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Virginia Tech Hokies Open the 2022 Baseball Season with a Home Sweep

The University of North Carolina Ashville came to Blacksburg in the dead of winter to start the 2022 baseball season. The Hokies met them with a broom and start the season 3-0. GO HOKIES!!! Note: The Tuesday game was called due to rain during the middle of the 4th so it was not complete. It will not be rescheduled.

First pitches are exciting things.
John Schneider - SB Nation

The University of North Carolina at Ashville has a baseball team, and they showed up north of their border to take on the Hokies for both teams’ season opening series. Early baseball games are almost always non-conference match ups, and in general there is the basic goal of getting a good start on the season with a series win, or respectable showing in a tournament in better weather states. Well, this weekend, Ashville came to Blacksburg, and Tech got the very unusual opportunity to open a season at home.

We talked about the roster and some of the changes that have happened over the Hokies’ off season. The team was looking to get back some footing after the late season slide that took it off the NCAA tournament bubble, and left it holding on to a +.500 season, but no post season beyond the ACC Tournament.

There was a major impulse to correct that losing streak and get the team moving back in a positive direction by building on the good talent that returned. If you wanted to stop a slide, a hard-fought game one wouldn’t have been a bad opening. Well, it was decidedly much better than winning a single game to get the team turned back into a winning attitude. The Hokie offense blew the doors off, and the starting pitching put up a quality start, a five-inning shutout, and a 2-hit gem.

Season Opener Game 1 – Friday Evening

It was pretty chilly on Friday but the sun was out and it was clear. Of course, temps in the high 30’s are not necessarily conducive to happy baseball fans, and the breeze was proving to be very challenging but hadn’t gotten to the level of what we’d call wind.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. UNC-Ashville Bulldogs Game 1

Team/Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Team/Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
UNC Asheville 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 3 6 2
>>Virginia Tech 3 4 1 1 8 0 0 0 X 17 22 0
Virginia Tech Takes Game 1 Hokie Sports

Coach Szefc chose sophomore right hander Griffin Green to start the Hokies season off, and what a great way to start off your season on the mound. Green threw ten total pitches got a ground out and two swinging strike outs to notch his first goose egged inning for the season.

That’s when the Hammerin’ Hokies decided to show up in the first inning. After Nick Biddison grounded out, contact is good though, Gavin Cross blasted a triple down the right field line, and scored a few pitches later on a wild pitch. Tanner Schobel got on base by getting a solid knock, and new Hokie Eduardo Malinowski struck out. But Tanner swiped 2nd base, and Jack Hurley hit a single deep enough to score him from 2nd base. A passed ball, a walk to Connor Hartigan, and a double by Cade Hunter scored Hurley and the inning closed with an impressive 3 hanging in the bottom of the 1st.

Game 1 Offensive Highlights

BATTING

Doubles: Cade Hunter (2); Nick Holesa (1)

Triples: Gavin Cross (1)

Home Runs: Tanner Schobel (1); Eduardo Malinowski (1); Cade Hunter (2); Carson DeMartini (1)

BASERUNNING

Stolen Bases: Tanner Schobel (1)

Caught Stealing: Carson DeMartini (1)

Griffin Green made three up, three down work of Ashville on three groundouts in the top of the second, and the parade started for the Hokies, again. This time freshman outfielder Carson DeMartini belted a tater in his first collegiate at-bat. Gavin Cross and Tanner Schobel got on base with singles, and then Malinowski dropped the ball over the left center wall for a three-run trip. The inning ended on two strike outs, but four runs hung up were tonic for that.

Virginia Tech Box Score - Game 1

Position Player At Bats Runs Hits RBI Walks KOs Stranded
Position Player At Bats Runs Hits RBI Walks KOs Stranded
RF Nick Biddison 4 1 2 0 0 0 0
RF Carson Jones 2 0 1 0 0 0 0
CF Gavin Cross 3 3 2 0 1 0 0
#CF Brennan Reback 2 0 2 0 0 0 0
SS Tanner Schobel 3 4 3 1 1 0 0
PH/3B Sam Tackett 2 0 2 0 0 0 0
2B Eduardo Malinowski 3 2 2 5 1 1 0
#PH/SS Warren Holzemer 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
LF Jack Hurley 4 2 1 1 0 1 0
PH/LF Jonah Seagears 2 0 0 0 0 0 5
DH Conor Hartigan 3 1 1 1 1 0 0
#PH Cade Swisher 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
C Cade Hunter 4 2 4 5 0 0 0
#PR/C Gehrig Ebel 1 1 0 0 0 1 0
#C Dylan Hatfield 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1B Nick Holesa 4 0 1 1 0 1 2
#1B Lucas Donlon 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
3B Carson DeMartini 3 1 1 1 1 1 1
#2B Christian Martin 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 45 17 22 15 5 6 8
# Substitute Hokie Sports

The Hokies managed to score something in each of the first four, and then exploded for 8 (mostly on two outs) in the bottom of the 5th, to wrap up their scoring for the day. Coach Szefc pulled Green, since it’s rare for a starter to go more than five early in the season. The relievers had a bit of a struggle here and there, but with a 17-run lead, there was some give and take possible for experience and working through problems.

