to close the inning.
The Tigers finally had an answer after eight consecutive runs, Jadeyn Ruszkowski bombing one into the trees behind left-center.
By the sixth, Virginia Tech was in a bit of trouble. Two hits and an error left the bases loaded with two outs, freshman pitcher Lyndsey Grein in the sticky situation. D’Amour had the confidence to leave her in and it paid off, striking out Arielle Oda for the last true action of the game.
“[Grein] threw well. It didn’t look like her velocity was faltering. If her command goes down, you think about making a change. She got out of a jam in the first inning, she’s grown a lot over the last month, so leave her in,” D’Amour said.
Grein had a career game from the rubber, going the distance with five Ks while allowing a run on six hits. Throwing 119 pitches during the match, it's clear Grein has continued to develop her endurance, turning into a strong asset to back up Emma Lemley as the Hokies prepare for the ACC Championship in Indiana starting on May 10th.
“I’ve improved on the mental side of the game. It’s really easy to bite the whole cheeseburger at once. I’m just taking things in small bites and getting better every day. I’ve gotten better at taking a step back and seeing the full picture instead of just staring at it,” Grein said.
Tech will close out the series against Clemson on Sunday at 2pm, before heading to Lynchburg to face off with Liberty (34-17) on Wednesday, its final game of the season.