Hokies Drop Opener Of Blacksburg Regional To Connecticut, 5-2

On a day when the Hokies' starting pitcher Joe Mantiply did not have his best stuff, the Tech batters only amplified the problems, as they left runners all over the bases (12) and in scoring position (8) at a dizzying rate.

The fourth-seeded Huskies had more hits against Mantiply than any other start he made in nearly two months, leaving him with this ugly line:

Of course, all of those hits were singles, and only one run was considered earned because of two errors, one on Andrew Rash, starting his first collegiate game at the hot corner and a discombobulated throw from the catcher Chad Morgan that hopped past the pitcher's mound and brought home a run. So it wasn't a big blow that ended Mantiply's day, rather death by a million paper cuts. Mantiply, who was previously undefeated on the season (6-0), lost his first game since May 18, 2012 to move to 6-1.

Unfortunately, the fact that Mantiply was knocked from the game so soon means that someone had to pick up the slack, and that someone out of the bullpen was Jake Joyce, who pitched four full innings in relief before being removed with one out to get late in the top of the 9th.

The Huskies started the scoring early, plating a run in the second when Eric Yavarone singled to left and brought home Bobby Melley to make it 1-0. But Mantiply recovered, going two-plus more strong innings before allowing another run in the fifth. But at that point, the Huskies (with help from the Hokies' errors) plated three unearned runs and knocked Mantiply from the game on the wrong side of a 4-0 score.

Tech answered in the bottom of the inning, getting a deep sac fly from Sean Keselica to score Kyle Wernicki and cut the lead to three. But unfortunately Tech would never get closer, as they would continually fail to get timely hits needed to bring home runners on the bases. Connecticut would extend the lead in the 9th on a Vinny Siena sac fly to score Billy Ferriter and make it 5-1. Tech would get one back in the bottom half of the inning on a Sean Keselica single and error by the left fielder to make it 5-2, but a critical error in judgement by Alex Perez, who tried to take third on the play, essentially prevented Tech from scoring any more runs.

While the Hokies did have three long fly balls to deep right and right center field, none of them left the park and were handled by the Huskies outfielders. In fact, Kyle Wernicki's triple to lead off the bottom of the 7th would have probably been caught if the left fielder had not had to contend with the sun.

The Hokies also had a pretty poor approach from the plate, despite having five walks and five strikeouts. Many of those strikeouts came with runners in scoring position and were the result of Tech batters extending the strike zone. Some also came on full counts, including the what would have been ball 4 to Mark Zagunis to end the game.

Tech will face off against Coastal Carolina tomorrow at 1 p.m. at English Field. The Chanticleers went up 3-0 in the earlier game today against Oklahoma, before succumbing to the Sooners who reeled off seven-straight runs to win 7-3. The loss means the Hokies will have to win four consecutive games to advance to the Super Regionals.

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