Virginia Tech Baseball Tournament Recap

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Hokies took on Cincinnati and UMass-Lowell in a round robin last weeked and emerged 3-1. Here's the full story and what to expect in the weeks ahead.

Head coach Patrick Mason had some problems to address going into the Virginia Tech tournament this past weekend. The infield was committing errors at an alarming rate. The veteran pitchers were being outperformed by their young counterparts. The batters were at a loss for swinging the bats with authority. Fortunately for the Hokies, they came together and emerged from the tournament 3-1, sweeping Cincinnati and splitting with UMass-Lowell. Lowell also came out of the tournament with a 3-1 record, leaving the Bearcats winless. As it turned out, the River Hawks were stiff competition and didn't look much like a team fresh out of Division Two.

Tech played Cincinnati on Friday, and senior pitcher Brad Markey stole the show. Markey threw for eight innings, netting eight strikeouts and no walks, while allowing only five hits and one run. The only thing standing in the way of a complete game was the 98 pitches Markey reached. Jon Woodcock took the mound in the 9th, but was replaced by freshman Luke Scherzer after a four pitch walk. Scherzer only threw four pitches as well, and that was all he needed to get the three outs and end the game. Russell Clark had the Bearcats' only RBI.

All four of Tech's runs were scored in the third inning. Alex Perez and Brendon Hayden hit sacrifice flies and Sean Keselica drove in two runs with a single. The Hokies amassed only five hits, but also took six walks (three from Saige Jenco) and stole two bases (both by Jenco). Tech's best hitter on Friday was Keselica who went two for four with two RBIs.

The 4-1 win was a nice statement by Tech. Markey was dominant on the mound and the hitting was just good enough for a comfortable win. While Tech did strand nine base runners, they didn't commit any errors and they beat Cincinnati at their own game. The Bearcats had no stolen bases and drew only one walk.

On Saturday the Hokies faced UMass-Lowell, a new addition to D1 baseball. This game required extra innings but Alex Perez sealed a 4-3 Tech win by driving in Kyle Wernicki. Freshman Kit Scheetz started on the mound for Tech and had three strikeouts, four walks, and allowed two runs and one hit through 3.1 innings. Luis Collazo allowed another run and three hits through two innings in relief duty. Senior Tanner McIntyre entered the game in the 6th inning. McIntyre struck out six and walked four through 5.2 innings while allowing only one hit. He was also credited with the win.

The Hokies had 11 hits on Saturday, including two each from Sean Keselica, Alex Perez, and Kyle Wernicki, but they also left 11 on base. While Tech brought the thunder, they added to it by taking seven walks and stealing three bases. Shortstop Ryan Tufts committed the Hokies' only error.

Sunday was Tech's double header day. The Hokies' first matchup ended in a 4-6 loss to UMass-Lowell. Tech started freshman Aaron McGarity on the mound (his first start as a Hokie), and he did not perform as well as the Hokie faithful would have liked. McGarity allowed three runs and six hits through 5.2 innings. He only stuck out three and walked two batters. Sean Kennedy pitched in relief, but the loss ultimately went to Luke Scherzer who gave up three runs and five hits through 2.2 innings, including a two RBI triple in the top of the 9th.

Tech once again snagged 11 hits, but only drew one walk. Matt Dauby was the batter of the day, going three for four and hitting a home run in the bottom of the 9th. Tech also stole two bases, but left fielder Ryan Burns committed a costly error in the 9th inning that allowed a run to score.

In round two on Sunday the Gobblers faced the Bearcats once more and it turned out to be an exciting way to finish the tournament. Sean Keselica started on the mound for Tech but only pitched 3.1 innings, allowing three runs off of four hits. It was a busy day for the bullpen. Sophomore Phil Sciretta relieved Keselica and added 3.2 innings of work. He gave up a run and four hits but struck out five in the process. Junior Justin Kelly and freshman Mack Krupp also entered the game but only threw a combined 14 pitches and allowed two walks. Sean Kennedy pitched in the 9th and was credited with the win. Kennedy allowed one hit and one walk. The Hokie defense committed two errors.

The real story in the final game was the offense. Tech netted 10 hits, nine RBIs, and nine walks in a 9-6 victory. Six of the Hokies' players drove in a run. In the bottom of the 9th, with the score tied at six, two on, and no outs, Brendon Hayden crushed one over the fence for a walk-off victory. It was Hayden's second home run of the season.

The Hokies are now 6-3 on the season, compared to 8-1 a year ago. Nine games in and already we have a much clearer picture of what this team is about. Let's compare some stats of this year's team vs last year's at this point in the season:

Year:

Errors:

Hits:

Runs:

BB Taken:

Stolen Bases:

Earned Runs:

2013

14

101

72

40

11

35

2014

12

74

45

48

17

28

When Patrick Mason took over as head coach many of us anticipated a team that was focused on small ball and good defense. We also believed that hitting would suffer as a result of the team losing three of it's best hitters. Thus far the predictions have been true. The team has done better at stealing bases and taking walks but has garnered far fewer hits and runs. Surprisingly the numbers also indicate that despite the many errors in the field and a lack of proven starters, the fielding and pitching has actually improved. This is a good sign for the Hokies. Mason is going to develop a team that plays tough defense and pitches well. A team that is also smart at the plate and on the bases.

Mason substituted often this past weekend and we got to see a lot of different faces, but a few really stand out. Freshman Saige Jenco has been an absolute monster so far this season. He's hitting .370 and has eight stolen bases on ten attempts. Brendon Hayden leads the team in RBIs with 11. Brad Markey leads the team on the mound with a 1.65 ERA and 17 strikeouts. The rest of the rotation is where the pitching really gets interesting. For the time being it appears that McIntyre has been relegated to the bullpen. He might still be recovering from last year's injury and may very well be a starter again by the end of the year. Aaron McGarity finally got his chance as a starter and while his effort wasn't great he may have done well enough to earn a role in the rotation, which right now seems to be cemented as Markey, Scheetz, and Keselica, with one spot still up in the air.

The Hokies will face William and Mary on Wednesday, and then travel to battle nationally ranked Clemson in South Carolina.

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