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May 22, 2012

VT Around The Bases 5.22

Virginia Tech entered this weekend needing wins in the worst possible way, and came up empty resulting in them being left out of the approaching ACC Tournament.

Can the Hokies still get into the NCAAs? This week, we recap VT's final regular season weekend and examine any possibilities of an extended postseason.


The Week In Review

Tuesday - 4-3 W over Liberty

The Hokies kicked off the big final week with a very tough non-conference home game against Liberty, a very legitimate Big South program. The Flames were 36-16 entering the game and were no team to be taken lightly.

Tyler Horan got things started in the first with a solo shot to give Tech a 1-0 lead, although the Flames battled back and by the end of the fourth, were leading 3-1. Both teams went to the pen early and often.

The Hokies again went with a committee approach for the midweek contest, as they have throughout the last half or so of the regular season, and Pete Hughes used seven different pitchers to get through this game, including three in the ninth. Tanner McIntyre got the win despite getting just the final out in the ninth, pushing his record to 7-0 on the year.

Trailing 3-1 in the fifth, Tech rallied to tie it at three on a fielders choice RBI and an Alex Perez double. The game remained gridlocked until the bottom of the ninth, when Johnny Morales led off with a double and then stole third after a Brendon Hayden walk, putting runners on the corners with nobody out.

Kyle Wernicki grounded out to third, forcing Morales to stay put while Hayden moved up the second. Chad Morgan then singled to score the winning run and give the Hokies the victory.


Thursday - 13-2 L to North Carolina

It was certainly a disheartening way to open up the biggest series of the year, as the Hokies traveled to Chapel Hill to take on the sixth-ranked Tar Heels. Virginia Tech was undone by 11 combined runs in the second and fourth innings.

The four-run second inning by North Carolina was particularly hurtful because of they way the runs were scored.

With starter Andrew Alzenstadt on the mound, the Hokies got two quick outs off a walk and a subsequent double play. The Heels then got a hit-by-pitch, stolen base, hit-by-pitch, two-RBI double, fielding error, stolen base resulting in a throwing error and another run, and a final RBI single.

North Carolina used more of its own abilities for a big seven-run fourth, as the Heels hammered a triple (two RBIS), three doubles (four RBIS), and a groundout (one RBI). The Hokies scored two in the top of the fourth, but finished with nearly as many errors (4) as hits (5) on the night.


Friday - 2-1 L to North Carolina

Friday was easily the best chance for the Hokies to get a win in this series, as starter Joe Mantiply threw a complete game. He took a perfect game into the fifth inning, only to lose it on a two-run home run following a one-out walk.

Virginia Tech took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first off of a Jake Atwell RBI single, but couldn't muster anything else against UNC starter Benton Moss, who went toe-to-toe with Mantiply into the eighth and struck out eight on the day.

Virginia Tech's biggest problem on the day was its inability to string hits together, as the Hokies never got more than one hit in an inning all night. Credit has to be given to Mantiply though, as he pitched his heart out and came up huge in the biggest start of his Virginia Tech career.


Saturday - 6-2 L to North Carolina

Knowing they needed a win and some help to get into the tournament by Saturday afternoon, the Hokies entered this game with a lot of pressure and it showed.

North Carolina starter Hobbs Johnson took a perfect game into the eighth, one day after Mantiply took one into the fifth, and basically extinguished any hopes the Hokies had of reaching the ACC tournament all by himself.

Johnson struck out 10 batters on an economical 94 pitches in eight innings. The Hokies scored two runs in the top of the eighth once they finally broke up the perfect game, but they were already too far behind and couldn't make up the difference.

Post-Season Possibilities

If Virginia Tech had reached the ACC Tournament, chances were very likely they would have been selected for the 64-team NCAA Tournament. However, despite a solid 34-21 record, the Hokies may very well be on the wrong side of the baseball bubble this season.

Prior to this weekend, ESPN had the Hokies in as a three-seed in their regional. That likely changed for the worse after the three-game sweep to the Tar Heels. The selection show will be aired at 12:00 P.M. Monday, May 28th on ESPNU. Only then will we know whether Virginia Tech's season will continue or not.



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