Hokies Baseball: Clemson Preview

Tyler Smith

Tech is sitting at 6-4 on the year and is preparing to visit 19th ranked Clemson this weekend. Can coach Mason steal a win in South Carolina?

There are a host of words that could be used to describe the Hokies' last game. "Ugly" doesn't even scratch the surface. Tech squared off against William and Mary on Wednesday. The Tribe often don't get the credit they are due, especially after they made the NCAA tournament last year. However, it's difficult to stomach a 7-0 loss to an in-state team, no matter how good they are.

Sophomore Matt Tulley started on the mound for the Hokies. Coach Mason probably wanted to save his rotation for the ACC opener, and Tulley must have been on fire in practice, because his only prior appearance in a college baseball game was last year, out of the bullpen, for one inning. Tulley didn't add much to his total playing time as he threw 50 pitches in 1.2 innings of work. During that span he walked four and had no strikeouts. He also allowed two hits and three runs. It's possible that he was feeling some jitters as it was his first start. Whatever it was, only 44 percent of his pitches managed to cross the plate. Luis Collazo relieved Tulley in the 2nd and didn't fare much better, giving up three hits, three walks, three runs, and a home run through 2.1 innings. Joe Woodcock relieved Collazo in the 5th and momentarily stopped the bleeding. He threw for three innings and only allowed three hits and a walk. 6'6 freshman Andrew McDonald completed the bullpen movement with his first collegiate appearance. McDonald started shakily with a four pitch walk but calmed himself and delivered a paralyzing three pitch strikeout which left outfielder Michael Katz staring at the pitch all the way in and wondering what happened. McDonald walked a total of three batters but only gave up one hit, a triple which drove in a run, in two innings on the mound.

Tech might have salvaged the shortcomings of Tulley and Collazo had they continued their recent offensive success. But the situation never looked up for the Hokies. Saige Jenco once again showed that he is a star in the making by going one for two, walking twice, and stealing a base. Unfortunately Tech only collected five total hits and were not able to score. William and Mary on the other hand got nine hits and 11 walks, working each count like it was the World Series.

The positive from this game is that Tech will have their go-to pitchers available to them this weekend when they travel to play Clemson. The game times are as follows: Friday at 6:30pm (ESPN3), Saturday at 1pm, and Sunday at 1pm (ESPN3). The Tigers are ranked 19th in the country and are 6-5 on the season. 6-5? But Johnstantinople, we're 6-4, we can take them! In the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend." Three of those losses came against South Carolina, one of only two undefeated teams left in college baseball. The other two losses are less forgivable, coming against Eastern Michigan and most recently a 10-18 thumping by Western Carolina. Clemson's wins came against Maine, Eastern Michigan, and Presbyterian. This Tigers team hasn't earned their spot in the top 25 yet, but they can be very good. Take a look at their stats so far this season compared to Tech's rankings:

Statistic Measured:

Score:

Ranking:

VT Ranking:

Batting Average

.304.

27th

183rd

Earned Run Average

3.6

121st

93rd

WHIP

1.28

93rd

94th

Scoring

6.2/game

60th (tie)

131st (tie)

On Base Percentage

.370.

84th

107th

Hits Allowed/9 Innings

9.1

161st

98th

Fielding Percentage

.958.

200th

147th

Stolen Bases

19

30th (tie)

43rd (tie)

K/BB Ratio

3.54

15th

96th (tie)

Don't despair. This team is very beatable. The Tigers' bread and butter is their offense. As a team they are batting over .300, which is daunting, but Tech is going to have a chance this weekend. The Hokies play better defense. Unfortunately it may not be good enough to stop them. Infielder Tyler Krieger is their main weapon. He's batting .419 and already has seven RBIs and 18 hits. Outfielder Tyler Slaton is equally dangerous at the plate. Daniel Gossett is their best pitcher with a 2.70 ERA and an opposing batting average of just .227. Clemson will also have the home crowd cheering them on and they have a leg up historically. Tech is 23-36-2 all time against Clemson and 4-17 since joining the ACC. The last meeting ended in a 3-2 Tech victory back in May of 2011. Clemson's record in 2013 was identical to VT's. Both teams finished the season 40-22 and placed 3rd in their respective divisions, although Clemson had a better conference record at 18-12 compared to Tech's 15-14. The Tigers made the NCAA tournament but exited early.

Matchup Analysis:

Pitching

Close call here. The Hokies are better in terms of runs and hits allowed, but Clemson has a huge advantage when it comes to walks and strikeouts.

Advantage: Even

Hitting

It's no contest. Clemson is going to pile up the hits and score plenty of runs. They hit the ball better as a team and as good as the Hokies have been at small ball, the Tigers are just better.

Advantage: Clemson

Fielding

Tech gets this one based on numbers alone. Clemson has committed 20 errors this season to the Hokies' 12.

Advantage: Hokies

Weekend Predictions:

Clemson was supposed to be a CWS type of team right out of the gate. So far they haven't played like one, and that's good news for Tech. There's a game this weekend that could easily be stolen. The biggest question is going to be how the young players fare in their first ACC matchup. This is where it really counts. The previous ten games mean nothing compared to this weekend. Tech's record on Sunday night could very well indicate what the rest of the season is going to look like. Hopefully Mark Zagunis and company will get the newcomers ready for their first taste of the ACC gauntlet. Brad Markey and Kit Scheetz will more than likely get starts on the mound. Count on one of those two to have the best chance at squeaking out a win.

So far this year if it wasn't one problem it's been another. When Tech's pitching has been on target there have been errors in the field, and vice versa. This is common for young teams as the new players learn their roles on the team and get used to the faster pace of the college game. If Tech pulls everything together they are a better than decent squad, but they haven't done it often. Clemson should win the series. It would be far too much to ask of Patrick Mason's young team to go into their first ACC weekend on the road and win two games. But one win is not out of the question.

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