(Photo by Regina Lexi Rickert)
Virginia Tech played 20 innings of softball Saturday. Hokies No. 1 pitcher Jasmin Harrell tossed 13 innings in the elimination-game victory over Marshall to keep the team alive in the tournament; a single game that lasted nearly four hours. Over the entire three-game weekend, Harrell has pitched 19.1 innings amassing 246 pitches. Virginia Tech has to be running on fumes. If the Hokies want to advance, they will need to win not once — but twice today — against a much more rested Kentucky team.
In their first matchup on Saturday, the Wildcats jumped on the Hokies early thanks to a Lauren Cumbess two-run homer in the top of the 1st inning. Virginia Tech answered in the 2nd, capitalizing on a pair of Kentucky errors, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. It resulted in two runs for VT, but was not credited to Kentucky pitcher Kelsey Nunley’s earned run average.
The Wildcats picked up a run in the 3rd, and another in the 4th off the bat of Krystal Smith making it 4-2, before finally tacking on two more in the 5th thanks to a Hokies error. If it weren’t for a sloppy 2nd inning, Nunley would have been looking at a near-perfect game. Her final line against VT was 7 innings pitched, 1 hit, 0 earned runs, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts, all while keeping her pitch count sub-100.
The Wildcats are playing in only their third ever regional final, also accomplishing the feat in 2009 and 2011. Only once has the softball program made a trip to Super Regionals; losing to California in Lexington, just one win away from a trip to the Women’s College World Series.
Starting pitching and lineups have yet to be announced, but my guess is Kentucky will send out pitcher No. 2 to start game one, Lauren Cumbess, while the Hokies will counter with whatever Harrell has left in the tank. It’s a desperation move, and the Wildcats are in the drivers seat right now. Nunley could see a relief spot if the game is close with a UK lead late. If not, save Nunley for all of game two when the Hokies really have nothing left.
The game starts at 1 p.m. and can be found on ESPN3.com. This is a seriously fun game to watch, and the Wildcats are very good at what they do. Tune in and I think you’ll enjoy.