Hokies in New Orleans: Game 1 - Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hokie Baseball team was on an extended road trip to New Orleans this weekend, and then brought it home to touch base on the best day of the week to open the season at home. The New Orleans Tournament was a mixed bag that only brought home one win out of the three games, but the Hokies could see some serious positives in every game played.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs Iowa Hawkeyes
|Virginia Tech (1-4)||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||6||1|
|W: Daniels, Zach (1-0)|
|L: Joey Sullivan (0-2)|
The first game, against the Iowa Hawkeyes started off at 12:30 or so with something that Tech has been struggling with for the last several seasons; starting pitching. Connor Coward threw an absolute gem. He pitched 8 full innings, managed to throw a 2 hit, 11 strike out, one run game until, at 114 pitches, Coach Szefc had to pull him before his arm fell off.
Even Tech’s relief pitching was a credible effort with Andrew McDonald maintaining the goose egg through the bottom of the 10th. Yes, it went in to extra innings and Tech was the visiting team. Then the wheels fell off. Joey Sullivan started the bottom of the 10th with a strike out, but hit the next batter, putting the walk off run on base. Sullivan managed to strike out the next batter, but the base runner stole second, putting himself in scoring position. Ryan Okuda came in to try to get the final out and get an extra frame for the struggling Hokie offense; unfortunately Sam Fragale had uncharacteristic difficulties with the put-out throw from third base. That throwing error advanced the runner from second to home, and ended the game with an unearned walk-off.
Virginia Tech Pitching Grid vs Iowa
|Joey Sullivan (L, 0-2)||0.2||0||1||0||0||2||0||3||10-7|
While it was a loss, there were many good things in this game that the Hokies should take to heart. Things were headed in a positive direction from the start.
Game 2: Hokies vs. New Orleans
This game was a noon start for a split double header for Saturday. It was unusual because the 2nd game of the Double Header was to be played against Ball State. Hokie starting pitching managed to keep the run total to a dull roar, though Dylan Hall saw the ball heading into the outfield and over the fence, more than he would have liked. He gave up one run to some struggling off the mound, a walk, then a wild pitch, followed by a single in the New Orleans half of the 2nd inning handed him the loss. The two solo home runs, one in the bottom of the 3rd, and another in the bottom of the 4th sealed the deal. New Orleans scored one run in the bottom of the 8th, but that was more of an insurance deal than an actual game changer.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. New Orleans Privateers
|Virginia Tech (1-5)||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||0||2||10||0||1|
|New Orleans (4-3)||0||1||1||1||0||0||0||1||X||4||10||1||1|
|W: Arjona, Kyle (1-0)|
|L: Dylan Hall (1-1)|
|SV: Orze, Eric (1)|
The Hokie offense put up 10 hits, but they only generated 2 RBI. That sort of diffuse contact is good for individual hitters’ confidence levels but it doesn’t do much to win games. The Tech offensive effort needs to routinely exceed their pitching staff’s ERA and this game it just didn’t.
Hokies Pitching vs. New Orleans
|Dylan Hall (L, 1-1)||5.2||7||3||3||1||2||2||25||82-53|
|Paul Hall, Jr.||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1-0|
Overall, it was a good effort though, and there were more signs that there could be a bit of momentum being built.
Game 3: Hokies vs. Ball State Cardinals
Double Headers can be tough. A DH against a completely different team is probably even tougher. I don’t know all of the conditions before the game, but I would imagine that Ball State also played an earlier contest. Either way, the Hokies were coming off off two really tough, close, losses where their pitching was either stellar or good enough. That sort of offensive fade can really wear on a team.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Ball State Cardinals
|Ball State (3-4)||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||2||6||1||1|
|Virginia Tech (2-5)||2||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||X||4||5||1||1|
|W: Ian Seymour (1-0)|
|L: SIMMONS, Garett (0-1)|
|SV: Nic Enright (1)|
That wear didn’t seem to show on Saturday night. The 8:30 (9:30 Eastern) start was tough enough for an East coast team, but the 74 degree temperature was a hopeful contributor. Baseball in the cold is a pretty miserable thing. The team getting some work in at room temps really seemed to be tonic.
Ian Seymour put up a quality start, and notched a no hit goose-egg into the top of the 7th when the Cardinals batters finally found the range and tagged him for two singles. Seymour faced runners on the corners with only one out. Coach Szefc made the relief move to help out a new pitcher sporting 89 pitches. Now it was time for the bullpen to seal the win for Seymour. Andrew McDonald tried to add to the single out but 2 runs crossed the plate before he could close the door. The first came on a contact play that scored the runner from third on the fielder’s choice. The second happened on a single that scored the runner who had advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch (Andrew is still having a bit of an issue with control.) However! McDonald did get the final out for the inning and the damage was limited to just those two runs.
Nic Enright took it home, pitching a solid two full innings that only netted the Cardinals a single inconsequential hit.
Virginia Tech Pitching vs. the Cardinals
|Ian Seymour (W, 1-0)||6.1||4||2||2||2||9||0||25||89-65|
|Nic Enright (S, 1)||2.0||1||0||0||0||4||0||8||34-22|
That script sounded pretty similar to the other two games in the tournament. What was different was the fact that the offense put up four runs, and the last time that I checked 4 was more than 2.
