Well, isn’t this some serious level of exciting? For the first time, ever, the Virginia Tech Hokies Baseball team has rolled through a Regional Playoff, to grab that championship level and advance to the Super Regionals. That fact needs to stand just for a moment because it’s a special achievement for a program that barely scraped its way above .500 in 2021, suffered through the COVID shutdown of 2020, and just finished a game below .500 in 2019. The turnaround can be credited to two people. First, due credit must be given to Whit Babcock, who as a former college baseball player at JMU, looked at the facilities and the staffing of the waning Virginia Tech program with chagrin and resolve. He funded and found sponsorship to upgrade and vastly improve old English Field. Atlantic Union Park is a huge upgrade that brought the image and facilities up to an ACC worthy level. That dedication extended to something else. A concerted effort to find a coach and staff that could rebuild a winner - and put that team into the NCAA playoffs, routinely.
That answer came in a pleasant, gentlemanly, personage sporting a flat top crew cut and a calm demeanor. John Szefc was induced to leave the University of Maryland program (and the B1G) for a chance to coach a struggling operation in great need of just about everything. He brought that solid reputation as a college baseball coach, and fundamental decency as a person to Blacksburg, rolled up his sleeves, and went to work.
And This is What Coach Szefc has Arranged For
On June 5, 2022, your Virginia Tech Hokies defeated the Columbia Lions for the Blacksburg Regional NCAA Baseball Tournament Championship. From the records posted on-line and noted by Hokie Sports, this is the first time that Virginia Tech Baseball has accomplished this feat.
Oh, And About the Game
Some days there just come some serious challenges and getting the Columbia Lions back on the diamond instead of Gonzaga wasn’t the most optimal outcome of their playoff matchup earlier in the day. The reason is pretty obvious when you look at the 4th’s absolute pasting of the Lions. No tournament selected and qualified team is going to take that sort of embarrassment with a shrug. The Lions were chastened and more than a bit sore from the drubbing. They took that out on the Zags (15-6) and showed up at 7:00 pm for some revenge.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Columbia Lions - Regional Championship Game
The big stats for the game were all critical. The Lions had some really good pitchers in their back pocket, and their first reliever, Saajan May, gave the Hokie lineup a case of the nerves. Most didn’t figure him out, and they certainly didn’t figure out their game closer Sean Higgins. Fortunately, Connor Hartigan, Carson DeMartini, and Nick Biddison managed to get enough of a scope on him to combine for a single and 2 home runs that put the game out of reach from the scary 3-1 lead that the Hokies were just barely managing to hold on to.
Offensive Highlights were really light this time, but there were Hokie Hammers out that definitely made the difference in this one.
At the Plate
Triples: Nick Biddison (1)
Homers: Nick Biddison (1); Tanner Schobel (1); Carson DeMartini (1)
Credit is given with a big cap tip to those who are due one. Hokie Senior Pitcher Ryan Metz has struggled on and off for his career, here. Sometimes he’s been really good, and sometimes he’s had some control issues - especially with his critical off-speed pitches. This season, Ryan has actually found some good traction on the bump. Last night all of his hard work paid off handsomely. Metz got his change-up working, which balanced out his No. 1, and managed to keep the revenge minded, hard hacking Lions from crossing home plate more than once. Metz put up 4 2/3s innings with only one run scored on 3 hits and a single walk. He fanned four Lions in the process. He didn’t get the credit for the win because he needed to complete that 4th, but we all know who set the Hokies up to win defensively. Again, big applause for a high-pressure performance with excellent results.
Graham Firoved who pitched a sweat inducing and relieving 2 1/3rd kept Columbia from crossing the plate more than once, too. Henry Weycker slammed the door shut with 3 KOs and a door slamming 9th inning 3 up and 3 down.
So, the Super Regionals make their way to Blacksburg for the first time in Baseball history. At the time of this writing, we’ll be waiting for the results of the Oklahoma - Florida game to see which one of them comes to the mountains of Southwest Virginia to face the Hammerin’ Hokies at home to a packed English Field at Atlantic Union Park.
Just a Reminder of how far this team and program has come.