Over the past week the Hokies fell victim to one pitching disaster after another.This weekend Tech snapped a six game skid by sweeping Pittsburgh at home for their first three ACC wins. After the sweep, Tech improved to 9-8-1 overall and 3-3 in the ACC.
Friday was Tech's ACC home opener, and at first it appeared that their struggles would continue. Brad Markey got the start and delivered, what was for him: a subpar performance. The senior gave up nine hits and five runs while only striking out two batters. After the 5th inning, with Tech down 5-2 and Markey's pitch count exploring the mid 80s, coach Mason made a daring move and sent Tanner McIntyre to the mound. McIntyre, who has struggled mightily all season long, gave the Hokie faithful his best performance of the year. In four innings McIntyre struck out four and only allowed three hits and no runs. McIntyre earned the win as his solid performance on the mound paved the way for a Tech comeback.
The Gobbler offense got on the board first with an RBI from Mark Zagunis, but quickly fell in a hole. Buyoed by a McIntyre shutout in the 6th, Tech scored nine runs over the final three frames to clinch an 11-5 win. Tech was led by Saige Jenco, who hit four for four with an RBI and a double. Alex Perez and Sean Keselica combined for five RBIs.
Due to the prospect of snow on the Sunday, Saturday's contest turned into a double header. Once again the Hokies had to come from behind in game one. Sean Keselica started on the mound for Tech and probably thought about asking Brendon Hayden (who was playing first in Keselica's absence) to switch with him. In 4.2 innings, Keselica allowed 11 hits, 10 runs (six earned), and a home run to only two strikeouts. Mason left Keselica on the mound perhaps a bit too long. Down 4-2 in the top of the fifth, Keselica gave up back to back RBIs. With only one out and a pitch count creeping towards the 80s, it may have been time to pull him. But Keselica stayed, and gave up a double and a triple, adding four runs to the Panther's total. Mason pulled the plug and sent Joe Woodcock into the game. Woodcock was solid through 2.1 innings, striking out three and allowing no hits. Luke Scherzer finished the game and only allowed two hits. Scherzer was credited with the win.
Much like Friday, the Hokies found a reason to comeback behind impressive relief pitching. Down 10-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Tech scored nine runs over the final five innings to win the game 11-10. Five of the Hokie batters hit the ball at least twice, an unusual testament to consistency from the team, which captured 16 hits total. Zagunis and Hayden had three RBIs each, and Stoffel added two of his own. The real excitement happened in the bottom of the 9th. Keselica came to the plate with the bases loaded, no outs, and the score tied at 10. Any faults in his pitching performance were redeemed, as Keselica singled and sent Alex Perez home for the walk off win.
Game two on Saturday was in a similar vein to the previous games in the series, except this time Tech didn't wait to make their comeback. Aaron McGarity took the mound in the first inning and quickly gave up three runs, including a home run. McGarity threw for 3.1 innings, giving up a total of seven hits and five earned runs to four strikeouts. Phil Sciretta relieved him and earned the win. Sciretta pitched four innings, allowing five hits and a run. Sean Kennedy earned the save in his 1.2 inning no hit performance.
After falling behind 4-1, the Hokies scored seven runs in the bottom of the third and never looked back en route to an 11-7 win. Tech kept the consistency going on offense with five players getting at least two hits. Kyle Wernicki was the best of the bunch with a three for three, two RBI performance that included a home run. Zagunis also had two RBIs, and Brendon Hayden netted three of his own.
This weekend was a major statement for Tech. It was a best case scenario. The batting order showed everyone that while they aren't the power hitting team from last year, they can and will get on base and score. Zagunis is also back to piling up the RBIs. All they need is a little help from the pitching rotation. All three starters underperformed, but the bullpen saved the day. Runs given up by starters this weekend: 21. Runs given up by the bullpen: 1. The starting rotation needs to find some consistency. Even Markey struggled against Panthers. Fortunately for coach Mason, Tanner McIntyre may be on his way back to success. His performance on Friday seemed to breathe new life into the team, and a second dominant starter is needed if the Hokies want to have a chance to win two games every weekend. This week, the Hokies scored 57 runs over the course of five games (11.4/game). The offense is finally there. The only question is: when will the rotation catch up?
The Hokies have home games against Radford on Tuesday and Rutgers on Wednesday before traveling to Indiana to face Notre Dame next weekend. Tech is still searching for it's first road win.
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