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If you’ve been a Hokie fan for over 50 years like I have, you know the drill.
We all carry it like the 1.500-pound gorilla on our back it is: Virginia Tech has never won a national championship in any NCAA team sport. In fact, I can only think of two instances where the possibility even crossed my mind.
One was a warm September afternoon in Blacksburg where a redshirt freshman name Michael Vick flicked a ball 70 yards on a line for a touchdown, then came back a few minutes later and ran 60 yards up the middle for another score.
I eloquently turned to my wife and said “holy crap, this is the guy we’ve waited our whole lives for. Maybe he can get us over the top.”
He came close on another warm night in New Orleans, but didn’t. Since then, I haven’t thought there was a serious possibility of it happening again.
Well, until tonight.
I was watching the Virginia Tech women’s softball team take on Brigham Young in Tempe, AZ, much as I do every Hokie team that makes it to the postseason. But for the second time in my life, I uttered another “holy crap” and tried to suppress my imagination.
They’re that good, folks. They could win it all.
They are built around a shutdown pitcher in Keely Rochard, who has only gotten better in the postseason. Through 5 innings Saturday she didn’t give up a run as her team staked her to an 8-0 lead going into the top of the fifth, a significant lead because in college softball, a game is over if one team has an 8-run lead after 5 innings.
Rochard made one mistake, serving up a ball that was hit over the left-field fence for a 3-run homer by BYU’s Huntyr Ava to make it 8-3. This would have elongated the game to 7 innings unless the Hokies answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. To hear the television announcers talk, BYU now had the momentum and things could soon be very different.
But this is where that “holy crap” moment came in. I don’t know why, but for some reason when teams get the fruits of a pitcher having an incredible game, the offense seems to go to sleep. Look at Max Scherzer with the Washington Nationals, as he’s had many a game that ended up a 1-0 loss because the team’s bats did not match the efforts of his arm.
That wasn’t the case for the Hokies in the bottom of the fifth, however. Kelsey Brown laced a triple to right, followed by Cameron Fagan slugging a homer to make it 10-3. BYU made a pitching change and after taking a changeup for a strike, Alexa Milius drilled a ball dead to center over the outfield fence to make it 11-3 and end the game.
Think about all that for a second. A Hokie team had to have 3 runs in the bottom of an inning, and they calmly went triple, home run, home run and ended the game. They stepped up to the plate, knew what needed to be done, then just did it.
So you’ve got a team with a shutdown pitcher that is extremely tough to score on. You’ve got an offense that can hit home runs on demand when needed. And you’ve got a defense that didn’t make an error Saturday and supported their pitcher.
Yeah, over a long season, unexpected things could happen. But there’s no longer a lengthy season to worry about. Only 16 teams will be left to battle in the Super Regionals. One will be Virginia Tech, with a hot pitcher and a bunch of hot hitters.
They only need to win a handful of games. And they’ve got the weapons to do just that.
So, my fellow Hokies, tell that huge gorilla on our backs to not get too comfortable. He may be falling off.
Holy crap. It could happen.
I've been following this team all season, and as a Hokie fan, you never want to get your hopes up, but you make great points. Ya gotta believe. Thank you!
Seems like half the time, the team that wins a title isn't necessarily the one with the most talent, it's the one that gets hot at the right time. Which it looked like the Hokies were yesterday.....