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The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Virginia Tech’s Courtney Liddle is batting .393 and was chosen by the New York/New Jersey Comets in the National Pro Fastpitch draft earlier this month.pERIC BRADY | The Roanoke Times Taken 05/15/2012 Courtney Liddle of the VT softball team during batting practice.]
Friday, April 19, 2013
The Virginia Tech softball team is no longer nationally ranked and has been dealing with a few injuries, but coach Scot Thomas still expects to wind up in the NCAA tournament.
The Hokies (27-12, 6-5 ACC) will host No. 23 Florida State in a three-game series this weekend. ESPNU will air the first game of today's noon doubleheader, marking the first time a game at Tech Softball Park has been televised. The Seminoles (34-15, 13-2) are in first place in the conference, with the Hokies in fourth.
Tech, which won 18 of its first 21 games, is aiming to make the NCAAs for the second straight year. The Hokies began the week No. 27 in the RPI but were swept by Longwood in a doubleheader Wednesday.
"We know what we can be because we've seen it. It's just a matter of getting back to that," Thomas said. "Once we get everybody healthy, ... we're going to be fine.
"This weekend would be huge, to get a couple wins."
Cleanup hitter Kelsey Mericka, who plays third base and ranks third on the team in batting (.306), has not played since March 23 because she fractured a piece of a vertebra. There is a chance she might return this weekend, but she might not be back until next week.
"We've missed her," Thomas said.
Kelly Heinz, the team's best pitcher, has a nagging shoulder injury that forced her to miss the final game of last weekend's Boston College series and both games of Wednesday's doubleheader. But the freshman will return to the circle this weekend.
The Hokies were nationally ranked in late February and throughout March before falling out of the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25.
Tech has won just nine of its past 18 games. Thomas blames inconsistent pitching.
Heinz is 13-3 with a 2.49 ERA. Jasmin Harrell is 12-6 with a 3.19 ERA, which is higher than her 1.97 ERA last season.
Two-time All-ACC first baseman Courtney Liddle is batting .393 with five homers and 27 RBIs. The senior was chosen by the New York/New Jersey Comets in the National Pro Fastpitch draft earlier this month.
Sophomore second baseman Kylie McGoldrick is hitting .380, up from .264 last season. She has six homers.
"This is probably one of the more balanced, talented teams we've ever had," Thomas said.
Big weekend looms for Maroons
Last year, Roanoke College did not merely make the NCAA Division III tournament but advanced to the eight-team national championships.
The Maroons (28-7) are clicking again this season. They are ranked No. 12 in the Division III coaches poll, although this week's poll came out the day before the Maroons split a doubleheader with Bridgewater on Thursday.
Roanoke is in second place in the ODAC with a 14-2 league mark. It will conclude the regular season with a home doubleheader today against first-place Virginia Wesleyan (32-6, 16-2) and a home doubleheader Sunday with fourth-place Randolph-Macon (32-6, 14-4).
Coach Mike Mitchell is not yet confident of Roanoke's chances for an at-large NCAA bid, so a good showing this weekend will be important. The ODAC has three nationally ranked teams, including Virginia Wesleyan and Lynchburg, and boasts four of the eight teams in the NCAA's Atlantic Region rankings. But Mitchell figures only one ODAC squad will reap an at-large bid next month.
An automatic NCAA bid will be at stake in the ODAC tournament, which will be held April 26-28 at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem. Roanoke won that tournament last year.
Second-team All-American Kelly Higbie is 14-5 with a 1.78 ERA. Stephanie Clark, who had arm trouble last year, is 12-1 with a 2.12 ERA.
"Our sport is all about pitching. We've got two really good pitchers," Mitchell said.
The lineup includes All-American Leona Rainey (.438), Cave Spring graduate Alea Bier (.416), Rhea Schneider (.333), Clark (.324, 41 RBIs), Caitlin Manuel (.323), Floyd County graduate Alexis Roop (.319) and Alleghany graduate Hollee Warlitner (.317).
Ferrum coach pessimistic
Coach Vickie Van Kleeck figures Ferrum's season is over.
Ferrum went 34-12 and tied for the USA South regular-season title. But Christopher Newport beat Ferrum in the USA South tournament final last weekend, claiming the league's automatic NCAA bid. Ferrum won that bid
Van Kleeck does not expect Ferrum to reap an at-large bid.
Ferrum went 4-2 in the league tournament, including a loss to the tournament's bottom seed, LaGrange.
The Panthers could have picked up a quality nonconference win or two Tuesday, but they were swept by Roanoke in a doubleheader.
Ferrum did not receive a spot in the NCAA's eight-team Atlantic Region rankings Thursday.
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