Tech Baseball Wins Series At Notre Dame In Dramatic Fashion

The Hokies went 2-1 in South Bend and coach Mason earned his first two road wins as the Hokies continue to climb the ACC ladder.

The Hokies carried the road series against Notre Dame with two wins, but they had to fight hard for them. After the weekend, Tech improves to 12-9-1 overall and 5-4 in the conference.

Friday ended on a sour note for coach Mason as his team dropped a close match 2-1 despite a late comeback. It was destined to be a pitching duel. In stark contrast to Wednesday's game against Rutgers in which Tech sent eight pitchers to the mound, Brad Markey (L, 2-3) started the game and saw it through to it's conclusion. Markey finished the day with six hits and two runs allowed, plus two walks and six strikeouts. The senior reached a staggering 107 pitches through eight innings of work. Overall it was a stellar outing for Markey. The offense simply couldn't provide enough runs. Notre Dame opened up the scoring in the 5th inning when Conor Biggio (son of former MLBer Craig Biggio) reached home plate on a fielder's choice. Blaise Lezynski added another run in the 6th when Markey threw a wild pitch.

On offense, Tech spent the entire game trying to figure out Irish pitcher Sean Fitzgerald (W, 3-1). Fitzgerald had the Hokies in the palm of his hand all day, giving up just six hits and one run through nine innings. The Gobblers didn't score a run until the 9th inning, when optimism peaked. Saige Jenco opened the inning with a double and Alex Perez followed it up by driving Jenco home. Unfortunately hopes were dashed as two straight fly outs to the infield kept Perez from advancing, and Keselica sent a blooper to second to end the game. Brendon Hayden was the hitter of the day, going two for four. Kyle Wernicki also registered a double in the loss.

Coach Mason must have given his team a pep talk Friday night, because Tech's offense exploded on Saturday for an 8-3 win. Sean Keselica (W, 2-0) started on the mound for the Hokies and had a five inning performance. He gave up only three hits and three runs. He also had four walks and two strikeouts. Keselica was pulled once his pitch count approached 100, and Tanner McIntyre was sent to the hill. McIntyre was dominant once again. Through 2.2 innings he struck out two and did not allow a single hit. Sean Kennedy went to the mound next and gave up two hits in one inning of work, though he also registered two strikeouts. Luke Scherzer earned his third save of the season when he entered the game to face the final batter and struck him out.

The Hokies scored all eight of their runs in the first two innings. Nick McCarty (L, 0-5) probably wishes he had started a different day as he walked Jenco and Perez to start the game. Mark Zagunis then sent one screaming for a two RBI double. Keselica singled to bring home Zagunis, and Tom Stoffel scored on a throwing error. In the second inning, Zagunis singled to bring home Tufts, and despite Notre Dame changing pitchers, the magic didn't stop there. Facing an 0-2 count, Brendon Hayden singled to drive home Alex Perez, and Keselica followed with a double to send in Zagunis. Hayden scored Tech's 8th run when Tom Stoffel hit a sacrifice fly. Tech got nine hits total. They were led by Zagunis (3-5, 3 RBIs) and Keselica (2-4, 2 RBIs). Saige Jenco was one for two with two walks. It was Mason's first ever road win.

Sunday was all about which team wanted it more. After 12 innings, the Hokies emerged victorious with a 5-4 win. Jon Woodcock started his first game in a Hokie uniform, and after his performance on Sunday he may need to start a few more. In 5.1 innings, Woodcock allowed just three hits and one earned run. He also had six strikeouts and three walks. Mason was forced to pull Woodcock in the 6th inning after he hit a batter with his 103rd pitch. While Notre Dame scored three runs in the first inning, they were all unearned due to a fielding error by Brendon Hayden and a throwing error by Mark Zagunis. In fact, Woodcock's only earned run came after he had gone into the dugout. Aaron McGarity took his place and gave up an RBI single, though he finished the game allowing just two hits and no earned runs through 1.2 innings. McGarity was replaced by Phil Sciretta who only gave up one hit in 1.1 innings of work. Luke Scherzer (W, 2-1) followed his lead and earned the win after allowing just one hit through 2.2 innings. Sean Kennedy earned his second save of the year, allowing just one hit in one inning.

Saige Jenco once again showcased his leadoff abilities by drawing a walk to start the game. Then with Mark Zagunis on first and Jenco on third, Zagunis attempted to steal second. The catcher made the throw and the speedy Jenco decided to occupy home plate while the enemy was away. It was a delayed double steal executed to perfection, and it demonstrated Mason's knowledge of his players and his ability to incorporate small ball into the offense. Jenco struck again in the top of the second when he drove home Kyle Wernicki, and Tom Stoffel had an RBI single in the 3rd. Zagunis' RBI single in the 7th inning tied the game at four, and the deadlock would remain until the 12th inning. In what was perhaps the most interesting part of the weekend, Mark Zagunis crossed home plate for the go ahead run. With Keselica on first, Zagunis on third, Stoffel at the plate, and two outs, Stoffel sent a grounder to second baseman Cavan Biggio (also a son of Craig). Instead of making the simple throw to first base for the third out, good old Cavan decides to try and tag Keselica on his way to second. Cavan, our hero in this story, then drops the ball, allowing the run to score. Poor Craig, I hope he wasn't watching.

With the road series win, Tech showed that they will compete in this league. They aren't basement dwellers anymore. For the time being, they are happily wedged in the middle of the pack, and considering the massive rebuild on their hands, that's a nice place to be. Heres what the ACC standings look like heading into the meat of the conference schedule.

Team:

Conference Record

Overall Record

Atlantic Division

-

-

Florida State

(7-2)

(19-4)

Clemson

(6-3)

(14-9)

Maryland

(5-4)

(16-6)

Wake Forest

(5-4)

(15-10)

NC State

(3-6)

(14-8)

Notre Dame

(1-8)

(8-14)

Boston College

(1-8)

(7-14)

Coastal Division

-

-

Virginia

(5-2)

(17-4)

Miami

(5-2)

(13-10)

North Carolina

(5-4)

(15-8)

Georgia Tech

(5-4)

(15-9)

Virginia Tech

(5-4)

(12-9-1)

Duke

(4-4)

(14-10)

Pittsburgh

(3-5)

(11-10)

Coach Mason took a very nice approach to the rotation this weekend and the starters performed very well. The only puzzling thing was why Woodcock got the start on Sunday. While he had a good day, it was a bold move to give someone their first start in a crucial game. I think many of us were expecting McIntyre, who was lights out in a relief role. However, it's obvious that the 3rd spot in the rotation is still up for grabs. Meanwhile, the bullpen just needs to keep doing what it's doing. Whatever they are feeding those kids is working. The offense is putting in the work, they just need to find consistency. Jenco, Stoffel, Zagunis, Hayden, and Keselica are the obvious leaders of the bats, and it's refreshing to see two freshmen eager to contribute so early.

Another bright spot has been the bullpen, who put in 10.1 innings of scoreless relief this weekend, and 18.1 innings since last weekend's Pitt series. The team has allowed just 1 earned run in their last 32 innings. And for a team that relies on a bullpen by committee, that may be one of the more unique things you will see as a baseball fan, especially in the college game.

The next seven days will be a week of doom for Tech. They travel to Lynchburg on Tuesday to face Liberty at 6pm. Liberty was a tournament team last year. Then on Friday they hit the road again to play 3rd ranked Virginia. Cue the Darth Vader theme music. This one could get ugly.

Be sure to check back for the Liberty recap and UVA preview.

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