In 2012 the Hokies were 40-19 heading into the Knoxville Regional as a No. 3 seed. before suffering double-elimination in the regional final at the hands of the hosting Tennessee Volunteers, dropping their record to 42-21 and ending their season prematurely. 364 days later the Hokie softball team suffered the same fate, this time to another SEC foe, Kentucky, on their home field in the elimination game of the regional bracket. As the oft-quoted line of Yogi Berra goes, "It's déjà vu all over again".
But, there are things that are different this time around. For one, the Hokies didn't go down like they did to Tennessee in 2012, victims of a 12-3 run differential in their two games. This time, the Hokies went all out and very nearly beat the Wildcats, scoring more runs (2-to-1) on the day, but simply unable to score the pivotal run that was needed in the second game. There is no shame in losing to a team as good as Kentucky, which came into the game ranked No. 17 nationally and boasting a 40-19 record, especially after they were so dominated just 24 hours prior by Kentucky ace Kelsey Nunley, who one-hit the Hokies in a 6-2 drubbing.
But Sunday, even though she was the pitcher of record in relief for the decisive game, Nunley allowed 9 hits and 3 walks in just 10.1 innings against the Hokies, who handed her just her ninth loss of the season in the first game. Not only did the Hokies hang with the Wildcats, but at times looked like the better team. Unfortunately, the Hokies stranded all eight runners they put on base, and a lapse in the field on an infield pop fly by Kylie McGoldrick that set up the Wildcats only score provided the difference in the game.
Hokie ace Jasmin Harrell was masterful on the weekend, pitching a pair of gems, including the entirety of Saturday night's 13-inning game, without allowing an earned run. All total, her stat-line was 20 innings pitched, 21 hits allowed, 3 unearned runs, 15 strikeouts, 8 walks on 268 pitches. The loss dropped her to 18-9 on the year, but she couldn't have pitched much better than she did. The Hokies had to rally against Notre Dame and Marshall to get to the regional final, something that they did 14 times this season. They just didn't have it in them for a 15th time after last night's energy-draining extra innings game.
While the team does lose four players to eligibility, seniors Bkaye Smith, Courtney Liddle, Betty Rose and Jasmin Harrell, they return much of their lineup and production from 2013, including seven of their top nine hitters and the pitcher who led the team in appearances, strikeouts, batting average against, shutouts, saves, ERA, win percentage and tied for the staff lead with 11 complete games.
For more Virginia Tech softball coverage, including more live-tweeting and game recaps next season, Gobbler Country is the place to be.