The Box Score from Hokie Sports is worth reading for a change. The notable contributor to the offense was Nick Menken with two clutch Runs Batted In. The other two runs were unearned, but unearned runs still count on that scoreboard at the end of play.
Hokie Box Score from the Ball State Cardinal Game
|Jack Owens 2B||3||2||2||0||1||1|
|Nick Owens SS||2||0||0||0||1||1|
|Tom Stoffel 1B||3||1||0||0||1||2|
|Sam Fragale 3B||3||1||0||0||1||2|
|Luke Horanski C||1||0||0||0||3||1|
|Nick Menken CF||2||0||1||2||1||0|
|Darion Jacoby LF||3||0||1||0||1||2|
|Cam Irvine DH||1||0||0||0||1||0|
|JD Mundy PH/DH||2||0||0||0||0||2|
|Stevie Mangrum RF||3||0||1||0||0||1|
|Ian Seymour P||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Andrew McDonald P||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Nic Enright P||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|RBI: Menken, N. (2)|
|Clutch RBI: Menken, N. (2)|
|Intentional Walks: Fragale, S.|
|Stolen Bases: Owens, J.; Fragale, S.|
|Men Stranded: 7|
The Hokies headed back home on Sunday morning, with some hope. They’d grabbed a win, and played two very close games that if the offense had clicked, they also could have won. That’s the life of baseball when a team in transition is just learning how to win under a new coaching regime.
Coach Szefc and the Hokies had their second win, and were heading home to an English Field as much under reconstruction as they are.
The first home game of 2018: Hokies vs. Radford University Highlanders
Before we go into the game from last night, it’s really important to understand something that few Hokie fans really understand. Our New River Valley friends from down Prices Fork and Peppers Ferry Roads are a seriously good baseball team. Radford doesn’t have a football program (it’s a club sport, there) so many Radford students root for the Hokies on the gridiron, but when it comes to other sports, and in particular, baseball, the Highlanders are all Red and all about beating us at every turn.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Radford Highlanders
|Virginia Tech (3-5)||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||3||8||1|
|W: Graham Seitz (1-0)|
|L: ALDERMAN, Trey (0-1)|
The Radford Highlanders won the Big South Baseball Tournament, and qualified for the NCAA Regional Playoffs. That’s noteworthy and makes them more than a powderpuff small school opponent. They come ready to play ball, and last night they played a heck of a game, and so did the Hokies. The game stretched long into the evening taking 3:36 minutes from the 4:00 start time. Folks, 12 innings is a whole lot of baseball to play, that’s a game and a third for a tired team in need of some rest and looking at a long road trip for the weekend. Tech showed some growing grit by hanging with it, and not letting Radford get ahead in the tops of the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th innings. Each frame stayed a walk-off for us if we could just manufacture a run.
Hokies Pitching vs. Highlanders
|Graham Seitz (W, 1-0)||1.0||1||0||0||2||2||0||6||26-15|
It’s critical to note that Coach Szefc seems to have set up a short inning relay to give his staff a bit of a rest. The game started with Nic Enright piching three innings, and giving up a single unearned run on three hits. Ryan Okuda picked up an earned run in two, and a relay of Joey Sullivan, Andrew McDonald, and Graham Seitz hung up goose eggs across the tops of the remaining innings until some offensive magic happened.
The Ultimate Small Ball Inning and an Exciting Walk-Off
There is nothing more exciting a set of plays, in baseball anyway, than a “small ball” walk-off extra inning victory. Tech started the bottom of the 12th with the bottom third of the lineup. Most teams would steady themselves, and prepare to go out for the 13th in that situation. It doesn’t seem that the Hokies thought much of that old baseball sort of tactic.
Darion Jacoby led off the inning by working a 7 pitch walk. With Jacoby on 1st, Cam Irvine laid down a sacrifice bunt that pushed Jacoby to 2nd. With the first out on the board and a runner in scoring position, Stevie Mangrum rapped a clean single into center field that put Jacoby on 3rd base. So, what do you call? It’s one out, runners on the corners, and you have the top of the order coming to the plate. Jack Owens has already nabbed a hit, but he’s also pushing a 1 for 5 for the game. Most coaches in this day and age would have him work a walk, or even strike out in favor of the next batter, but Nick Owens was 0 for 5 and I can guarantee that no one in that dugout wanted to play one more frame to get to the heart of the order. Coach Szefc takes a risk and calls for another sacrifice bunt... You saw that right, a SQUEEZE.. Hey, it was a chance. The odds were that if there was an out at the plate, you still had 1 out left, and two runners on base. If it worked, you celebrated a walk off and headed to the showers with your second win in a row.
Coach Szefc made the right call. It was an exciting finish to a long game, and now Tech is sporting a two W’s in a row for the Win/Loss Column.
This weekend and into next week, the Hokies travel to DeLand, Florida for a grueling five game road set at the Stetson Tournament. Some of the teams they’ll be facing include the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Purdue University Boilermakers. It’s their last big challenge until they open the ACC season against Pitt at home on March 9th.
LET’S GO HOKIES!!!!!