Well, Coach John Szefc was determined to make some serious improvements to the Hokie lineup and rotation this season. (We can’t really call it Spring, that’s a month away.) Last season, the Hokies started with some serious trouble right out of the gate. The first 4 games checked in at a disappointing 1 win and 3 losses. This season things looked a whole bunch better and even marked three completely different types of ball game (leaving the slug fest duel for some other time).
Hokies vs Stetson - Game 1 of Tournament
Ian Seymour gets the win.
Game One was played starting at just after 7:00 pm EST. The weather in DeLand, Florida was a near perfect 67 degrees and the crowd was an impressive 1300+. The Stetson Hatters took the field first, and right from the start the Hokies reminded people that hitting wasn’t their main issue last season. The Hokies proceeded to nibble away with things by putting 2 runs up by loading the bases with 2 HBPs, a single, and a walk. I am not sure that I think an HBP should net an RBI but, Dalton Harum was credited with an RBI, and the runs are still runs. It would turn out that first walk-in run was all Tech really needed. Ian Seymour (who was getting better with each outing last season) took to the bump and started bumping off Hatter Batters...(ugh.. sorry but I couldn’t resist.) His first start of 2019 was also a quality start. He went five full innings with 2 hits and 2 walks, but most importanly, no Hatter crossed the plate. Meanwhile Tech stitched together a 3 run 2 inning burst in the 5th and 6th to put some insurance runs on the board. Jack Dellinger put up three solid innings of middle relief, and Zach Brzykcy closed out the 9th after getting himself in a bind (a double and a walk) with a fly out and 2 huge strikeouts.
The second game, the Hokies took the hill first, and Luke Scherzer was determined to improve upon last season’s comeback struggles. If he keeps this up he’ll be pleased and so will Hokie Nation. The Hokies managed a full bore blowout of the Manhattan Jaspers. It seems that most everyone got a hit, and more importantly Coach Szefc got a chance to sub in some players for some field time.
Hokies vs. Manhattan - Game 2 of the Tournament
Luke Scherzer gets the win.
The game got started at the usual Saturday start of 1:00 PM Eastern. The weather, though cloudy was also a delightful 77 degrees which really seemed to suit the Hokies. The Hokies started their half of the 1st with a drab ground out, which then was promptly forgotten as they nearly completed the cycle with a single, a double, and a homer for Nick Owens, Carson Taylor and Luke Horanski. That’d have been a seriously great start to any inning, but the Hokies weren’t finished. The rest of the lineup then went into manufacture a run mode, and pushed another one across the plate with three singles and a stolen base. That last run turned out to be the winner that was never really needed.
Scherzer took the game from that point, and fired off six three hit no run innings. It was a masterpiece of keeping the contact controlled, mixing in some strike outs, and generally controlling the situation. Jason Heard and Nic Enright each pitched a goose egg inning but the shutout was a tad spoiled as Dillon Larsen and Alex Havlichek struggled a bit, allowing the Jaspers to walk away with a skunk killing three run rally. Ryan Metz closed out the 9th and the Hokies had their first 2-0 start of the Szefc Era.
Some Highlight stats from the Jaspers Game:
Doubles: Kerry Carpenter (1); Nick Owens (1); Carson Taylor (4); Nick Holesa (1)
Dingers: Luke Horanski (1)
Sac Flies: Nick Biddison (1)
The final game of the Tournament against the Sam Houston State Bearkats was, by far, the toughest. Sam Houston State failed to be intimidated by the Hokies, and came into the final game with an equal 2-0 record.
Hokies vs. Bearkats - Game 3 of the Tournament
Payton Alford gets the win.
The Hokies broke the scoring ice in the first inning, again, for this game. Nick Owens worked a lead off walk (always a good thing), and then Kerry Carpenter stroked a homer over the center left fence to get things started. And that start seemed to be the entire offense for most of the rest of the game, in both dugouts. You could call this a pitchers’ duel of sorts. Note that I used the apostrophe after the ‘s’ in this case because between both teams ten pitchers toed the rubber. Tech started a new arm/face in Chris Gerard. He only stayed for four innings, and then (equally new face) Payton Alford put up another four quality innings. Alford got official credit for the win. Sometimes baseball stats can be a bit unfair, there are no half or shared wins. That’s a shame, because Zach Brzykcy slammed the door with two strike outs and credit for the first save of the season.
The difference in this game was a manufactured, scrambling run that loaded the bases and netted Nick Owens one of those weird HBP RBIs. Carson Taylor crossed the plate and that was that.
It was a very pleasant surprise at the start of a season when most baseball analysts were predicting a hitch prone struggle for the Hokies’ inexperienced squad. This is an early test, yes, and there are many more games to play in some pretty dicey conditions - the game tomorrow has been rescheduled for an earlier start, possibly due to weather, but who knows? Baseball in the wind and cold of February Blacksburg can be an adventure to just get the players defrosted enough to play ball.
Whatever the case, a 3 win no loss start accompanied by a shutout against a solid baseball program is always a good thing. Let’s see if the Hokies can keep up the good work. Tomorrow, it’s the home opener at the new English Field at Union Park against East Tennessee State University. The game has been moved to a 2:00 first pitch. (Really disappointed with that because I was going to get to go if the first pitch was at 4:00 like planned.)
It’s supposed to be cold, cloudy and breezy with a chance of mixed precipitation tomorrow. This is not a surprise because, it is after all, our much beloved Blacksburg in Winter.