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Virginia Tech Hokies Baseball Sweeps Georgia Tech for the First Time: 3-0

The Hokies ACC fortunes have really turned around of late. The Hokies played three solid but very different games against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, winning each one and closing in on a .500 ACC record. Lots of hammers out for the final two games. GO HOKIES!!!

The Third Base Dugout was Busy with Happy Activity All Weekend
John Schneider - SB Nation

There was a Moment When Things Looked a Bit Bleak

Friday, late afternoon, the world looked like it was about to be washed away. The teams had abandoned the dugouts and the fans sent away for their own safety. Thunderstorms and heavy rain rolled into Blacksburg in a game where the Jackets seemed to have grabbed up some critical momentum.

The 2nd Lightning Delay became a two hour and 7 minute severe weather bump in a very long game.
John Schneider - SB Nation

As those of us in the press box sat in our seats, fussing over stories and wondering if there was going to be a postponement (no one wanted to go home in that downpour). There were a few thoughts that were murmured outloud in the hall and in the box. The Jackets seemed to have a touch of momentum going. The delays were playing havoc with the pitching, and even the position players can get a bit weary. The delay started in the middle of the 7th inning, and at the time the score was 9-4 in favor of the Hokies, but with six more outs to get, the Jackets certainly had a chance to get back to into the game, very quickly after play was resumed.

We know the story, Georgia Tech managed to push three runs across the plate in the top of the 8th and was just one good at-bat away from catching up and potentially passing the stalling Hokie offense. That was until Jack Hurley (who unarguably is the most consequential offensive player on the field at this time) smashed a solo-home run in the bottom of the 8th. It was the only run of the Hokie half of the inning, but it seemed to pump some much-needed life into the dugout, and more importantly that was as close as the Yellow Jackets would come for the entire weekend.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Game 2

How many tunes can you think of with the word “walking” in them? Quite a few, but Saturday evening, with an absolutely packed ballpark, and stunningly beautiful weather, the Hokies had everything walking in their direction, that’s for sure. The official attendance numbers were 3086, but that doesn’t count the folks in the Hahn Garden on the hill. It was the grand finale of the big event Saturday for Hokie Hi weekend. It started with the 3.2 mile walk for remembrance in the morning, the Spring Football Game at 3:00 in the afternoon, and then the baseball game at 7:00. Of course, it didn’t go exactly as planned, Friday was started early, and Sunday actually started an hour early, too.

On the mound, Griffin Green was throwing some smoke. Hokie Pitching was the first big story of the game. There is a touch of concern, however, since Green seemed to have an issue of some sort that caused him to ask for relief in the top of the 6th after inducing the first out. We’ll be looking to see if that continues into next weekend. But for Saturday, Green produced a quality start, scattered 3 inconsequential hits over his time on the bump, and allowed a single run. It was absolutely his best start of the season, and choked off any Georgia Tech momentum before it could even happen. Green also fanned 7 Yellow Jackets, and only walked a single batter. That might have been the most consequential stat that he put up, because. Yellow Jacket pitching was not matching that sort of command. That problem for their staff was the second huge story of the ball game. With a one run performance by the Hokie pitching staff. Jonah Hurney put in 2 and 2/3rds innings with no runs on one hit, and no walks. Then Tyler Dean came in to clear the top of the 9th with a goose egg, one inconsequential hit, and a strikeout.

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
Griffin Green (W- 2-2) 5.1 3 1 1 1 7 0 0
Jonah Hurney 2.2 1 0 0 0 3 2 0
Tyler Dean 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
Totals 5 1 1 1 11 2 0
It was a combined one run effort for Green, Hurney, and Dean Hokie Sports/Gobbler Country

Look, even great pitching doesn’t score runs, and the Hokies needed just two plate crossings to grab a “W” and a series win for the evening. That wasn’t to be, though because the Georgia Tech pitching staff had serious issues getting the ball to cross the plate. The Jackets would send five pitchers to the bump, and they generated a combined 18 walks, and three critical plonks (one of which was an RBI since the bases were loaded). The walk count seems to have been a record for the Hokies.

