It’s time to introduce, or perhaps I should say re-introduce the 2018 Hokie Baseball Team. There were a few graduates and some folks who thought better of their situation and left for the minor leagues, but basically the position players for the 2017 Hokies end up coming back to take the field in 2018.
Though not a losing effort for non-conference games in 2017 (14-11), Tech just couldn’t rally past an absolutely abysmal 9 win 21 loss ACC Conference record. Even if batting was sometimes inconsistent, the Hokies scored runs; just not enough when they were needed. Offense wasn’t the most disappointing part of the Hokie 2017 effort. If it was all about swinging lumber (okay that’s trite college ball and they use aluminum bats) Tech’s record would probably have been close to .500. The huge pile of dirty sweat socks in the clubhouse was pitching. The 2017 Hokie pitching staff just could never really set up to control a baseball game. Baseball is a par sport. That is, it is played pretty much to average, and the winners are those teams that manage to push to beat their average more times than the league competition. A problem pitching staff means that a team is struggling to get to average, instead of working to stay ahead of it.
We’ll address the big changes in the pitching roster in the next article; this one concentrates on the position players. There is a balance necessary in fielding any baseball team. Some players are good batters but so-so fielders, some are really good fielders but struggle to get above the Mendoza Line. Of course there are Triple Crown types, great on the diamond and at the plate, but those guys are few and far in between. Most players at Tech’s level of exposure are competent at both, and sometimes better at one or the other.
That’s always the major issue when someone like Coach Szefc comes into a new situation and starts to try to plug the holes, and fix a program that is both taking on water, and missing out on top talent. The Hokies have 14 true Freshman faces in the program. Six of them are fielders. There are three outfielders and three infielders listed. I will have to check on the nature of their recruiting, but suffice it to say that the six freshman position players will start their college careers with Coach Szefc.
However! (big ‘but’ there) That still means the bulk of the team was recruited and played under the prior coaching staff. There are two Sophomore’s 1st baseman/DH JD Mundy and Catcher Andrew Webb, returning; both have solid game experience. Outfielders Nick Menken and Stevie Mangrum (who gets a new number 18 this season) come back as true Juniors. Jack Owens and Nick Owens are the redshirt Juniors returning to the infield, while Luke Horanski mans the plate as one of the three Catchers on the roster.
Here are the particulars of the 2018 Hokie Baseball Roster from Hokie Sports:
2018 Hokie Baseball Roster: Position Players
|12||Tom Stoffel||r-Sr||L/L||OF/P||5' 10"||205||Dayton, Ohio||Northmont|
|21||Sam Fragale||r-Sr||R/R||IF||5' 10"||205||Pittsburgh, Pa.||Seneca Valley|
|24||Joe Freiday, Jr||Sr||R/R||C||6' 4"||240||Lakeville, Mass.||Bridgewater|
|2||Jack Owens||r-Jr||R/R||IF||5' 10"||165||Burke, Va.||Lake Braddock (East Carolina)|
|4||Luke Horanski||r-Jr||L/R||C||6' 1"||225||Dugald, Manitoba, Canada||Walnut Grove (Cisco JC)|
|8||Nick Owens||r-Jr||R/R||IF||6' 0"||175||Marvin, N.C.||Charlotte Christian (St. John's River SC)|
|9||Nick Menken||Jr||R/R||OF||5' 10"||190||Bartlett, Ill.||South Elgin (Iowa Western CC)|
|18||Stevie Mangrum||Jr||R/R||OF||6' 0"||215||Charlottesville, Va.||Western Albemarle|
|34||Andrew Webb||So||R/R||C||6' 2"||215||Manassas, Va.||Forest Park|
|25||JD Mundy||So||L/R||IF||6' 0"||210||Roanoke, Va.||Northside|
|11||Zach Kokoska||Fr||L/L||OF/P||6' 2"||190||Latrobe, Pa.||Greater Latrobe|
|16||Darion Jacoby||Fr||R/R||OF||5' 11"||185||Pottsville, Pa.||Pottsville|
|26||Jojo Odachowski||Fr||R/R||IF||6' 0"||180||Alpharetta, Ga.||Mount Pisgah Christian|
|30||Cam Irvine||Fr||R/R||IF||6' 2"||185||Penn Laird, Va.||Spotswood|
|32||Michael Fernandez||Fr||L/R||IF||5' 10"||185||Miami, Fla.||Christopher Columbus|
|40||Brian Sisson||Fr||R/R||OF||6' 3"||195||Mechanicsville, Va.||Hanover|
The players represent a road map of of North America (I’d say east of the Mississippi, but Manitoba is northwest of its source), and it looks like the starting lineup is going to have good on field leadership with the starting Seniors, along with some decent game experience throughout.
It’s interesting to see and hear from the new coach, John Szefc and his assistants. So we are giving you the link to the Virginia Tech Baseball Facebook page to view the Media Day presser, among other things. The press conference is a little long, but gives you a good idea of the things that the new staff is thinking about, and how they are going to approach the new season.