Warhill Pitching, Defense Playing Well Ahead of State Softball Tournament

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Keely Rochard was named Conference 25 Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. (file photo)
Keely Rochard will look to lead Warhill during the Group 3A state tournament. (file photo)

Warhill’s softball team has set multiple program records this season en route to an appearance in Friday’s Virginia High School League Group 3A Softball Championship.

The Lions have set school marks in team batting  (.366) and home runs (15) in a season, won the program’s first Conference 25 championship, defeated Grafton for the first time in school history and had a player on the team earn Conference 25 Player of the Year honors for the first time.

None of those accomplishments will matter moving forward as the Lions head into the win-or-go-home state softball tournament on Friday at Liberty University.

Warhill will face a tough opening game in the state semifinals, taking on defending Group 3A state champions Brookville.

The game between Warhill and Brookville will feature a stellar pitching matchup between two Virginia Tech softball commits: Warhill’s Keely Rochard and Brookville’s Jordan Dail.

Rochard, the Conference 25 Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, enters the game as Warhill’s ace pitcher, recording a 13-2 record with a 1.61 ERA on the season. Rochard posted 125 strikeouts on the year compared to 25 walks.

Behind Rochard is a rock-solid Warhill defense, which has only committed 21 errors this season and boasts a solid .967 fielding percentage. Lions Head Coach Meredith Powell, the Conference 25 Coach of the Year, gave extensive praise to her defense heading into the state tournament.

“I definitely think our defense is playing very strong right now. I think there’s such a tightness in the group right now that when one part of the lineup falls, another part will pick them up,” she said. “I think their belief in each other and ability to play for each other has really elevated their game. No one wants to let the next one down.”

And while Warhill’s offense regularly scored 10-or-more runs on opponents, the Lions saw their offense stall against Brentsville in their 3-0 loss during the 3A East championship game on Monday. The loss marked the first time all season Warhill failed to score a run.

Powell said her offense recorded enough hits in the game to win, but simply did not string runs together.

“We hit the ball and didn’t have many strikeouts,” she said. “We put the ball in play, we just didn’t string it together. We need to do a little work, but we’re hanging in there. We just need to execute when we have runners in scoring position.”

Warhill’s lack of offense against a college-level pitcher — Brentsville’s Leah Shipp is a Michigan State pitching commit — does pose a serious concern for the Lions, as the pitching in the state tournament does not figure to get any easier.

Along with making sure her offense plays up to par at the plate, Powell will also need to make sure her players are mentally prepared for the pressure that comes with state tournament play.

For Powell, the overall inexperience of her team playing on such a stage could prove to be the team’s biggest obstacle.

“I would say the experience being on the big stage is a hurdle,” she said. “If anything, the jitters and nerves might be something we need to be able to control.”

Warhill will take on Brookville at 2 p.m. Friday at Liberty University.