Keely Rochard stars for Virginia Tech in the circle, but the Hokie bats took control of the Tempe Regional’s Winner’s bracket game early.
Behind a quick four-run lead in the first two innings and another quality start from Rochard, Virginia Tech beat Arizona State 8-2, taking the driver’s seat in the Tempe regional.
Alexa Milius lined a single in the first to score Kelsey Brown after a leadoff single. Addy Greene powered a double into the right field corner to extend the first-inning lead to three.
Virginia Tech added other runs in each of the second, sixth and seven innings, including a solo home run from Cameron Fagan.
Arizona State starter Lindsay Lopez exited after the first inning in a move to preserve her for the uphill climb ahead in the regional. Cielo Meza entered, throwing six innings and allowing three earned runs, but pitched decently.
“I thought Cielo did a tremendous job,” Arizona State coach Trisha Ford said. “She came in and pounded the zone. She worked her off-speed. Worked up and down. I was really pleased with her performance.
“Things weren’t lining up for (Lindsay). She’s been very good for us this year. There’s days that things aren’t moving the way they need to move...We put in Cielo to give Lindsay a reset.”
Meanwhile, Rochard limited ASU’s bats. The only runs came off of a pair of solo home runs from Makenna Harper and Bella Loomis. The Sun Devils had their chances for rallies — 1-for-12 with runners on base — but Rochard used her nine strikeouts to escape jams.
Arizona State did barrel a few balls that ended as outs, leaving confidence that if it gets another chance at Rochard, results will come.
“You know what our DNA is. You might get us once, but you won’t get us two or three times,” Ford said. “...We’ll come back, we’ll punch back.”
Two smaller moments that dictated the contest occurred in the second and fourth inning. After the Sun Devils got on the board following Harper’s home run, they kept the pressure on.
Savannah Price singled and advanced to third on two passed balls. Loomis worked a 3-2 count with two outs, Kindra Hackbarth loomed on deck, meaning a walk would give the All-American a chance to tie the game with one swing.
Rochard came up with a big pitch and painted the corner to get Loomis looking and strand Price.
In the fourth inning, Virginia Tech’s Darby Trull popped up a ball sky high to start the frame. Price camped under it, but as it started to descend down it was clear that the Arizona sun with no clouds in the sky gave her difficulties.
The ball bounced off her glove, erasing an easy out. Three batters later, Milius cleared the right field fence for a two-out, two-run home run, that most days she probably doesn’t get a chance at.
“We just got to hit reset,” Ford said. “We have to get back to the things that make us very successful...We had some miscues on the field that we’ll clean up.”
Allison Royalty’s absence from the circle has raised questions. Ford said that she is day-to-day and it’s still not known if she’ll appear in the regional.
Arizona State will play to keep its season alive later on Friday. The Sun Devils will face the winner of BYU/Southern Illinois at 6 p.m. Arizona Time or around 30 minutes following the end of the BYU/Southern Illinois elimination game.