East Tennessee State University isn’t too far down the road, but it certainly is far from the ocean, so maybe their Buccaneer mascot is related to nefarious river meat smokers (Look up the weird etymology between Barbecue and Buccaneer for a linguistic giggle.)
Well the Bucs came to English Field at Union Park for the 2019 Hokie season home opener. We were going to sneak over to the ball park for some nice pictures and some live baseball action, but the threat of snow and rain caused the athletic departments to move the game from a Gobbler Country Staff friendly 4pm to a post lunch 2pm... rendering the trip tot he ball park a non-operation.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. East Tennessee State Buccaneers
Nathan Starliper gets the ‘W’
Well it would have been nice, because once again the Hokies came roaring out of the dugout to immediately jump on their first inning chances. Being the home team, the bump was first occupied by the Hokies. Tuesday games are often sort of fun pitching adventures. Usually it goes to a pitch by committee sort of round robin of a couple innings for each reliever, or a few for developing starting pitchers and then completed by single inning relief. Yesterday was no exception in large numbers. The Hokies put seven total pitchers on the mound, and ETSU managed five.
The Hokies started Nic Enright for two innings, then ran in Jaison Heard for three outs, followed by three innings from the winning pitcher of record, Nathan Starliper. There was some tactical situational pitching with Graham Seitz and Ryan Metz. Connor Yoder and Nolan Wilson tag teamed the final six outs. It’s enough to drive a score keeping fan buggy.
On the offensive side of the diamond, the Hokies didn’t get a whole lot of long ball action going. The seven run first inning was more of a pile up merry-go-round where the Hokies batted around the order once, with lots of small ball stuff going on around the bags. There were lots of walks, some singles sprinkled in, loaded bases and another RBI/HBP (Jack Owens getting plonked for the credit this time.) The net effect is that the Hokies really just opened the 1st with a jigsaw and then hid for the remainder of the game, sort of making up a run when necessary to keep the edge.
The end result was a really weird, but satisfying 9-3 victory to open the home season. That’s a great morale booster, and gave the starting pitchers some good rest. It also gave score keepers a royal hand cramp.
There are two observations in all of this; one good and one is a warning. The good is that the team is really working well together. A 4-0 start is something of a non-conference record pad, but this is where you build experience and energy before heading into the ACC stretch (which is quite frankly one of the toughest schedules in college baseball). The negative is that we keep seeing something greater than ‘0’ in the error column. The Hokies had two errors that resulted in unearned runs. It didn’t hurt us this time, but somewhere in the season in a pitchers duel, or a tight game it’s going to make a difference. The team really needs to clean up some of those mistakes before they mean something.
All in all it’s a satisfying win. I’ll have to look through some record books but its been quite a while since the Hokies started 4-0. We’ll see how long it holds up. As I remind our fans, baseball is a “par” game where the winner is the team that manages to stay a few games above .500 for at the end of the season.
Hokies are on the road for the weekend set; University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Hopefully the weather is good. It’s threatening to be warm and rainy in Blacksburg. Or is that cold and clammy? No matter we’ll see on Friday.