A terrific baseball season ended for the Hokies Sunday night with a 10-2 loss to South Carolina at the NCAA baseball regional in Columbia, S.C.
Tech looked good early on, taking a 2-0 lead after the first inning thanks to a two-run home run by catcher Steve Domecus. That would be the lone bright spot for the Hokies as Domecus finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs, the Hokies' only multi-hit game.
The Hokies' starter, Mathew Price, gutted out 5.2 innings a day after starting and pitching one inning against Bucknell. However, things started to unravel with two out in the sixth inning and the game tied at two.
Price gave up three consecutive ground ball RBI singles that made the score 5-2 in favor of South Carolina. Price was lifted for lefty Sean McDermott, who gave up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced, Jackie Bradley, Jr. Bradley finished the game 1-for-3 with four RBIs.
The Gamecocks added runs in the seventh and eighth to make the final 10-2.
South Carolina got a great outing from reliever Jose Mata, who held the Hokies in check after coming in for starter Jay Brown. Mata went 4.1 inning and gave up no runs on two hits with no walks and five strikeouts. His sidearm motion baffled the Hokies and allowed South Carolina to tie the game and then take the lead in the sixth.
The loss ends Virginia Tech's first postseason appearance since 2000. It was the first time the Hokies won two games in a regional since their first trip to the tournament in 1954. They also won the most ACC games since joining the league in 2004-05 and qualified for the conference tournament for the first time since 2005 when all 11 teams were invited.
The progress Pete Hughes made with the program this year was phenomenal. He even got an avowed college baseball hater like me following the team and watching games online somewhat religiously. The future for the Hokies under Hughes is bright, even though it's possible they'll take a small step back next year.
The Hokies will likely lose Austin Wates and Jesse Hahn, who will be taken in the MLB Draft that starts Monday. There is also a chance they'll lose seniors Ben Rowen, Steve Domecus and Sean Ryan, who played key roles on the team. Junior starting pitcher Justin Wright is also draft-eligible and the lefty improved his stock significantly late this season.
The next key dates for the Hokies will be the next three days when MLB holds its first-year player draft and Aug. 15, which is the deadline for teams to sign their 2010 draft picks.
But before the Hokies heading to the minors move on and the rest of the team moves on toward working for the next season, we should remember that this was a great season for Virginia Tech baseball and portends great things for the program.