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Virginia Tech Hokies Go 3-1 against NC State and Liberty Receive #21 Ranking for the Week

So, the Wolfpack came to Blacksburg and left with a single win. for the first time ever in a series. Then the Hokies went out 460 to Lynchburg to defeat the Flames of Liberty. It was a weekend rewarded by a #21 ranking by Tuesday's votes. GO HOKIES!!!

A Whole Lot of runs for the Hokies
John - Schneider SB Nation (File)

There are 23 games to go in the regular season schedule. The Hokies are 21-8 with (with 2 weather-cancelled games) and if the hammers are out, the team is pretty unbeatable. This weekend, the Wolfpack from NC State came knocking at the door. The Hokies pulled off a first ever series win with what looked like a very usual pattern. That’s a bit troubling, actually, but we’ll talk about it at the end of this game summary.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack – Game 1 April 8th

The weather in Blacksburg for the first full weekend in April was not particularly cooperative. Friday evening’s game probably should have been started at 1:00 PM instead of 7:00. The early Spring drizzle fading to rain and going back to drizzle dance that Hokies are used to, was in full effect Friday evening, with the added drain on the energy levels of the temps hovering in the mid-40s and the wind blowing things around. So, Friday was far from the lovely pastoral thought of a long-time rivalry baseball game. The teams have met 75 times since 1907, and even if that doesn’t seem like a rivalry, it’s been a sore spot because the Hokies have never managed to grab a series from NC State. There was a certain amount of urgency in the birds’ attitudes when the game opened that evening.

It certainly didn’t feel particularly urgent at the start, though. It looked like it was going to settle into a pitchers’ duel for the first few innings. Tech scored in the 1st, after manufacturing a run on a single after a Nick Biddison lead off walk (you always pay for those). The Wolfpack would answer with a solo shot in the top of the 2nd. Tech added a run in the bottom of the 2nd, but then NC State added one back in the top of the 3rd. So, the Hokies went to the bat box, and found the hammer.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack - 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
NC State 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 2 4 10 11 0
>>Virginia Tech 1 1 6 1 1 0 11 0 X 21 18 0
Looks like football happened. Hlokie Sports

The Hokies ended the duel with a furious explosion of home runs in the bottom of the third, Connor Hartigan with a 3-run shot, then Carson DeMartini with a 2-run tater, and then so as not to be left out, Gavin Cross blew a solo shot over the left field wall. That six-run explosion pretty much slammed the door in Wolfpack faces, but the hammers were still out, and the Hokies were not done crossing the plate in bunches.

Hitting:

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

Triples: Eduardo Malinowski (1)

Home Runs: Gavin Cross (2); Cade Hunter (2); Conor Hartigan (1); Carson DeMartini (2)

On the Bases:

Steals: Gavin Cross (1)

Picked Off: Nick Biddison (1)

Hit by Pitch: Brennan Reback (1); Nick Holesa (1); Carson DeMartini (1)

After the initial pulse, the Hokies – who scored something in every inning but the 6th, played merry-go-round in the bottom of the 7th inning. When normally a team would sort of let off the gas, NC State didn’t look like they were giving up so the Hokies again put in a bid to put the game out of reach with an 11-run inning that included what the ref decided was an intentional bean ball at the noggin of Tanner Schobel – the nature of the ejection was protested in some unbaseball-like fashion by the NC State head coach which netted him an ejection, too. It was a wild inning and the end result was a 21 to 4 lead and Tech putting in most of the 2nd team. NC State did manage to put up 6 runs, however which is something, again that we’ll address at the end of this.

Hokies Offensive Stats for 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 3 3 2 1 0 0
#PH/RF Carson Jones 2 1 1 0 0 0 1
CF Gavin Cross 4 2 4 5 1 0 0
#PH/CF Brennan Reback 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
SS Tanner Schobel 4 1 0 0 1 0 2
#PH/SS Warren Holzemer 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
LF Jack Hurley 4 1 1 0 1 2 0
#PH/LF Jonah Seagears 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
2B Eduardo Malinowski 5 1 2 1 0 1 0
#PH/2B Christian Martin 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
C Cade Hunter 3 3 2 4 2 1 0
#PH/C Gehrig Ebel 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
DH Conor Hartigan 5 2 2 3 0 0 4
#PH Cade Swisher 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
1B Nick Holesa 2 3 1 0 2 1 0
#PR/3B Lucas Donlon 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
3B Carson DeMartini 4 3 2 5 0 1 0
#1B Sam Tackett 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
TOTALS 41 21 18 20 11 6 10
Substitutions noted with # Hokie Sports

