The Virginia Tech Hokies baseball program kicks off their 2019 season this Friday in the Stetson Tournament against their host, the Stetson Hatters. In the second of a three-part roster series, we take a look at the pitching staff for the 2019 Hokies.
Luke Scherzer - R-Sr.
Nick Vickers - R-Jr.
Nic Enright - R-Jr.
Jack Dellinger - Jr.
Graham Seitz - Jr.
Peyton Alford - Jr.
Jaison Heard - Jr.
Dillon Larsen - Jr.
Jack Goonan - Jr.
Connor Yoder - R-So.
Zach Brzykcy - So.
Ryan Okuda - So.
Ian Seymour - So.
Ryan Metz - So.
Chris Gerard - Fr.
Nathan Starliper - Fr.
Alex Havlicek - Fr.
Skylar Petry - Fr.
Pretty young group here overall, and without a doubt the most important of this roster for the 2019 season. As I outlined in the positional players preview earlier this week, the offense should provide enough pop with the veteran experience and blend of transfers to keep the team competitive.
The pitching staff, meanwhile, is a giant question mark. The Hokies struggled on the bump a year ago in John Szefc’s first season in Blacksburg, but an improvement from the staff could turn the Hokies towards an upswing in 2019.
The leader of this staff, and your likely opening day starter when the Hokies take the field on Friday, is R-Sr. Luke Scherzer. After missing two seasons due to injury, Scherzer returned a year ago and posted a 5.76 ERA in nine starts. While uninspiring, it is safe to assume that after a full offseason healthy, Scherzer will improve heading into his final season at Virginia Tech. He is the veteran leader of the pitching staff and will need to take a step forward for the Hokies to improve in 2019.
One guy who will also be counted on heavily after his 2018 ACC All-Freshman Team selection is sophomore Ian Seymour. Seymour was excellent last season in his first year with Virginia Tech, setting ACC freshman records for innings pitched (51.2) and strikeouts (50). Seymour became the first freshman to lead the team in overall ERA (4.17) and ACC-only ERA (3.83) since Joe Saunders in the 2000 season. Saunders, of course, went on to have a very successful MLB career. Seymour’s future is as bright as anyone’s on the entire roster.
Another veteran pitcher who will have a significant role this season is R-Jr. Nic Enright. The former 19th-round selection of the New York Mets in the 2015 first-year player draft has had an up-and-down career with the Hokies marked by inconsistency and injury. Similar to Scherzer, Enright returned last season after redshirting in 2017 due to injury. He posted a 5.26 ERA in 25 appearances, four of which were starts. In 2019, given the youth on the staff, I would expect Enright to be used both as a starter and reliever, and one of the first “long” men out of the bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, Graham Seitz, a junior out of Reston, Virginia, returns once again. He was one of John Szefc’s go-to relievers last season, appearing in 31 games out of the bullpen while posting a 5.17 ERA. He will look to make a jump in his junior season to improve upon his ERA.
Now for the newcomers.
The Hokies welcome six junior college transfers to their roster, all with two years of eligibility remaining.
Nick Vickers, a R-Jr., joined the program last season, but redshirted due to injury. Vickers spent the 2017 season with Colby Community College, appearing in 13 games (9 starts) while posting a 3.58 ERA.
Jack Dellinger joins the program from Chipola College, where he started the National Junior College National Championship last season. Chipola won the NJCAA National Championship, which capped off a stellar season for Dellinger in which he posted a 4-1 record while striking out 61 batters in 48 innings pitched.
Peyton Alford is in his first year with the Hokies after transferring in from Walters State CC. Last season for Walters State, Alford was 9-1 with a 4.32 ERA and tossed two complete games. The Hokies are in desperate need of an innings-eater, and Alford appears to perfectly fit the bill if he can translate his success at the junior college level to ACC play.
Jaison Heard, another junior, transferred in from St. John’s River State College, where he posted a 4.90 ERA in 64.1 innings pitched last season. After a rough freshman campaign where his ERA was north of seven, Heard made modest gains last year. He will look to once again make an improvement this season, albeit, against better competition.
Dillon Larsen started nine games at Lance Community College last season, striking out 54 batters in 51.1 innings pitched. The southpaw posted a 2.98 ERA to go along with his 4-4 record a year ago.
Perhaps the most exciting addition is junior Jack Goonan. Goonan joins the Hokies from Sinclair Community College, where he spent the majority of his time coming out of the bullpen. Goonan had a team-high five saves last season and posted a 3.81 ERA. Most impressive though was his 41 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched, as his 14.19 K/9 was the best mark on the team. Goonan has the ability to put batters away, which the Hokies missed desperately a year ago. If Goonan can translate his talent to ACC play, he could be one of the most important pitchers on the roster.
While there are several other young pitchers on the roster heading into 2019, these are the most important players to watch on the hill. Like we saw in 2018 with the emergence of Ian Seymour, any of the young pitchers can come in right away and make an impact.
However, the success of the Hokies in 2019 will be largely predicated on the veteran newcomers, as John Szefc will rely on many of them to come in and make an immediate mark in his second year with the program.
Make sure to stay tuned for the final in our three-part baseball roster series. Next up: The projected starting lineup.