Walks Aren’t Just Problematic Pitching

The third story of the game was the huge change in batting approach for the Hokies. Walks aren’t just missing the plate; many times pitchers throw balls outside the zone to get overanxious batters to swing at pitches that they should have taken. “Out” pitches are rarely strikes, even if they are fastballs. Well, walking 18 times takes patience and a good eye for what is coming at you. Getting all nine batters to have that sort of eye is a batting coach’s dream. Modern baseball statistics make it clear that getting on base and advancing without sacrificing outs is the winning formula for most games. Tech generated 13 runs on only 7 hits. Christian Martin must have generated some sort of record because he came up to the plate 6 times to generate 5 walks and scored 2 times. The funny stat from the box score was the Hokies’ mere 28 official “at-bats”. Walks don’t count against a player’s “at-bat” total.

The game finally ended after 3 hours and a few minutes. The scoring chart might be the most interesting summary of the entire contest for the small number of hits generating so many runs.

Scoring Plays for Game 2

Team Inning Play Description Yellow Jackets Hokies
Team Inning Play Description Yellow Jackets Hokies
Virginia Tech 1st J. Hurley homered to left center- 3 RBI (2-2 BBSF); Cannizzaro scored; C. Jones scored. 0 3
Virginia Tech 1st G. Michel singled to right field- RBI (1-1 BK); C. DeMartini scored. 0 4
Virginia Tech 3rd G. Michel walked- RBI (3-2 BFSBBB); C. Grady advanced to second; C. Martin advanced to third; C. DeMartini scored. 0 5
Virginia Tech 3rd C. Jones hit by pitch- RBI (0-0); G. Michel advanced to second; C. Grady advanced to third; C. Martin scored. 0 6
Virginia Tech 5th C. Jones homered to left field- RBI (0-0). 0 7
Georgia Tech 6th Reid- S grounded out to 3b- RBI (1-1 BS); Campbell- K scored. 1 7
Virginia Tech 8th G. Ebel flied out to cf- SF- RBI (2-1 BBK); C. Martin scored. 1 8
Virginia Tech 8th L. Donlon singled to right field- RBI (0-1 K); G. Michel advanced to second; C. Grady scored. 1 9
Virginia Tech 8th Cannizzaro walked- RBI (3-0 BBBB); C. Jones advanced to second; L. Donlon advanced to third; G. Michel scored. 1 10
Virginia Tech 8th J. Hurley reached on a fielder's choice to first base- RBI (3-2 BBBKS); Cannizzaro out at second 1b to ss; C. Jones advanced to third; L. Donlon scored. 1 11
Virginia Tech 8th C. DeMartini tripled to right field- 2 RBI (2-1 BKB); J. Hurley scored; C. Jones scored. 1 13
Totals 1 13
13 runs on 7 hits means tons of walks Hokie Sports/Gobbler Country

It was the first series win for Virginia Tech since 2010, and there wasn’t even a hint at a falloff in momentum. As the tweet says, it was also Coach John Szefc’s 150th win as Hokie Head Baseball Coach. The Hokies had won the game in an interesting fashion, and that made for two very different sorts of games for the series. The final game would prove to be different, again.

The First Ever Sweep of Georgia Tech

Sunday’s game had been moved up to 12:00 from 1:00 due to potential weather conditions in the Southeast, so our coverage wasn’t going to be direct. Family obligations and old arthritic knees just made that mission impossible.

The one thing that was not different about the Sunday game was the pitching. Drue Hackenberg’s trip to the mound was unusual for a Sunday. That has normally gone to a pitch-by-committee headed up by Anthony Arguelles, but he had his solid trip to the mound shortened by lightning and rain, but Drue wasn’t going to have the weather to fight with. The Yellow Jackets were facing a series loss, and the Hokies with a steaming head of offensive momentum. Though it was a bit weird because of the 21 total free bags handed out by the Georgia Tech staff on Saturday. The extra day seemed to agree with Hack, because he put in an absolutely stellar effort for the Hokies. That was three quality starts in three games with what looks to be the starting pitching rotation (though a bit upside-down) for the remainder of the season.

