For the first time since 2008, the Virginia Tech softball team is in the NCAA Tournament. The Hokies made the field Sunday night with an at-large bid after finishing the season 40-19 (12-8 in the ACC). After earning the fourth seed in the ACC Tournament, they made a surprising run to the conference championship game before falling to Georgia Tech, 9-1.
Head coach Scot Thomas' girls will play as the third seed in the Knoxville regional, where they will face UAB in the opening game Friday night. On the opposite side of the regional bracket is Tennessee and Miami (Ohio). The Lady Volunteers are the seventh seed overall as regional hosts.
The Hokies did not start a single senior on this year's club — three of the team's best four best hitters are freshmen. Lauren Gaskill, Kylie McGoldrick and Kelsey Mericka all made the All-ACC Tournament team this weekend, alongside ace pitcher Jasmin Harrell.
Gaskill enters the NCAA Tournament batting .307 with six home runs and 34 RBI. She scored the Hokies' only run in Saturday's loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Harrell leads the ACC in innings pitched with 261 1/3. She faced all but three batters in the Hokies' three ACC Tournament games.
UAB enters the NCAAs with a 37-20 record, 17-7 in Conference USA. The Blazers fell to Marshall in the conference semifinals in extra innings, 3-2.
The Blazers placed six players on either first or second-team all-conference, led by senior catcher Mandy Lowman. Lowman was the lone Blazer on the first team after finishing the season with 11 home runs, 36 RBI and a .350 batting average.
Perhaps there is a little bit of good karma coming the Hokies' way. In 2008, they also made the short trek to Knoxville for the regional tournament, where they stunned the Lady Volunteers en route to the Hokies' first ever College World Series appearance.
Ashton Ward, who is now a graduate assistant on Thomas' staff, was the ace pitcher for that Tennessee team.
Congratulations to a young Hokie club that far exceeded expectations this season. The future is bright in Blacksburg and we'll have more coverage as the tournament approaches next weekend.
Here's a few Twitter accounts from the program you can follow as the Hokies make their way to Knoxville.
@VTSBCoach(Head Coach Scot Thomas)
@Kittyvtsb4 (Outfielder Kat Banks)