Virginia Tech was one strike away from ending Georgia Tech's ACC-record of 19 consecutive conference series won. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Georgia Tech's bats came alive at the right time and the Yellow Jackets slugged their way to another series win this weekend in Blacksburg.
Game 1: Virginia Tech 4, Georgia Tech 2
The Hokies received a solid pitching performance from Jasmin Harrell in Game 1 and hung on for a 4-2 win over the Jackets. They took a 2-1 lead in the second thanks to a two-out, two-RBI single by Marra Hvozdovic. They added two more runs in the third after a two-RBI single by Courtney Liddle.
It was Liddle's first game for the Hokies since March 20 when the first baseman was cleated on a play at first against North Carolina. She finished the game 1-for-1 with two walks and two RBIs. The Hokies' chased Georgia Tech starter Kristen Adkins after she gave up four earned runs in 2.2 IP. She came into the game with a 0.87 ERA, far and away the best in the ACC.
Harrell scattered two hits and gave up one run over the final four innings to give the Hokies' a series-opening win over the No. 25 team in the nation.
Game 2: Georgia Tech 8, Virginia Tech 5 (9 inn.)
Game 2 was postponed by rain with the Hokies up 1-0 going into the bottom of the fourth. It turns out the rain was the Hokies' worst enemy as Georgia Tech's bats woke up in dramatic fashion Sunday.
The Jackets scored three in the fifth on a sacrifice fly and a two-run homer by Kelsi Weseman. They extended their lead to 4-1 in the sixth on an RBI ground out and appeared ready to tie the series at one when the Hokie hitters came up clutch in the bottom of the sixth.
After Dani Anderson flied out to start the inning, five consecutive Hokie batters reached base, including three extra-base hits to dramatically take a 5-4 lead off Georgia Tech starter Hope Rush. She came into the game having allowed only 12 extra-base hits in 82.1 IP.
The big hit was a game-tying triple by Kristen Froehlich that brought home Ashton Ward. Pinch runner Sarah Ashby then scored on a single by Hvozdovic to take the lead. Hvozdovic had just one RBI in ACC play coming into the Georgia Tech series, but came up big when she had to against the conference's best to give the Hokies a chance to win.
Harrell relieved Kenzie Roark in the top of the seventh and retired the first two batters she faced. That brought up Alysha Rudnik as the Jackets' last hope. Harrell, who has struggled giving up home runs throughout the season, had a 1-2 count on Rudnik, who then blasted her 12th home run of the year to tie the game.
It was the 18th home run allowed by Harrell this season. She would surrender No. 19 in a three-run ninth inning for the Jackets, who went on to win, 8-5.
Game 3: Georgia Tech 11, Virginia Tech 3
After a heart-breaking end to the second game, the Hokies were blitzed in the rubber match of the series. Rudnik led the way, going 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs.
Virginia Tech had a 3-1 lead after three innings before three Hokies pitchers gave up 10 runs, six earned over what would be the final three innings. Georgia Tech scored two in the fourth, four in the fifth and four more in the sixth. They shut out the Hokies and the game ended in a run-rule, 11-3.
Before Saturday's rain delay, the Hokies had out-scored the Yellow Jackets, 5-2 and held them to a .206 average (7-for-34). Sunday, Georgia Tech out-scored the Hokies, 19-7 and hit .400 (24-for-60).
While this weekend's series against the Jackets is disappointing, we can take away one very big thing from it. The Hokies stood toe-to-toe with the best team the ACC had to offer and nearly came away with what would have been a huge series win.
Virginia Tech got a great pitching performance in the first game and clutch hitting in the second. They will not face another team on their schedule as good as Georgia Tech and certainly have the chance to win big in their remaining ACC series.
The two losses dropped the Hokies to fourth in the conference at 7-5. While it will be tough to catch North Carolina for second, it's very conceivable they can jump Maryland an finish third. The Hokies' next two series are at 2-10 Virginia and at home against 2-9 NC State. If the Hokies go 5-1 or 6-0 in those games, they'll put a lot of pressure on the Terps, who still have to face North Carolina and Florida State.
If Tech can finish their regular season strong, it may get a rematch against the Yellow Jackets in the ACC Tournament. That's getting way ahead of ourselves, but the Hokies have a solid team capable of playing with anyone in the conference has to offer. They proved that against the Jackets.