Look, Hackenberg hasn’t been the dominant pitcher that he was last season. That’s true, and he probably feels it, right now. Sunday, Hack needed to reach down and pull out some control, and some movement to start catching up his W/L record. Remember, pitchers get the unfortunate tag for wins and losses, even if the pitcher puts on a great show, but the bats are silent (that has certainly happened to Drue a couple of times this season). Getting him back on track and that critical confidence that makes the difference between a winning ace, and a shelling target. Sunday, Drue shed the gloom and took to the mound with a purpose.

He scattered 8 hits which were pretty inconsequential, over 6 full innings of work. He pumped in 6 KOs and issued only 2 walks. The lone run scored against him in the 4th, was a two out series of singles and a wild pitch that forced a run across before Hack forced a groundout. At some point we’ll have to look at a sabermetric sort of stat on how many 2-out rallies the Hokies have given up this season. It is getting to feel like the Hokies closing the door on innings seems to be a bit of a problem for them. I’d be curious to see how many runs they’ve given up with 2 outs on the board.

Coach Szefc decided to get situational to close this one out. He also challenged a couple of relievers to step up from their recent struggles. The end result was 12 scattered hits, allowing 2 total runs, and a much-needed W for Drue Hackenberg.

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
Drue Hackenberg (W, 3-4) 6 8 1 1 2 6 1 0
Brady Kirtner 1 2 0 0 0 3 0 0
Andrew Sentlinger 0.2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0
Jacob Exum 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Matthew Siverling 0.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Totals 12 2 2 2 10 2 0
Coach Szefc went situational after Drue went 6 Hokie Sports/Gobbler Country

So, THIS was a Complete Game of a Different Sort

If Friday was a balanced attack without a ton of long ball action, and Saturday was a walk fest peppered with some critical hits, Sunday proved to be a big hammer afternoon. Actually, that was for both teams, it’s just that Virginia Tech was stringing their 13 hits together into something scoring runs, and Georgia Tech was scattering them around inconsequentially.

Jack Hurley is the Leader of the Hammer Crew

The blistering pace like Jack Hurley’s 11 homers in 15 games isn’t cooling just yet. Yesterday, he closed this series with a home run in each game. That’s not to push the other Hokie sticks to the back of the pack, but Hurley is currently on a huge and national level tear so, he deserves special mention.

You can’t mention Jack without bringing up Carson Jones, who has bubbled up through the season to be the leadoff batter. That’s the guy who has a habit of getting on base, and by that generating opportunities to score runs. Jones managed three knocks on Sunday. Also of note was David Bryant, the transfer from Radford who has been a bit quiet at the plate for the last few games. He found the hammer twice on Sunday and even stole a base after getting on first by working a walk. It was a good day for Freshmen, with Garrett Michel smacking a double and taking a trip to Hammer time, too. Brody Donay, the impossibly tall Starting Catcher also checked in with a tater.

Hokie Big Stick Stats for Game 3

At the Plate

Doubles: Jones, Carson (2); DeMartini, Carson (1); Michel, Garrett (1)

Triples: DeMartini, Carson (1)

Homers: Hurley, Jack (1); Michel, Garrett (1); Donay, Brody (1); Bryant, David (2)

Sacrifice Flies: Cannizzaro, Chris (1); Michel, Garrett (1)

On the Bases

Steals: Bryant, David (1)

*From Hokie Sports

There just isn’t much else to say about the entire effort. It was a grand weekend punctuated by great joy and also great reverence. It was a wonderful way for the team to bring home a win done with class and sportsmanship.

Next up the Hokies take the short trip to Radford to complete the home and home series with the Highlanders, before heading out on the long road for a critical series against Florida State in Tallahassee. The Hokies are 8-9 in ACC play and a series win would put them over .500 in the Conference.

We Close with Loving Remembrance of the 32 Wonderful Souls Lost to Us on the 16th of April 2007. May They Rest in Peace.