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack – Game 2 April 9th

So, if Game 1 looked like a football score, and contained a wild mix of long ball and small ball and any sort of ball that you could show an example of, Game 2 was even weirder and more wonderful because it was more like a baseball game – except the weather made it more like a winter frolic in the snow. If Griffin Green – the Friday starter in the rotation, pitched a pretty good 4-run effort in Game 1, true Freshman Drue Hackenberg seemed to want to make that happen again, but better. Game 2 started out pretty much like Game 1. It was looking like it was settling into a snowy cold pitchers’ duel. Then Hokie magic happened in the bottom of the 4th. It looked like a blizzard of heavy wet flakes, and a swirling wind that sucked the warmth right out of Spring clothing. That didn’t stop Carson DeMartini from getting “ideas”. Perhaps the highlight of the game, and maybe of the week for the entire ACC if not college baseball, happened. DeMartini broke the 0-0 tie by stealing home. He led off the inning with a single, and two outs later found himself on third base with a wild idea. I don’t know if John Szefc smiled. I have seen him a bunch around town and campus and he’s sort of a serious looking guy. I don’t have a clue if the countenance cracked, but if it was me, I’d be grinning enough for it to hurt.

Hokies vs. Wolfpack - 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
NC State 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 6 0
>>Virginia Tech 0 0 1 0 3 0 2 2 X 8 11 0
A Solid Baseball Game with a Baseball Score Hokie Sports

Hackenberg made it until the top of the 6th without a run crossing the plate, then things started to get a bit shaky. He hit a batter, and gave up an RBI Triple in the 6th, and then a solo tater in the top of the 7th. Though the Hokies had a four-run lead by the bottom of the inning, Szefc played it safe and pulled Hackenberg. It was a quality start for the young Hokie pitcher, and his W-L at 6-0 is a pretty special run for a college pitcher.

Hokie 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
Drue Hackenberg (W, 6-0) 7 6 2 2 0 8 0 1
Jonah Hurney 2 0 0 0 1 4 0 0
TOTALS 6 2 2 1 12 0 1
A quality start for Hackenberg Hokie Sports

It wasn’t hammer time for the team on offense, with the exception of Tanner Schobel with a two-dinger game. This one was a team effort, manufacturing runs, and keeping the wolves at bay, so to speak.

Hokies vs. Wolfpack Game 2 Scoring

Team Inning Play Description ST VT
Team Inning Play Description ST VT
VT 3rd C. DeMartini stole home. 0 1
VT 5th T. Schobel homered to left field, 2 RBI (2-0 BB); G. Cross scored. 0 3
VT 5th E. Malinowsk tripled to center field, RBI (1-0 B); J. Hurley scored. 0 4
ST 6th Pilolli tripled down the rf line, RBI (0-2 KS); Brown, D. scored. 1 4
ST 7th Jarrett homered to left field, RBI (0-1 K). 2 4
VT 7th T. Schobel homered to right center, 2 RBI (3-1 BBKB); G. Cross scored. 2 6
VT 8th N. Biddison advanced to second; C. DeMartini advanced to third; N. Holesa scored on a wild pitch. 2 7
VT 8th G. Cross grounded out to 1b unassisted, RBI (2-1 BFB); N. Biddison advanced to third; C. DeMartini scored. 2 8
TOTALS 2 8
Hokies kept putting up a few here and there. Hokie Sports

At the Plate

Two Baggers: Nick Biddison (1)

Three Baggers: Eduardo Malinowski (1)

Taters: Tanner Schobel (2)

Sacs: Christian Martin (1)

On the Bags

Swipes: Carson DeMartini (Stole Home for the first run)

Nabbed Swiping: Christian Martin (1)

Plonked: Cade Hunter (2)

The end result was entirely pleasing, if not particularly warm. The Hokies nabbed their first ever series win against NC State, and received enough notice that they were awarded with NC State’s #21 ranking in the mix. There was hope for a sweep, but as Game 3 rolled around in better weather, that wasn’t to be.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack – Game 3 April 10th

There isn’t a big point in more than a shallow dive into this particular contest. The Hokies gave up 3 runs in the top of the 1st, and the Wolfpack never looked back for a measure of redemption grabbing a road split, and exposing an issue with the Hokies that will eventually bite them as the season gets to the end and playoffs.

Hokies vs. Wolfpack - 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
>>NC State 3 0 0 2 0 2 0 1 2 10 14 1
Virginia Tech 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 3 6 1
Showing a bit of a pitching issue Hokie Sports

This game was a pitch by committee deal, it shouldn’t be, but things are what they are in 2022. No one shined much in this one. Henry Weycker started and promptly got hit with the opening 3 runs. He got tagged for the loss, and pulled in the first inning before the first out of the inning. Sometimes that stuff just happens in baseball. Even the best pitchers get shelled, their stuff isn’t there, or the other guys have them doped out… That’s when the offense needs to step up, and unfortunately the Hokie bats were pretty quiet for the entire contest.