Virginia Tech Pitching for Game 1

Player Innings Hits Runs Earned Walks Kos Wild Stuff Plonks
Player Innings Hits Runs Earned Walks Kos Wild Stuff Plonks
Griffin Green (W, 1-0) 5 2 0 0 0 5 0 1
Henry Weycker 2 4 3 3 1 0 1 2
Jackson Ritchey 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
Peter Sakellaris 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
TOTALS 6 3 3 2 7 1 3
Quality Start for the Season Hokie Sports

The game was a very pleasant surprise for a cold February afternoon, and a great way to start a season. This was a series, however, and there were still two more contests to deal with.

Game 2 – Saturday Afternoon in the Wind

The weather for the second game was similar to the first, EXCEPT it was really windy in Blacksburg on Saturday. That made the temps in the high 30’s feel a bit more like the high 20’s. Whatever that wind chill was, definitely managed a cooling effect on the hot Hokie game 1 bats.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. UNC-Ashville Bulldogs Game 2

Team/Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Team/Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
UNC Asheville 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 4 1
>>Virginia Tech 0 1 0 0 0 4 0 3 X 8 10 0
Another solid effort and quality start Hokie Sports

It didn’t seem to cause too much of an issue with starter senior lefty Ryan Okuda. He put up a five-inning gem with eight strike outs and only one hit. Two quality starts are hard to beat, but until the Hokies exploded for 6 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning, Ashville was working hard to make it look like a pitchers’ duel. Tech worked an unearned run by Eduardo Malinowski in the 2nd and that remained the score until the 6th.

Things change quickly in baseball, and momentum can be held up by a number of factors. No one really knows exactly why a team suddenly finds the range and starts making solid meaningful contact, but it took 5 innings before the Hokies really started putting things together.

Game 2 Offensive Highlights

BATTING

Doubles: Nick Biddison (1); Jack Hurley (1); Conor Hartigan (1)

Home Runs: Nick Biddison (1); Carson DeMartini (1)

BASERUNNING

Swipes: Conor Hartigan (1)

Nabbed: Jack Hurley (1)

Plonked: Carson DeMartini (1); Tanner Schobel (1)

The Hokies almost didn’t get too far in the 6th, however. They worked some small ball singles and a walk in between Hartigan and Holesa fly outs. But Nick Biddison broke that cycle and rapped a single into left scoring Cade Hunter. Then came some newbie magic back to the plate. Carson DeMartini, who doesn’t seem to be convinced that he’s a freshman, dropped a three-run tater over the right field fence to up the run count to a much more comfortable five for the Hokies.

Virginia Tech Boxscore Game 2

Position Player Ups Plates Knocks RBI Free Bags Whiffs Stranded
Position Player Ups Plates Knocks RBI Free Bags Whiffs Stranded
CF Nick Biddison 5 2 3 2 0 2 0
3B Carson DeMartini 4 2 1 3 0 1 0
SS Tanner Schobel 2 1 0 0 2 0 0
2B Eduardo Malinowski 5 1 1 0 0 1 2
LF Jack Hurley 5 0 1 2 0 2 3
RF Conor Hartigan 5 0 2 0 0 0 0
C Cade Hunter 3 1 1 1 1 0 0
DH Sam Tackett 1 1 0 0 3 1 1
1B Nick Holesa 4 0 1 0 0 1 4
TOTALS 34 8 10 8 6 8 10
Offense is a good thing Hokie Sports

The teams settled into a few innings of relief pitching were not much got going. The Bulldogs managed to break the ice with a single run in the top of the 8th, which was promptly answered by a three-run scoring flurry by the Hokies in the bottom of the inning.

The rest was just closing the door for the bull pen. That was a bit too easy to think about, though. Brady Kirtner got himself into a bit of a bases loaded pinch before settling down and getting the final two outs that he needed.

