Softball Player of the Year Keely Rochard leaves behind record-setting legacy at Warhill

Marty O'Brien
Contact Reportermobrien@dailypress.com
Rochard threw 19 shutouts and an area-record 364 strikeouts this past season

Keely Rochard was still taking victory laps as the two-week mark approached following Warhill High's second consecutive Group 3A softball state championship-game victory.

The Peninsula Sports Club tapped her as its high school Female Athlete of the Year this week, and the Virginia High School League selected her as 3A softball Player of the Year.

Now, after pitching all of her team's innings this year, she adds her second consecutive Daily Press All-Stars softball Player of the Year award to the growing list. Soon the accolades will end and she'll head off to Virginia Tech and add to her pitching exploits on the collegiate level.

Yet, whatever Rochard does in the future, her place in state high school softball lore is assured. Having outdueled friend and soon-to-be Virginia Tech teammate Jordan Dail of Brookville 1-0 over 18 innings for the state title is a feat that will live on in state annals for good.

For those apt to argue about what is the greatest state softball tournament final of all time, Warhill-Brookville takes a permanent place on the short list.

"The 18-inning game was really cool and something I'll never forget," Rochard said.

And Rochard will never be forgotten. Not after having struck out 364 batters, just a shade below two per inning this season.

Not after having having allowed just 10 runs in 26 games, only four of them earned. Not after pitching 19 shutouts, one of them against Atlee, the Group 5A champion for the third consecutive year, and another against Greenbrier Christian Academy, a private-school state champion nine years running.

And especially not after a second consecutive state-final shutout against Brookville and Dail, who won consecutive 3A state championships before having to face Warhill and Rochard in the past two finals.

Rochard was so good in the pitching circle, it overshadowed that her 39 RBI are an area best and her six home runs are second-best (to teammate Taylor Nicholson's 11) in the area.

Most amazing of all, Rochard and the Lions did not trail even once in going 26-0.

"To play a whole season without ever being behind in a game is unreal," Warhill coach Tom Bunn said. "This has got to be considered the best team ever in the area, and Keely has got to be considered the best player ever.

"She's a special athlete."

Rochard said, "A team like this comes along only once in an era. It meant so much to me to play my final high school season and not lose."

ALL-STAR SELECTIONS

Pitcher | Chelsea Evans | York | senior. The 3A All-state selection Evans went 16-5 pitching with 172 strikeouts and was great in the victories that sent the Falcons to the state semifinals. Also a hitting threat, the Division I (St. Joseph's of Philadelphia) recruit batted .449 with five homers and 18 RBI.

Pitcher | Madison South | Mathews | senior. Capped her career by pitching in a second consecutive 1A state championship game, this time leading the Blue Devils to a 4-1 win over Holston.

Pitcher | Mackenzie Wooten | Isle of Wight Academy | sophomore. Earned VISAA Division II all-state first-team honors after helping the Chargers reach the state semifinals.

Catcher | Bridget Motley | Gloucester | sophomore. On a youthful Dukes team, Motley provided a steady hand behind the plate and in the batter's box. On defense, she went the whole season without an error, caught five runners stealing and picked off four more. On offense, she batted .500 and went 10 of 10 on stolen-base attempts.

Infielder | Morgan Riddle | Smithfield | senior. The Packers remained one of the Bay Rivers District's best teams, led by Riddle, who batted .531 with three home runs, 20 RBI, 23 runs and 20 stolen bases.

Infielder | Katie Russell | York | senior. Russell was terrific at second base with her glove on a strong defensive team, batted .380 with 15 RBI and earned first-team 3A all-state recognition.

Infielder | Kieran McClure | Warhill | senior. One of four Lions to make 3A all-state, she scored the winning run in the state championship game and batted a team-high .472 with 24 RBI and 31 runs.

Infielder | Taylor Nicholson | Warhill | freshman. Already a Division I prospect before her first varsity at-bat, all-state pick Nicholson showed why by hitting .465 with an area-record 11 home runs and 33 RBI.

Infielder | Arianna Reynolds | Jamestown | senior. A .415 hitter, Reynolds was also a reliable glove on a team that posted a program-best 15 wins.

Outfielder | Olivia Schulz | Warhill | junior. The range in center field for the 3A all-state first-team selection is top-notch. Her bat — .414 average, 41 hits, 33 runs, 18 RBI — is good, too.

Outfielder | Amber Verstynen | Tabb | junior. She was the Tigers' leading hitter en route to Group 3A all-state first-team honors, batting .448 with 24 runs and 11 RBI.

Outfielder | Kirsten Beatley | Mathews | senior. One of the standouts for the Blue Devils' Group 1A state champions, all-state first-team selection Beatley batted .525 through the first 22 games.

Designated hitter | Sydney Jacobsen | Tabb | junior. She had 12 extra-base hits, six of them home runs, among her 25 hits and drove in 31 runs. Jacobsen, steady as the Tigers' catcher, was a 3A all-state pick.

Utility | Jenna Harlow | Menchville | junior. A Group 5A second-team all-state selection, Harlow hit .414 with 31 RBI for the Monarchs. She also helped on the mound, including a no-hitter with nine strikeouts in March.

Utility | Hayley Winfree | York | senior. While providing lots of clutch hits in batting .440 with 20 RBI, Winfree, a 3A all-state first-team selection, is perhaps better-known for throwing out opposing runners often as the Falcons' catcher.

Utility | Lyndsey Scarborough | York | junior. That the 3A all-state pick batted .333 was a bonus because she was consistently brilliant in right field with her glove and arm.

— Kate Yanchulis and Marty O'Brien

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