Tech Baseball To Play Radford In Home Opener On Tuesday

Pod Katt (@valleyshook) of LSU's SBNation site

Once again it's time for the New River showdown. Tech opens it's home schedule against Radford On Tuesday at 3:30. Read on to find out who has the edge.

The Hokies play their home opener on Tuesday against Radford. The battle of the New River Valley begins at 3:30, and it looks to be a good one this year. The forecast for the opening pitch is a chilly 42 degrees and partly cloudy, with winds out of the northwest at 13 mph. The Hokies beat Radford in both games last year, 14-10 at home and 4-3 on the road. The Highlanders are 2-5 this season, but their wins were against two very respectable teams in Cincinnati and Georgia Tech. The highlanders are by no means a pushover, in fact they are quite scrappy, finishing 3rd in the North division of the Big South just a year ago. That conference is home to the likes of Coastal Carolina and Liberty, both tournament teams last year.

Here's the final 2013 Big South North Division standings:

Campbell

49-10 Overall

19-5 Conference

High Point

29-29 Overall

15-9 Conference

Radford

30-26 Overall

14-10 Conference

Liberty

36-29 Overall

13-11 Conference

Longwood

26-28 Overall

.12-12. Conference

VMI

20-35 Overall

.6-18. Conference

A 30-26 record is not enough to make the big dance, but it's decent. Head coach Joe Raccuia bumped up the schedule this year so they could be challenged early, but as a result they will have an even harder time making the tournament.

This is a compilation of some of their stats from the 2013 season:

Statistic Measured:

Score:

Ranking:

Batting Average

.272.

154th

Earned Run Average

4.7

187th

Fielding Percentage

.974.

38th

WHIP

1.46

158th

Scoring

5.7

88th

On Base Percentage

.357.

144th

Stolen Bases

71

84th (Tie)

Base On Balls

183

173rd (Tie)

Slugging Percentage

.359.

173rd

Home Runs

18

166th (Tie)

While nothing is too eye popping, all of their stats fall into the middle tier of college baseball, with one exception: fielding. A .974 fielding percentage is a testament to the tough defense Radford likes to play. If a ball is playable, they are going to get the out. If the Highlanders had top-tier pitching to back up their stingy defense, they would be a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately the bullpen hasn't been kind to them thus far, the most recent example being an 8th inning home run resulting in a 5-4 loss to Wake Forest. While Radford has allowed only two home runs this season, they have allowed 51 runs overall through seven games, an astounding average of 7.3 runs allowed per game. They've also already committed 10 errors, an indication that their defense may be on the decline, but it could also be due to their schedule. However, in the games that they've won, the defense committed no errors. So a lot of how well they play against Tech is going to be contingent on whether or not their gloves show up.

On the offensive side, the Highlanders have amassed just 31 runs, or an average of 4.4 runs per game. They only lost two key batters from 2013: shortstop Jeff Kemp was their only player to get drafted last year (999th pick to the Orioles), and 1st baseman Ryan Burgess graduated. Infielder Chris Coia has been their best hitter thus far, with a batting average of .355 and four RBIs. Alexander Lee and Hunter Higgerson have been equally dangerous, batting .348 and .304 respectively. The rest of the team is batting below .300.

Tech's offense has seen a similar story. The Hokies are averaging 4.5 runs per game and have given up 4.5 per game to opponents. Freshman Tom Stoffel has had the best bat so far with a .364 batting average. Saige Jenco has also been good so far with an average of .308. Mark Zagunis, a pre-season 2nd team All-American, is hitting .214, but leads the team with six RBIs. The Hokies are still waiting for their first home run.

The Hokies' defense and pitching has gotten mixed results. Mason's team has been prone to errors early on (five in four games) and Tech aces Brad Markey and Tanner McIntyre have already taken losses. Judging by the rotation, we will likely see McIntyre get the nod tomorrow, although we have yet to see a fourth starter emerge from the rotation and if coach Mason decides to save McIntyre for the tournament this weekend, there could be a new face on the mound. For Radford, Sophomore Michael Boyle is next up in the rotation. Another option for the Highlanders would be freshman Austin Ross. Boyle is 0-2 on the year. Ross is 0-1.

Analysis:

Hitting

The key to this game is going to be who can cross home plate first. Both teams have struggled at the plate and whoever manufactures the most hits is going to have a huge advantage. Right now these teams are equally productive at the plate.

Edge: Even

Pitching

Tech has a more experienced rotation and has performed better than Radford in the ERA department so far. They are also in a better place with their rotation, considering Radford is coming off of a long stretch of games and only have two starters available to them who have pitched this season, neither of whom has won a game. Tech is in a similar position, but with more experience available to them if they choose to start McIntyre, who did not pitch in Baton Rouge.

Edge: Hokies

Fielding

Radford was great in the field last season, but this year they have left much to be desired in losses, while exceeding expectations in wins. They also return seven starters from last year. Tech's defense lost a couple of gloves from last season and hasn't found their footing on defense quite yet.

Edge: Even

This will be a game of attrition. I anticipate a lower scoring affair due to the hitting struggles on both teams as well as the lower temperatures. Tech should emerge with the win, although the final score may be a lot closer than most people think. Radford could give them a lot of trouble, and if things fall into place they could even leave with the upset. There's nothing Radford would like better than to beat their ACC affiliated next door neighbor. Look out.

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