Hokie Pitching for Game 3

Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Henry Weycker (L, 3-1) 0 3 3 3 1 0 0 0
Ryan Okuda 0.2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0
Graham Firoved 2.1 2 2 2 3 3 0 0
Kiernan Higgins 2.1 2 2 2 1 2 1 0
Jordan Geber 2.1 5 1 1 0 1 0 0
Brady Kirtner 0.1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
Grant Umberger 0.2 2 1 1 1 1 1 0
Ryan Metz 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 14 10 9 8 8 2 0
There is no third starter in the rotation and it shows Hokie Sports

So, both sides of the plate suffered in Game 3 for the Hokies. The loss was not wanted, but the series win was definitely a big deal. We have always said that baseball is a game played around average, and no team on the planet is going to complain about consistently winning series against opponents.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Liberty University Flames – Tuesday Game April 12th

So, the Hokies made the short trip, about an hour and a half by bus, to the south side of Lynchburg on US 460 (same road Tech is on for the map deprived) for a Tuesday Away and Home matchup with the Flames. This time the Hokie offense put the hammers on the slow truck with the lawn mowers and gardening tools. It showed up about halfway through the game and instead of hammers the lawn crew brought a mixed bag of bats and hammers.

Hokies vs. Flames - Tuesday Game

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
>>Virginia Tech 0 0 0 4 0 0 4 1 1 10 14 0
Liberty 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 2 6 11 0
Flames played hard and kept it tight until near the end Hokie Sports

The Hokies generated enough offense to go double digits crossing the plate but they needed some late inning theatrics to get over the hump. The Flames were not interested in losing this one, and hung in with the newly minted #21 Hokies until the 7th inning. After breaking the 4 all tie, the birds managed to keep ahead of the Flames, but Liberty had other ideas until the bitter end of the bottom of the 9th when their rally finally fizzled out.

The story, again, was the inconsistent nature of the Hokie Bull Pen and the maintaining of momentum from the “pitch by committee” group.

Pitch by Committee for the Hokies Tuesday Game

Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Player Innings Knocks Plates Earned Plates Walks Fans Wild Stuff Plonks
Ryan Kennedy 3 3 0 0 1 1 0 2
Henry Weycker 1 0 2 2 2 1 0 0
Brady Kirtner 0.2 0 1 1 1 1 1 0
Jonah Hurney (W, 2-1) 1.1 4 1 1 2 1 0 0
Ryan Metz (S, 1) 3 4 2 2 0 2 0 0
TOTALS 11 6 6 6 6 1 2
Pitch by Committee wasn’t stellar, but it got the job done. Hokie Sports

As far as offense goes, as was noted, it was a mixed bag of manufacturing runs, small ball and a couple of homers to help seal things. Even though Tech never technically was behind, it did lose a four-run lead by giving up a four-run inning.

Batting

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

Homers: Gavin Cross (1); Cade Hunter (1)

Sacrifice Flies: Cade Swisher (1)

There were few big hammers in this one. Just good offensive baseball all mixed in to add up to a win for the mid-week contest.

If Things are Going So Well, Why the Beef?

Success in college baseball is a question of running the marathon, and then managing to not get knocked out of various post season activities when losing or winning one game in a clutch situation is absolutely necessary to continue to the next level. While offense is always a streaky, there needs to be a consistent level of effort coming from the pitching staff. The truly successful programs have something that the Hokies are lacking. Starting pitching and a consistent bull pen. While Griffin Green and Drue Hackenberg (especially Drue) have been reasonably consistent winners, the lack of a third starting pitcher for the weekend games has been a serious problem this season. The Hokies need to sweep a few of these series and are struggling to do that without that third starter. There also needs to be at least a reasonable 3-4 inning mid-level reliever for the Tuesday games. So far, the usual “pitch-by-committee” games have been reasonably successful (6 wins, 1 loss, and a cancelled game), but the added burden of that 2nd PBC as the third game of the weekend series games has really strained things.

The reality is that Virginia Tech’s Bull Pen is struggling. It has difficulty holding leads, and closing the door in late innings. There is a real sort of weird ethos and a sprinkling of magic with relievers. They have to be guys who are thrill jockeys who live on the edge and pitch so hard they are only good for an inning or two at the most. Their “stuff” needs to be nearly unhittable. Unfortunately, our relievers haven’t gotten the “unhittable” part just yet. That comes with experience and if you look at the bull pen’s roster that is still lacking in the program. One hopes as the season grinds through its final 23 games, the pen can find more than just a few relievers who can consistently hold the other guy off the bags. It’ll be critically important when the playoffs come, and at this rate the Hokie baseball team is on track to make the ACC tournament, and possibly beyond. We won’t count those unhatched chickens, though. There is still a ton of baseball to play and that late season 2021 slump is still a bad taste in the mouth.

Next up is a weekend at home against the Miami Hurricanes, and then a Tuesday at home against VMI.

GO HOKIES!!!!