This was a bit of an unusual mid-week matchup for the Hokies. VMI came down I-81 to visit for the Tuesday game, but instead of a short break before heading on the long road to Boston, Tech took the local buses down Prices Fork and out Peppers Ferry to visit our New River Valley cousins at Radford.
Both the Keydets and the Highlanders were in no mood to lose, and certainly weren’t impressed by the Hokies’ #8 ranking. They brought their best sticks to their efforts. Virginia Tech had to find their hammers in the middle of both games to get the jobs done.
The first come from behind rally up was a home matchup over at English Field with the other state corps of cadets, the VMI Keydets (Kangaroos to those of us from way back “in the day”.)
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Virginia Military Institute Keydets - Tuesday April 19th
The weather was weird on Tuesday. The wind was blowing, and the temperature never made it above the mid-40s. It even snowed in Blacksburg on Tuesday morning before sunup, but the day did clear off and there was no annoying precipitation to deal with for the game. The first pitch was a bit after 6:00 PM, and there was a warning sign right off the bat (funny that phrase is supposedly a baseball reference). VMI managed two hits, a double and single. Even though they didn’t plate any runs, their batters also seemed to have an “idea”, and that much contact in the early innings spells trouble later on. The Hokies didn’t help themselves much just a single, a walk, and no real momentum from an early jump.
Well, VMI’s idea showed up in the top of the 2nd, because they figured that they had found the range and promptly dug a deep five run hole for the Hokies. There was a lead-off walk, and those -again- are always paid for. A double was followed by a three-run tater. Then a plonk lined up a two RBI homer. The first up pitcher on the committee Ryan Kennedy didn’t make it through the 2nd inning. Brady Kirtner stopped the hemorrhage with two strikeouts, but 5 runs is a whole lot of runs to make up. This is where someone somewhere has to reach into that magic bag of sticks to find the ones that make contact with the ball, or you resign yourself to limping it into the club house with the “L” hung and come back to play another day.
The Hammerin’ Hokies had their own “idea”, however.
Hokies vs. Keydets - Tuesday Game
The Hokies rallied up in a monster bottom of the 3rd inning and knotted the game at five all with four doubles and two singles. They batted around the order for the inning. Unfortunately, the Hokies seemed to have taken their hammers to the field instead of their gloves for the top of the 4th because they pretty much errored a run home with an errant throw and a passed ball charged to the catcher. VMI was up one run, and Hokie fans watching or tracking the game started to get nervous, again.
Cade Hunter added a two RBI double to his total for the season in the bottom of the inning to put Tech back out in front to stay. There was the trepidation that things could go wrong very quickly though because a one run lead in a heavy contact high scoring game is not much of a lead at all. The Hokies put some padding on that single run difference in the bottom of the 6th with a two RBI double by Connor Hartigan, though. The score remained that way since neither offense generated any more runs, and the respective bull pens kept the threats away from the plate.
Tuesday Offensive Highlights
At the Plate
Doubles: Nick Biddison (1); Gavin Cross (1); Jack Hurley (1); Cade Hunter (1); Conor Hartigan (2); Carson DeMartini (1); Christian Martin (1)
On the Bases
Stolen Bases: Gavin Cross (1); Carson DeMartini (1)
Caught Stealing: Eduardo Malinowski (1)
Hit by Pitch: Jack Hurley (1)
Hokies Box Score from Tuesday’s Game vs. VMI
A Win is a win. The Bull Pen/Pitch by Committee issues would crop up again on Wednesday evening, however.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Radford Highlanders - Wednesday April 20th
So, the trip to Radford isn’t very far, about 25 minutes from Tech via bus or car, and the universities have always been close. There is a whole lot of warm happy history between us, and Radford folks are usually big Hokie football fans. That does not go for the other sports on the list, though. The Highlanders have a reasonably good basketball program and have always presented both the softball and baseball teams with challenges. So it was, again on Wednesday evening in Radford. It was offensive fireworks on the New River.
Hokies vs. Highlanders - Wednesday Game
Tech did jump out to an early one-run lead in the top of the 1st, but Radford was borrowing from VMI’s “ideas” book and scored one right back. Tech broke the tie in the top of the 3rd with some good quality small ball stuff and two runs. A 3 to 1 lead is pretty slim and shaky to sit on for 2/3rds of a contest, and Tech’s offensive thunder was more like Pooh bear’s tummy grumbling than a full-on growl.
Pitchers Christian Worley and Jackson Ritchey were each tagged for 2 runs in a flurry of hits doubles and singles in the 4th. Instead of letting them “work it out” the Hokie coaching staff pulled both very quickly. Henry Weycker was sent in to close the inning but not before the Highlanders plated the runs charged to Ritchey. The Hokies found themselves behind 5-3 and worries about the relief pitching situation started to occur to the fans.
So, the Hokie offense brought out the hammers for the top of the 5th and managed a +1 bat around. Tech uncorked with 8 total runs including a three-run homer by Tanner Schobel. That pretty much ended things with an exclamation point, and the remainder of the game was an attempt to cruise through the remaining innings without too much more excitement. The Hokies put up a manufactured run in the top of the 7th, as Gavin Cross worked a walk, a steal, and a Tanner Schobel single into a run.
Coach Szefc tried Tyler Dean on the mound for the bottom of the inning, but after being tagged for two runs and a two out rally was looking like a possibility. Jonah Hurney was put in to clean off the final out to close the inning.
There was one more bit of Hokie offensive fun in the bag before the game ended, though. Tanner Schobel (who had a 5 RBI career game) worked a lead-off walk in the top of the 9th. He advanced to 2nd on a Jack Hurley single (just wait it figure in, here). Cade Hunter hit a sac fly deep enough to allow Tanner to grab third base. Then all bets were off because who tries to pull off a double steal with two outs? It seems that Coach Szefc might be a bit taciturn and staid in his personal and sartorial comportment, but he’s got a wild hair somewhere. He put on the double steal, and that 2nd swipe was home plate! Tanner Schobel ended his amazing game performance by swiping the plate for the 13th run. I was baseball gold that might even beat a two-out suicide squeeze play in pure chutzpah.
Wednesday Offensive Highlights
With the Sticks
Two-baggers: Gavin Cross (1); Carson DeMartini (1)
Taters: Tanner Schobel (1)
Sac Flies: Nick Biddison (1); Eduardo Malinowski (1)
On the Bags
Swipes: Gavin Cross (1); Tanner Schobel (1 regular and also stole Home); Jack Hurley (1); Cade Hunter (1)
Nabbed: Nick Biddison (1)
Plonked: Eduardo Malinowski (1); Nick Holesa (1); Sam Tackett (1)
Hokies Box Score vs. Radford from the Extra Mid-week Game on Wednesday
Radford grabbed that run back off of reliever Peter Sakellari but he eventually struck out two and forced a ground ball to end the inning and the game.
Someone has to notice Tanner Schobel on this one. He had 4 at-bats, 2 walks, 3 hits, 5 RBI, and 2 stolen bases, the last of which was home plate.
The Hokies travel to Boston to play Boston College in Chestnut Hill this weekend. Well two games at the university. Game two, on Saturday will be played at Fenway Park in Boston. It is a special event for ALS Awareness (I will tell you all why it is special to me, in a separate piece before the game).