Warhill baseball players follow athletic sisters to college

Marty O'Brien
Contact Reportermobrien@dailypress.com

Sam Rochard’s older sister is Keely Rochard, the Virginia Tech freshman considered the Peninsula area’s best-ever high school softball player for her exploits in leading Warhill High to the past two Group 3A state titles.

Reece Koon’s older sister is Alex Koon, a Wichita State sophomore among the area’s greatest prep volleyball players. Her dominance at net was a key to Warhill reaching the 2013 3A state volleyball final, then winning the school’s first state championship in any sport a year later.

Sam Rochard and Reece Koon have done well for themselves as baseball players for Warhill and for the Richmond-based Evoshield Seminoles, but if you think they’re intimidated by their sisters’ shadows, think again.

Sam Rochard, a Warhill junior, committed recently to play for Virginia Tech, the same week Lions senior Reece Koon committed to Wichita State.

“Alex being at Wichita State meant a lot to me because we’ve been pretty close,” said Reece Koone, a recruited walk-on who batted .309 as Warhill’s leadoff hitter and struck out 21 batters in 20 innings as its closer. “It’s far from home, but home doesn’t feel as far away when you have family out there.”

Sam Rochard, who struck out 48 batters in 42 2/3 innings as the Lions’ No. 1 starter in 2017, said, “I think it will be a really good couple of years up there with her.”

Their sisters are ecstatic about their brothers’ choices. Alex Koon says although she and Reece fought the way brothers and sisters do when they’re young, they talk almost every day now. Keely Rochard says when she’s a senior and Sam is a sophomore, she hopes they can live together off-campus.

“I’m so excited, because it’s so hard being so far away from him,” said Alex Koon, a scholarship player and starting hitter this season for the No. 24-ranked Wichita State volleyball team. “I’m missing a lot because high school is an important time and I’m not there to share it.

“But I have a few friends on the baseball team, and I’m happy he’ll be with such a great group of guys. I think he’ll like it.”

Keely Rochard, who received an athletic scholarship to pitch for the Hokies' softball program, said, “I love it at Virginia Tech and I think Sam will, too. They have great baseball and softball facilities, and the resources they have for athletes are excellent.

“Whether it’s a doctor or academics or athletics, there’s always someone with help if you need it.”

Right-hander Sam Rochard and lefty Reece Koon will bring similar skill sets. Both throw in the upper 80s, can locate their curves and are working on developing change-ups.

Warhill’s baseball team won just five games last season, losing seven by a run or on the other team’s last at-bat, so neither had eye-opening pitching stats. But the guys who are familiar with them from high school and travel ball – former Warhill coach Lee Underwood and Seminoles coach Lee Everett – say both have the talent and, especially, the work ethic to play and succeed in college.

Reece Koon said he wrote Wichita State about his interest and was contacted by the Shockers after they saw him in a travel-ball tournament in Georgia this summer. Sam Rochard said Virginia Tech offered him a partial scholarship after seeing him in travel-ball tournaments at Duke, in Georgia and at the Hokies’ camp.

Neither brother is hesitant to admit their sisters have contributed to their success.

“Alex never gives up,” said Reece Koon, who pitched a six-inning no-hitter against Bruton last season. “She missed her sophomore season with a foot-related injury and was able to bounce back.”

Sam Rochard said, “Mentally, Keely is probably the strongest athlete I’ve ever seen. In the (2017) state championship game (in which she pitched a complete game in Warhill’s 18-inning victory in 90-plus-degree heat), it’s like she was never fazed.

“I learned that the less emotion you show to the other team, the better you are.”

With their commitments, the brothers and sisters will get to become each other’s biggest cheerleaders for another school year or two. They won’t be the only ones, however, because their parents sound like the biggest winners from their children’s choices.

“I think it’s great that Reece and Alex are going to the same school together,” said their father, Greg Koon, who’s coached Warhill to two volleyball state titles. “It’s one-stop shopping for me and my wife (Cathy).

“We only have to go to one place, which means we can see them more often.”

Lisa Rochard, Keely’s and Sam’s mom, said, “You don’t have to choose between visiting one or the other. We’re a Virginia Tech family, so Tech, Tech, Tech has been inbred in them since they were little.

“They never had choice of wearing any other T-shirts. It’s a fantastic feeling to go visit and see them both play for the Hokies.”

O’Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963 and follow on Twitter @MartyOBrienDP

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