2011 ACC Softball Preview: Virginia Tech Looks to Keep Improving

Conference play for ACC softball starts this weekend with Virginia Tech traveling to North Carolina. The Hokies were picked to finish seventh in the conference this year, but have played well so far during non-conference play. They'll look to continue their improvement in a league that has one dominant team but appears to be wide open for spots 2-8.

The Hokies won their first three tournaments of the season at UNC-Charlotte, Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina. They mixed in a win at Radford and were 11-3 going into their spring break road trip.

They faced tougher competition during tournaments at Central Florida and Arizona State and went 7-3 with two losses to a very good South Alabama team and another against the only ranked team they've played, Arizona State. That ASU game brought the Hokies down to earth as a seven-run third inning led to a 10-3 defeat. 

Tech has a good record and good team stats, but haven't played a very impressive schedule so far. Like the baseball team, we won't know a whole lot about them until conference play gets underway. What we do know from the games they've played so far is that they're a balanced team and that just needs some timely hitting. Tech's first four losses of the year were by one run before they fell to USA by two and ASU by seven.

Going into this weekend, Tech is second in the ACC in hitting and third in ERA. Those stats will be put to the test right away in conference play in Chapel Hill. The Heels are right behind the Hokies in both hitting and ERA, but have faced a much more challenging schedule so far. The Heels have 10 losses this year, eight of which have come against teams receiving votes in the coaches' poll.

After this weekend, we should have a better gauge of how the Hokies match up with six of the teams in the ACC. We already know how they match up with Georgia Tech, which is to say not well. The defending regular season and ACC tournament champions have shown no sign of slowing down and it's no wonder why. The Jackets brought back 80 percent of their innings and 82 percent of their total bases from last year's team.

Sortable tables? Sortable tables:

Pitching

TEAM RET ERA W L APP GS IP H ER BB SO HR TB AVG SLG OBP WHIP
BC 2 5.22 2 14 30 18 110.0 147 82 57 64 26 242 0.319 0.525 0.400 1.93
FS 2 2.00 4 5 21 10 77.0 52 22 32 100 7 81 0.183 0.285 0.279 1.17
GT 2 1.89 14 1 21 16 107.1 79 29 47 82 5 109 0.199 0.275 0.301 1.28
MD 2 1.85 8 11 29 19 128.2 92 34 60 130 5 125 0.200 0.272 0.301 1.24
NC 1 27.00 0 0 2 0 2.1 8 9 3 2 1 11 0.500 0.688 0.600 5.14
NCS 2 7.00 1 0 5 0 10.0 11 10 11 10 1 17 0.282 0.436 0.451 2.30
VA 2 3.26 13 7 25 20 137.1 136 64 36 115 22 234 0.260 0.447 0.317 1.32
VT 3 3.72 8 12 32 20 135.1 153 72 49 81 8 215 0.282 0.396 0.348 1.55

TEAM RET ERA W L APP GS IP H ER BB SO HR TB
BC 67% 5.22 100% 78% 73% 90% 84% 79% 77% 76% 91% 68% 75%
FS 67% 2.00 33% 56% 57% 48% 52% 44% 41% 56% 58% 41% 42%
GT 67% 1.89 74% 100% 75% 76% 80% 78% 78% 85% 67% 71% 77%
MD 100% 1.85 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
NC 33% 27.00 0% 0% 7% 0% 2% 7% 16% 6% 1% 5% 6%
NCS 50% 7.00 11% 0% 19% 0% 7% 10% 20% 18% 9% 6% 9%
VA 67% 3.26 100% 100% 96% 100% 100% 98% 94% 100% 99% 96% 98%
VT 75% 3.72 100% 92% 97% 95% 100% 98% 96% 100% 100% 80% 96%

Hitting

TEAM RET GP GS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB AVG SLG OBP
BC 9 131 92 232 23 34 1 0 3 17 44 12 89 6 0.147 0.19 0.208
FS 9 146 127 394 51 100 18 8 3 52 143 33 61 13 0.254 0.363 0.32
GT 12 196 166 480 114 138 21 1 35 127 266 52 104 6 0.288 0.554 0.378
MD 13 173 140 366 39 81 11 3 4 33 110 23 103 8 0.221 0.301 0.287
NC 13 204 124 345 48 74 9 0 14 42 125 36 60 9 0.214 0.362 0.295
NCS 11 147 109 306 27 70 6 1 5 25 93 25 57 6 0.229 0.304 0.295
VA 11 123 100 289 37 64 5 1 4 24 83 22 67 14 0.221 0.287 0.285
VT 12 184 139 377 52 81 17 3 11 42 137 45 110 20 0.215 0.363 0.304

TEAM RET GP GS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB
BC 53% 53% 49% 48% 46% 35% 17% 0% 21% 39% 30% 28% 55% 60%
FS 56% 64% 67% 68% 65% 66% 72% 80% 43% 72% 66% 55% 68% 59%
GT 75% 82% 83% 91% 74% 85% 75% 100% 80% 88% 82% 54% 96% 32%
MD 72% 77% 74% 74% 72% 72% 69% 50% 57% 67% 68% 58% 79% 89%
NC 76% 73% 64% 60% 61% 53% 64% 0% 82% 58% 60% 68% 63% 43%
NCS 61% 56% 55% 57% 52% 61% 50% 50% 42% 53% 56% 68% 43% 46%
VA 73% 61% 56% 58% 49% 54% 38% 33% 25% 36% 45% 39% 55% 52%
VT 71% 74% 73% 72% 71% 71% 85% 100% 52% 62% 67% 76% 77% 91%

So far the Jackets have played like they were predicted to. They've hit an astonishing 44 home runs (the closest ACC team has 23) and their pitchers have 10 shutouts to their names. If 19-4 Georgia Tech doesn't run away with the ACC, it will be a huge upset. 

After the Jackets, you have six teams including the Hokies that will fight to finish in the top half of the conference. How Tech performs against these other five teams will ultimately decide how good their season is. Unfortunately for Tech, only two of these series are at home. Those are the last two home ACC series of the season against NC State and Maryland.

The key for the Hokies will of course be their pitching. Kenzie Roark's having a solid year, but the surprise has been Jasmin Harrell, who's pitching a lot better as a sophomore. She hasn't lost a start and pitched well in her only loss, a game against Coastal Carolina in which she pitched 9.1 innings. She had a problem with walks early in the year, but has had better control in recent outings. One thing to watch is how many starts she will get once ACC play starts.

At the plate, sophomore catcher Betty Rose is having a breakout year. She's hitting .368 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. Four of her home runs came in the ASU tournament which led to her being named last week's ACC player of the week.

The Hokies could finish in the top half of the conference if they continue to get better and get the hits they need when they need them. That would be big for Tech, which is 16-23 in conference play the last two seasons.

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