Hokies Baseball Opening Weekend Preview

Tech will face off against Youngstown State and Charlotte in a round robin tournament this weekend. Let's see who has the edge and how stiff the Hokies' competition truly is.

On Friday, February 14th, at noon (WEATHER LIKELY NOT PERMITTING), the Hokies' baseball team will kick off the season against Youngstown State at the Charlotte tournament in North Carolina.The round robin tournament features Virginia Tech, Youngstown State, and UNC-Charlotte. Each team will play the other two twice between Friday and Sunday, and each team gets one doubleheader.

Here is the tournament schedule:

Friday - Noon: VT vs Youngstown State, 4:00: Charlotte vs Youngstown State

Saturday - Noon: VT vs Charlotte, 4:00: VT vs Youngstown State

Sunday - Noon: Charlotte vs Youngstown State, 4:00: VT vs Charlotte

Let's take a look at  the teams:

Youngstown State

This will be the first ever meeting between the Penguins (yes, the Penguins) and the Hokies. The Penguins are led by second year head coach Steve Gillispie. Their roster is fairly seasoned as they only feature nine freshmen. Their best player, 3rd baseman Drew Dosch, left early for the MLB draft. Without Dosch, they are going to need a lot of help to improve on a disastrous 2013 campaign. As a member of the six team (formerly five) Horizon league, the Penguins finished dead last with a record of 14-43. Their lone marquee win was a 10-4 victory over Kent State.

Here's the final 2013 Horizon League standings:

Team:

Overall Record:

Conference Record:

Wisconsin-Milwaukee

29-21-0

14-7-0

Valparaiso

31-26-0

13-11-0

Illinois-Chicago

27-28-0

13-11-0

Wright State

25-30-0

(9-12-0)

Youngstown State

14-43-0

(8-16-0)

The Penguins record is only made worse by their stats:

Statistic Measured:

Score:

Ranking (Out of 296 teams):

Batting Average

0.265.

191st

Scoring

4.9/game

186th

Hits

504

162nd

Home Runs

13

220th

WHIP

1.73

276th

Earned Run Average

6.53

284th

Fielding Percentage

0.953.

271st

On Base Percentage

0.36.

124th

Base On Balls

234

62nd

Strikeout To Walk Ratio

1.07

288th

There is not much here to frighten the Hokie faithful, but if there is one thing the team does well, it's working the count. The Penguins took an exceptional number of walks last season, so we can expect them to go deep into their at-bats and attempt to get on base without swinging for the fences. If Youngstown can put runners in scoring position and play the "I can score more than you" game, they might have a chance this weekend.

UNC-Charlotte

The 49ers are picked to finish 9th out of 13 teams in Conference-USA, which features baseball powerhouse Rice as the front runner. Prior to this season, Charlotte was a member of the Atlantic-10 conference, where they boasted a 37-23 record and a second place finish in the conference. They are only three years removed from an NCAA tournament appearance.

Head Coach Loren Hibbs is a baseball Frank Beamer of sorts. He is in his 22nd year with the program with an overall record of 670-510-3 and four NCAA tournament appearances. Hibbs is working with an experienced roster this season, after losing just two players to the draft last year. This could be a great year for Hibbs' squad.

Here are the 49ers' statistics from last season:

Statistic Measured:

Score:

Ranking (Out of 296 teams):

Earned Run Average

3.18

33rd

Batting Average

.288.

62nd

Home runs

17

176th

Fielding Percentage

.961.

209th

WHIP

1.3

45th

Strikeout to Walk Ratio

2.01

104th

On Base Percentage

.364.

94th

Scoring

5.4/game

113th

Charlotte is a scrappy team. They pitch very well. Only two of Charlotte's starting pitchers had an ERA greater than 3.00 last season, and none of their starters had an ERA greater than 4.00. Senior Brock Hudgens is particularly effective, sporting a 7-1 record and 2.77 ERA only a year ago. Don't let their lack of home runs fool you. Pitching isn't their only strength. Charlottes' regular batting order did not feature a single player whose batting average dipped below .225. The 49er's only big weaknesses are power hitting and fielding. If Charlotte's pitching holds up late into these games they could be a favorite to win the tournament. But if Tech can find some offense, they should win at least one of the two games against the host team. The Hokies are 21-17 all time against Charlotte, with the most recent contest being a 6-1 Tech victory last season.

Youngstown State is a great opener for this inexperienced Tech squad. The Hokies should win both games against the Penguins this weekend, even without the power hitters from last year's team. Charlotte will prove to be a more difficult task. The games against the 49ers will be a huge test for the Hokies and should give the fans a good idea of where the team stands this year. Don't be surprised if Charlotte wins the tournament by knocking off the Hokies. It is after all a rebuilding year.

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