Baseball Can be a Cruel Experience
It is a humbling sport. Not only can a good team beat you, but the field can beat you, the weather can damage your chances. Your offense can be supproted by solid pitching and defense but generate a big fat goose egg. Your pitching can be a premium asset or melt down like the ball has a homing device for opposition bats. It is the great leveler of games.
This evening it the Hokies sure got a dose of humility, after all of the justified celebrating and whooping it up about getting to the Super Regionals with three very impressive games, the great sine curve of baseball swelled up and grabbed them for a not so fun ride on the trouble wagon.
Hokies Just Can’t Muster Enough Offense to Overcome the Three Run OU 1st and 2nd
Starting Pitching is Struggling at a Bad Time
Even the best pitchers in the pros have pitching slumps. Those are times when there doesn’t seem to be any control. There isn’t any rhythm or pace, the strike zone is either fat and belt high, or unhittable with any pitch. Griffin Green, who has had an excellent season, has struggled in the post season. For Game 1 he didn’t last into the 2nd inning, hitting two batters and giving up three earned runs. This is tough. The pressure is on, and no one in this team has any game experience at this level, with this level of competition. The quality of a baseball team is in the Skipper balancing the need to win with the need to support his players. The measure of that team is in the players reaching down and picking up a struggling teammate. The Hokie Bull Pen did that with bells on for Griffin Green.
Yes, it was a two-run loss (not 1, One run would be a tie and Tech needed two in the bottom of the 9th to walk off) that was not on the relievers. Henry Weycker had to deal with inherited base runners as he came in to relieve Green. He ate those two runs, after getting the first out on a ground ball. He found a way to dig in and force a double play to end the inning and limit the damage to the 2 runs that eventually ended up being the go ahead and winning scores. Weycker would eventually give up a run before being relieved by Graham Firoved, but that was all the way into the top of the 6th inning which was an impressive middle relief long stretch for Henry W.
There were Too Few Consistent Offensive Combinations
All the while the Bull Pen was working to keep the scoring down, the offense was largely diffuse and ineffective until the bottom of that inning when Cade Hunter reached first on an error, and Carson Jones found his hammer to push Hunter across the plate - and score himself. Unfortunately, the noun ‘rally’ (in the baseball sense of the word) didn’t seem to be present in the Hokie vocabulary on Friday. The inning quickly faded with a strikeout and a ground out. The Hokie bats were just not consistently getting the ball into holes in the defense - if they did make contact with the ball in the first place. The Hokies left seven on the bags, and in a low scoring game that’s deflating.
The Hokies did get within that magic run for extra baseball, when as in the 6th, a player reached on a Sooner fielding error, and was followed up by a ripe tater. This time it was Tanner Schobel getting the free bag, and Jack Hurley putting the hurt on the baseball, in the bottom of the 7th. But the next six outs went three up and three down for the Hokies. Pitching can’t win that when the score is 5-4, and that’s the way that it ended.
There were some positive things to note. Our Birds might have stumbled a bit out of the gate, but they rallied back to keep the game within reach. They never gave up and the Bull Pen put in a really good performance. Yes, those two runs in the 6th were back breakers, but 2 runs on the pen’s dime (maybe three I’d have to go into the detailed scoring to see who was charged with the 2nd inning pair for the Sooners) means that the Hokies might have found some stability and consistency. The late appearance of a couple of homers might have broken some of the ice frozen around nerves. Hopefully, the Hokies put this behind them, and reach down to win the game tomorrow. We need to hope for Sunday baseball in Blacksburg.
One game at a time Gobblers! Get it back and set up the rubber game.