Now this was going to be a test, and right out of the gate, too. It’s like the football team opening with Notre Dame or Ohio State. The trip down to Coral Gables was a BIG DEAL. Miami is (well was, now) ranked #3 in the Baseball polling, and they were playing at home with a reasonable crowd in decent weather.
Game 1 - Friday February 26
Peyton Alford got his first big start, and game 1 and hung in for three innings - which didn’t qualify him for the win, though he was holding on to a tender 2 run lead at the end of 4.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Miami Hurricanes: Game 1
Coach Szefc looks like he smelled something so went to his bull pen to keep the pitching fresh. Matthew Siverling stepped in and kept the goose eggs on the Miami side of the inning chart for 4 full innings. Silverling and door closer Shane Connolly teamed up for an 8 strikeout 6 inning outing that handed Miami a series opening loss.
The Offense was just enough that he Hokies inched out ahead the highlights being 2 solo shots by TJ Rumfield and Cade Hunter
Game 1 Team Highlight Statistics
Pitching: Win: Matthew Siverling (1-0), Save: Shane Connolly (2)
Operating the Sticks
Two Baggers: Kevin Madden (1)
Three Baggers: Gavin Cross (1)
Taters: TJ Rumfield (1); Cade Hunter (1)
Runs Batted In: TJ Rumfield (1); Jonah Seagears (1); Cade Hunter (2)
Sacrifices: Jonah Seagears (1)
Plate Crossers: Gavin Cross (1); TJ Rumfield (1); Kevin Madden (1); Jonah Seagears (1); Cade Hunter (1)
Base Thieves: Jonah Seagears (2)
Pitch Targets: Tanner Thomas (1)
Game 2 - Saturday February 27
Look baseball is not only a marathon, it’s a marathon played right around average. We’ve said this before. Baseball isn’t like football where one loss is the end of the world. Baseball teams and fans expect that losses will come. The idea is to beat the average by as much as possible. For a game and a 1/3rd the Hokies bats were booming. The 22-2 win over Radford, and then the 5-3 win over Miami in the first game had to have a whiplash somewhere, and it started in the middle of Game 1 in Coral Gables. Fortunately for the Hokies it seems the Hurricanes were on a sympathetic sine curve with the sticks. Game 2 was not a win for the Hokies but the only really smell-o-vision thing about it was the big goose egg in the score. Well and the fact that star starting pitcher Chris Gerard got dinged for the ‘L’.
Hokie sports didn’t even generate a scoring header. No one crossed the plate and the hits were few and far in between. So after the ‘Canes jumping out to a three run bottom of the 1st, it settled into a pitching duel, with absolutely no one doing nothing much for the remaining 8 innings of the game. Folks, that still adds up to losing a ball game, but there was a glimmer of hope. Tech played 8 innings of superior defense, and after his first sort of blip Gerrard settled in to keep the goose eggs up on the board for 5 inning after the first. It’s just that the sticks were evidently in some other equipment bag in some other stadium locker room. After Saturday, the Hokies would have to tee it up to work the rubber game on Sunday.
Game 3 - Friday February 28
There wasn’t much to say before the first pitch of the rubber game of the series. If the Hokies nabbed a win, they’d get on the flight back to Roanoke with a series win against a Top 5 baseball team, and Miami would be left sort of woozy and wondering what team actually got off the plane before Friday. Losing one game at home isn’t particularly unusual, losing a series there blows.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Miami Hurricanes: Game 3
This one was as exciting as Game 2 was boring. Coach Szefc and staff had to pull every magic bunny out of every ball cap to get this game put away. It was a full on offensive battle all the way to the end of sixth inning when the Hokie relief staff finally put up the three critical goose eggs to close the door. Okay, they did that in Game 2, so the difference was that Tech managed to keep it close and even it up a couple of times over the course of the first six.
Miami started the scoring in the bottom of the 1st, jumping out to a 2 run lead. Starter Anthony Simonelli managed to keep moving even though he struggled at times and walked way too many batters. He only got dinged with 2 earned runs of the 4 scored but he wasn’t going to last more than the 4 2/3rds that he pitched. He was pulled for Henry Weycker who closed out the inning on a matchup deal. The Hokies then opened the bottom of the sixth with the Hokies finally tied 4-4. Ryan Okuda did not have one of his usual stellar showings and gave up 2 runs, putting the Hokies back in the hole. Jaison Heard was hustled in, but it took 2 runs, both put in Okuda’s column, before he struck out the final two batters.
Tech took stepped up to the plate in the top of the 7th with a two run deficit, and looking at that signature win slip away. That 6th run charged to Okuda was going to be the last one for Miami. The pitching staff was picking up their teammate, but the batting needed to pick up their pitchers for this one to happen.
The Rally for the Winning Run
As it happened the 7th inning started with lead off batter Jack Hurley. He didn’t work magic, but he sure worked a walk. Getting on base is 90% of the crossing the plate problem, and a lead-off walk equals a lead-off single, any day. So Gavin Cross comes up and gets a wild idea. The pitcher can’t hit the strike zone, so Cross works another walk. That put Hurley in scoring position, and no outs on the board. Not quite a single (because Cross might have gotten to 3rd on that deal, but it kept the line moving with no outs) - Money Ball, baby.
Then TJ Rumfield looks like he’s tired of the free bases, and raps a single up the right side. Cross didn’t score from second on that one, but there is some serious magic in loaded bases with no outs and your clean up batter coming up to the plate. With double play pitches on the way, Kevin Madden managed to smack a deep low one up the left side that allowed Jack and Gavin to cross the plate (no groans, please). The score was now tied 6 all, and the Hokies had still not registered an out. So Coach Szefc called a small ball move and had Tanner Thomas bunt to advance Madden to 2nd.
It wasn’t called a sacrifice but a fielder’s choice because unfortunately there was a bit too much mustard on the bunt and the pitcher got the force out to third. Jonah Seagears was intentionally walked, and then Tanner Schobel smacked an RBI grounder that scored Kevin Madden who was standing on third after the Seagears walk. The Hokies were up 7 - 6 and Cade Hunter’s fly was unfortunately hit to someone. The Hokies didn’t look back.
Jaison Heard managed a three up, three down 8th inning, and then Miami’s pitcher plonked Jack Hurley which was then rewarded by Gavin Cross blasting a tater out of the park for 2 extra insurance runs. Shane Connolly came in to relieve Heard, and the two teamed up for a bit of a nail-biting goose egg in the bottom of the 8th. Connolly would have to get some scratching going, a double play bailed him out of a building jam with a long 5-4-1 double play. And then a 2 out single was erased by a ground out to 3rd that was cleaned up for the win.
Game 3 Highlight Statistics
Working the Sticks:
Dingers: Gavin Cross (1), Fritz Genther (1)
Caught being a hair Slow: Fritz Genther (1)
Plonked: Jack Hurley (1), Cade Hunter (1)
Hole in the Glove: Fritz Genther (1)
The Hokies should be attracting some real college baseball attention with this series, especially the scrambling, never quit, give an take - and finally take big win over Miami. We’ll see how the week’s rankings work out, but UNC is coming to Blacksburg on March 5th for another big ACC series. At the level the Hokies have been playing the broom closet might be raided by Sunday. We will see, saying more than that is bad luck in the baseball world.
The Hokies leave Coral Gables with a 5 and 1 over all record, and more importantly a 2 and 1 in the ACC with a pair of wins over a top five team.