The Virginia Tech Hokies baseball team opened their 2018 ACC season with a solid win over the Pittsburgh Panthers. Connor Coward took the home mound at the still unfinished English Field at Union Park, and tossed another solid game.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs Pittsburgh Panthers (Game 1)
|Pittsburgh (10-3, 0-1)||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||6||1||2||10||1|
|Virginia Tech (7-7, 1-0)||0||0||0||4||0||0||0||0||X||4||6||0||3||8||1|
|W: Connor Coward (1-1)|
|L: Derek West (1-1)|
|SV: Andrew McDonald (3)|
It’s a good thing that Coward looks like he’s trying to make a serious next level impression, because Tech has needed this sort of performance from its starting pitching for a very long time. The Hokies needed this win since tomorrow’s double header. That decision was made in mid week, and was presumably made because of the expected terrible weather on Sunday. Getting this first win will help Tech to position itself to win the series even if they split the DH tomorrow. (Sweeps of double headers are rare.)
Hokies Pitching Summary for Game 1 vs Pitt
|Connor Coward (W, 1-1)||7||4||1||1||3||12||0||128-73|
|Andrew McDonald (S, 3)||2||2||0||0||1||2||0||26-16|
The weather was crisp and a heavy breeze was blowing for most of the contest. That may have stiffened some bats, for both teams. Coward served notice in the first inning when he struck out the side. The second inning, he was tagged for a single but it was inconsequential since the other 4 four Pitt batters either grounded out, struck out, or flied out.
Coward took a bit of a reminder that nothing in baseball is locked down, in the top of the 3rd when Pitt managed a 2 out single, then a stolen base and another single that drove the runner home. He closed out the inning with a backwards K and limited the damage to 1 run, however. How a pitcher gets out of trouble is almost as important as striking out the side... Well not really, I’d rather see the other guys miss the ball all the time, but Connor showed that he won’t panic and lose control. No further Panthers would cross the plate, earned or unearned for the remainder of the game.
That was great Hokie pitching, but as Connor Coward discovered last week, you can pitch lights out ball and still lose. Tech needed to get some offense rolling to pick up that great pitching performance. That would happen in the bottom of the 4th inning.
After Tom Stoffel grounded out, Sam Fragale made up for it by hitting a double into left field. In an attempt at some small ball, Luke Horanski laid down a sacrifice bunt to try to get Fragale to 3rd. The Pitt pitcher tossed the ball to the construction workers. Horanski ended up on 2nd, and also accomplished the mission of getting Fragale to 3rd base. Cam Irvine evened the game, though with a contact play fielder’s choice. Then as the dust settled on the base running weirdness, Nick Mencken hit an RBI single that scored Horanski. That would technically be the winning run, but JD Mundy thought better of a bit of insurance and thumped a 2 run homer into center field to end the inning and the scoring for the game for both teams.
Coward wrapped up his quality start when Andrew McDonald came it to close the door in the top of the 9th. McDonald was tagged for a single, but then cleaned up with a strike out and then induced a double play ball that ended the game.
Significant things about this game
It’s Virginia Tech’s first ACC win of the season
It’s Tech’s fourth win in a row
The Hokies are now .500 at 7 and 7 for the season
It could be a tough set of games, tomorrow. The weather is predicted to be cloudy, windy, cold, and light snow is expected to visit occasionally.