Every ball game has a story. No game is exactly the same as another, but there are trends that really begin to tell about the fundamental make-up and prospects of a baseball team. The 2021 Virginia Tech Hokies have a decent enough offense. Remember, that there is going to be that critical offensive sine curve that ebbs and flows across the cycle origin point where sometimes the offense is really good, and sometimes it’s really non-existent. Teams live on the slopes of those curves and rely on pitching and defense to make up the difference.
Tuesday 3/16 UNC Greensboro - 2 - 7 Loss
The painful nature of a loss after a disappointing loss the prior game, is something that begins to eat at a team. The home loss of the final game and the series to Florida State (and its total pitching meltdown) was carried to the Tuesday game against a solid UNCG squad. The Hokies could ill afford to repeat their poor pitching performance of that Sunday game. They did, and unfortunately also accompanied that lack luster effort from the mound with an equally lack luster offensive performance at the plate. The result was a very disappointing home loss, the 2nd in a row for the first time this season.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. University of North Carolina-Greensboro Spartans
The pitchers’ chart tells the tail of a relief staff struggling to hit the strike zone without getting shelled.
Virginia Tech Pitch Chart for UNCG
|Ryan Okuda(L, 2-1)||4||6||4||4||0||4||0|
Well, the Tuesday pitch by committee game didn’t work out very well, and it just added bad energy to the trip to South Carolina to take on ACC rivals the Clemson Tigers. Unfortunately the pitching melted down, again, in Columbia; along with the silent bats from the UNCG game. The results were much the same...
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Clemson Tigers: Game 1 - 2 - 8 Loss
Normally steady Payton Alford started for the Hokies and pitched 6 and 2/3rds innings, but unfortunately was jumped on by an eager Tiger offense in the first inning. Tech had opened the game with a flurry of small ball singles and some issues with Clemson’s fielding and pitching, but Tech’s 1 run start was snuffed by a foiled fumble ball attempt to grab home by Tanner Schobel. It was a noble try. However, the out closed the inning, and with the exception of a single run on some small ball in the top of the fifth inning, ended any sustained Hokie offense for the game.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Clemson Tigers: Game 1
This time the pitching settled down a bit, but Alford’s struggling first inning which was assisted by a fielding error, but the bulk of the runs came in “unearned” (like they don’t count or something) off of a bases loaded thumping triple situation. This time the starter wasn’t immediately pulled, and it looked like the coaching staff was pushing Alford to work through the problem. He pitched a relatively good game for the remainder of his time on the mound, but was finally pulled after giving up a homer in the bottom of the 7th.
Virginia Tech Hokies Pitch Chart for Game 1
|Peyton Alford(L, 0-1)||6.2||8||8||4||3||9||1|
Alford has a bright future on the mound, and sometimes the coaches just have to let pitchers work out their issues on the mound. With the offense stalled out and struggling for the game getting Payton Alford time on the mound to deal with things was instructive, and it also rested a sorely tested and tired bull pen.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Clemson Tigers: Game 2 - 11 - 3 Win
Well, this is a tale of a different team on a different day... or in the sine cosine world of math, both the sine and cosine lined up, and the other guys’ nozzomush. Tech starting pitcher Chris Gerard was on the mound for the first pitch of the game, and was pulled for the top of the 4th, with not much of an explanation. He was pitching well, and had thrown three shutout innings. Hokie backup Matthew Siverling was put on the mound in the 4th, and managed to nab 2 outs before having a melt down of sorts.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Clemson Tigers: Game 2
The staff didn’t allow him to pitch out of the problem as one run scored, and the Hokie lead had been narrowed to 2 runs. Coach Szefc made the move for ace reliever/starter Jaison Heard (2-0) who took to the mound, and Heard battled through the remaining 5 1/3rd innings of the games. He did finally give up 2 runs, but also managed 5 strikeouts, and kept the Clemson offense from gaining too much momentum as the Hokie offense actually found their bats for the game - especially the critical late innings. When a team is having bad bull pen problems, the late innings of games are always dicey propositions.
Virginia Tech Box Score for Game 2
Offensive Highlights for Game 2:
Sacrifices: Dayne Leonard (1)
Plonks: Jack Hurley (1)
There was an encouraging amount of offense for the 2nd game of the series. Batting was solid, and there was some very successful aggressive base running. Tech was really helped on defense by avoiding any errors. There was a hope, that this game would give Tech some momentum for the final game on Sunday. It started off that way on defense, that’s for sure.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Clemson Tigers: Game 3 - 11 - 3 Win
Game 3 was a classic pitchers’ duel. Hokie left-handed transfer Shane Connolly started the game and was nearly flawless. He dominated with 11 strikeouts, no walks, and only 3 hits (unfortunately one of those was a homer) but the outing was a masterful seven full innings and put Tech in position to win the baseball game with a run in the top of the 8th. (Baseball scoring rules meant that Connolly wouldn’t have gotten Win credit for the game, since it was tied when he left the mound for the game.)
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Clemson Tigers: Game 3
The game got out of hand in the bottom of the 8th when Graham Firoved gave up a run with 2 outs on the scoreboard. Reliver Noah Johnson (L, 0-2) unfortunately gave up the winning run and an insurance plate crossing. After hitting a batter and then giving up a home run.
Hokies Game 3 Pitch Chart
|Noah Johnson (L, 0-2)||0.1||1||2||2||0||1||1|
The Challenges Ahead
This has been a disappointing week for the Hokies. A 1-Win week is not going to help the team very much, and will eventually erode away the positive impulse in the W-L Tangent curve.
The Hokies take a short break this week, and head to Pittsburgh, PA to take on a weekend series with the Pitt Panthers. It’s a good time to rest up, do some exercise work, and regroup before heading out the door to go to Western Pennsylvania to face a decent Pitt team. A series win would go a long way to getting the Hokie Baseball Boat paddling back in the right direction.