Virginia Tech Pitching for Game 2

Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Ryan Okuda (W, 1-0) 5 1 0 0 2 8 0 0
Graham Firoved 1 0 0 0 2 2 0 0
Jonah Hurney 2 1 1 1 1 3 2 1
Brady Kirtner 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0
TOTALS 4 1 1 5 14 2 1
Quality Start for Senior Ryan Okuda Hokie Sports

Overall, though the pitching stood up. Ashville managed only a single run on 4 hits, and the Hokies stayed error free in the field. With Okuda notching a quality start shutout, there wasn’t much more that the Hokies could ask this early in the season.

Game 3 – Sunday Afternoon and a Bit Warmer

Sunday is always get-away day, and the games are started as close to early afternoon as possible. The first pitch for the third game in this opening series came off the mound at 1:02 PM.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. UNC-Ashville Bulldogs - Game 3

Team/Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Team/Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
UNC Asheville 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 4 1
>>Virginia Tech 0 1 0 0 0 4 0 3 X 8 10 0
Sweep with runs to spare Hokie Sports

The Hokies put freshman Drue Hackenberg on the mound to start, and he went his full 5 inning assignment. He definitely impressed Hokie Nation. Hackenberg put up a 1 hit, 4 strike out quality gem to start his career on the bump at English Field. Two relievers, Kiernan Higgins and Grant Umberger struggled a bit, but by the end of six and ten runs on the board, there was a little padding to see if they could work out of trouble. In both cases a reliever was sent in to get the last out of the inning in which they pitched. Lessons will be learned, and the pitching has already seen an improvement this season over last.

Virginia Tech Pitching - Game 3

Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Drue Hackenberg (W, 1-0) 5 1 0 0 1 4 0 0
Kiernan Higgins 1.2 4 2 2 2 4 0 1
Ryan Metz 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Fisher 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Grant Umberger 0.2 1 2 2 2 0 1 1
Ryan Kennedy 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
TOTALS 6 4 4 5 10 1 2
Two relivers needed some help Hokie Sports

Again, the Hokie sticks were swinging and making contact. There was a sort of spurt of slight worry for the first 2 innings. The Hokies weren’t making much meaningful contact or stringing together anything for the first two innings. That changed in the bottom of the 3rd, however.

Tech loaded the bases with no outs, and Nick Biddison grounded into a fielder’s choice that because of the loaded bases resulted in a double play. The interesting thing is that the Hokies managed another two out rally single by none other than Carson DeMartini that plated Lucas Donlon which broke the scoring ice.

Virginia Tech Offensive Box for Game 3

Position Player Ups Plates Knocks RBI Free Bags Whiffs Stranded
Position Player Ups Plates Knocks RBI Free Bags Whiffs Stranded
1B Lucas Donlon 2 1 2 2 1 0 0
2B Eduardo Malinowski 4 2 1 0 1 0 0
3B Carson DeMartini 4 1 2 1 1 2 0
C Gehrig Ebel 2 1 0 1 1 0 0
#C Dylan Hatfield 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
CF Nick Biddison 3 0 0 1 0 0 1
DH Sam Tackett 0 1 0 0 2 0 0
LF Jack Hurley 3 2 3 2 0 0 0
#PH Cade Swisher 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
#PH/CF Brennan Reback 1 0 0 0 0 1 1
RF Conor Hartigan 4 1 1 1 0 0 0
SS Tanner Schobel 5 1 1 1 0 1 4
TOTALS 28 10 10 9 7 4 6
Solid game for the Hokies Hokies Sports

The bottom of the 4th was just flatly weird. The Bulldog pitching seemed to fall apart a bit. Malinowski walked, and then took second on a wild pitch. Jack Hurley singled and then stole second. Connor Hartigan doubled in Malinowski, and the Bulldogs pulled their struggling pitcher. Their reliver promptly plonked Gehrig Ebel. That put lots of birds on the bags, and Donlon and Biddison both nabbed RBIs with sac flies. That brought the total number of runs to five and seemed to reinvigorate the Hokie offense a bit.

Game 3 Offensive Highlights

BATTING

Doubles: Tanner Schobel (1); Conor Hartigan (1); Lucas Donlon (1)

Sacrifice Flies: Nick Biddison (1); Jack Hurley (1); Lucas Donlon (1)

BASERUNNING

Grabbed Bags: Eduardo Malinowski (1); Jack Hurley (2)

Plonks: Sam Tackett (1); Gehrig Ebel (1)

FIELDING

Errors: Carson DeMartini (1)

The Hokies managed to score three runs in the bottom of the 5th, and another 2 in the bottom of the 6th. Even with the four runs that the Bulldogs grabbed in the top of the 7th and 9th, there was little threat to the Hokie W for the day, and the sweet reality that they had accomplished an emphatic sweep of the series to start the season off on the right foot.