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March 19, 2013Sign-up for HokieHaven.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
Road wins in college baseball are similar to road wins in just about every sport - they are huge and increasingly difficult to come by. Coach Pete Hughes' Virginia Tech team improved to 4-2 in the conference last weekend with a road sweep over a very credible Duke. Let's delve into that and more in this week's Around The Bases.
The Week In Review
Tuesday - Game 17: 6-1 W over Charlotte
For the first time this season and fresh off a series loss to Georgia Tech, the Hokies hit the road for their mid-week games. The 49ers have been a solid baseball program for a while and entered the game with an 8-5 record.
Virginia Tech's offense wasted no time in creating some insurance for starter Tanner McIntyre, as they scored on a solo home run by Sean Keselica and a two-run home run by Mark Zagunis in the first inning. The Hokies tacked on two more runs in the second on a sacrifice fly and a bases loaded walk to lead 5-0. That proved to be more than enough for McIntyre, who threw six shutout innings and surrendered just two hits. Ricky Hodges threw a scoreless seventh before giving way to Jake Joyce for the final two innings.
Wednesday - Game 18: 4-3 L to Elon
This was a bit of a shock as the Phoenix are 11-8 on the season and just 5-4 in their own conference at this point, although they did boast a 24-12 win over NC State and an 8-7 victory over Coastal Carolina, a very good college baseball program, heading into this one.
Keselica started and threw well enough to win, throwing six scoreless innings while scattering six hits and striking out six. The Hokies even led 2-0 heading into the seventh after a pair of runs in the second.
Elon scored four in that inning off reliever Eddie Campbell, including three on a three-run bomb by first baseman Ryan Kinsella, their cleanup hitter. The Hokies scored one on a throwing error in the eighth, but didn't really threaten from there and took the loss.
Friday - Game 19: 2-1 W over Duke (11 innings)
Friday night in college baseball is definitely the place to be. The top starters lock horns and the teams are locked in with a sense of urgency. Last Friday was no different as Virginia Tech's Brad Markey (8.1 innings, 6 hits, 1 ER, 5 Ks) and Duke's Trent Swart (7 innings, 6 hits, 0 ER, 7 Ks) battled for much of the night.
Virginia Tech shortstop Alex Perez tied the game with a clutch home run in the eighth inning. The game moved into extra innings with Joyce on the mound for the Hokies and Andrew Istler on the mound for the Blue Devils. The Hokies got to Itsler decisively in the 11th, as Chad Morgan singled to score Tyler Horan and give the Hokies the lead. Duke put runners on first and second in the bottom of the 11th inning, but Joyce managed to get leadoff man Andy Perez to ground out for the final out.
Saturday - Game 20: 14-7 W over Duke
This one looks ugly and it was late for the Hokies, but the five runs they scored in the first inning were enough to take control of this one from the beginning. Virginia Tech knocked out Duke starter Drew Van Orden after just two and a third innings, putting pressure on the Blue Devils bullpen for the rest of the night.
Devin Burke threw six innings for the win, as the Blue Devils couldn't score more than a run or two in an inning for the entire game. The Hokies got multi-RBI performances for Horan, Zagunis, Rash, Hayden, and Perez.
Saturday - Game 20: 14-7 W over Duke
When a team wins the first two games of the series, the Sunday matinee is often a dogfight as the one team scratches and claws for at least one win. The Blue Devils scored a run in the first off of starter Joe Mantiply, but a single by right fielder Kyle Wernicki put Virginia Tech on top with a two-RBI single in the second inning.
Duke responded with a run in the third before the Hokies took control behind Mantiply, Clark Labitan, and the offense. Second baseman Brendon Hayden singled a run in the sixth, Horan and Andrew Rash blasted solo shots in the seventh and eighth innings. Perez singled in the eighth to get the Hokies to six runs on the night.
Meanwhile, Mantiply (5 innings, 6 hits, 2 ER, 3 Ks) and Labitan (4 innings, 3 hits, 4 Ks) allowed just three hits over the last six innings to complete the sweep for the Hokies.
What We Learned From The Past Week
1. Any concerns from Georgia Tech are premature
Is this team the best in the ACC? Probably not. Is it one of the better teams? Probably, and Georgia Tech is right up there near the top so dropping two out of three isn't cause for concern. The Hokies won a nail biter Friday, a slugfest Saturday, and completed the weekend with a sterling effort Sunday. That's a full weekend and a big-time statement for the program. It was the program's first road ACC sweep since sweeping Maryland two years ago.
2. Brad Markey might be a legit Friday starter
I'd like to see him do it against one of the better teams in the conference (North Carolina, Florida State or Virginia), but what he did against Duke and what he's done this season has been incredibly impressive. After his 8.1 innings on one-run ball Friday night, he is now 2-1 on the season with a 3.06 ERA in 35.1 innings over five starts. He's struck out 30 batters - tops on the team. I can't wait to see this guy throw against the big boys, which is coming.
The Week Ahead
Mar. 19 - vs Liberty
Mar. 22 - at Miami
Mar. 23 - at Miami
Mar. 24 - at Miami
The Hokies have a tough week ahead of them, starting with a visit from a strong Liberty team. The Flames are one of the better programs in the Big South, have a very good coach in Jim Toman, and are 14-6 this season with a wins over some impressive programs like South Carolina, Penn State, East Carolina, and Georgia. This isn't a sure victory by any means.
The weekend series brings one of the tougher road tests in the country, as the Hokies travel to Miami for a three game set. The Hurricanes were ranked No. 24 in the country last week before dropping out after losing a series against North Carolina. They began the season 10-0, but have since gone just 6-8 and dropped series against Florida, Duke, and UNC.
Miami dropped just one Friday game this year thanks to the talented arm of Chris Diaz, who is 2-1 on the season with a 1.45 ERA in 32 innings. The Hokies can certainly take this series, but it will take a very similar performance to the one they put forth last weekend. Friday night will be a tight battle between Diaz and Markey, and then the Hokies will need to come out and swing the sticks Saturday and Sunday.
Virginia Tech NEWS