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February 19, 2013

VT Around The Bases 2.19

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The first weekend of the new season could not have gone better for coach Pete Hughes and Virginia Tech. The Hokies went 4-0 against Kent State, who made the College World Series last season, and UNC-Wilmington, who made the NCAA tournament last season. Throughout the weekend, Virginia Tech showcased a stellar offense that is expected to carry them throughout the season.

The Week In Review

Friday - Game 1: 10-9 W over Kent State

The Golden Flashes made it to Omaha last season and only eight teams do that each year, so this was a very good test for the Hokies. Against Kent State's top arm, Tyler Skulina, the Hokies pounded out six runs in the first two innings in large part due to Chad Pinder. The senior third baseman, who is going to turn a lot of heads this season, drove in five runs in the first two innings on a double and a home run.

Pinder's dominance at the place would become a theme for the weekend in general. This game didn't come without its dramatics though. It was tied 7-7 going into the final frame. In the top half, the Hokies put up three to make it 10-7.

Clark Labitan entered when the Golden Flashes came to bat and promptly gave up a single and a home run to make it 10-9. A couple walks and a fielder's choice put runners on first and third with two outs before Labitan induced a ground out to seal the first win of the season for the Hokies.

Saturday - Game 2: 8-1 W over Kent State

Virginia Tech took care of business Saturday, beginning with a convincing 8-1 romp over Kent State. Pinder and outfielder Tyler Horan, who had an outstanding summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League, paced the offense as Pinder crushed a three-run homer in the sixth and Horan drove in a run each on two doubles.

Brad Markey, who began his career at Georgia Tech before transferring to Sante Fe College last year and getting drafted in the 35th round by the Mets, was exceptional in his first start in Orange and Maroon. He threw seven innings and scattered eight hits while surrendering on run on an RBI single in the second. Markey threw just 82 pitches, 66 of which were for strikes.

Saturday - Game 3: 9-0 W over UNC-Wilmington

The Hokies jumped all over the Seahawks later Saturday, pounding out 12 hits to take the game handily, 9-0. Right fielder Gary Schneider and designated hitter Sean Keselica both homered for the Hokies, while veteran outfielder Andrew Rash added a two-RBI double.

Devin Burke, in his second year with the Hokies after transferring from Duke, threw six shutout innings and struck out six.

Sunday - Game 4: 7-2 W over UNC-Wilmington

Tech scored five runs in the first two innings to set the tone in this one and let Tanner McIntyre's strong pitching take them the rest of the way for the weekend sweep.

Mark Zagunis singled to drive in the first one and the Hokies added another on a passed ball in the first. Pinder added another RBI to his weekend total with a single in the second before Zagunis doubled to drive in two more.

Zagunis finished the day 4 for 5. McIntyre struck out eight in six innings and gave up just three hits before Jake Joyce finished the weekend with three hitless innings.

What We Learned From The Season-Opening Weekend

1. This Offense is Exceptional:

Afterward, Aaron Fitt - the lead college baseball writer for Baseball America- mentioned that the middle of this batting order is among the best in the country. Led by Pinder, Horan, Rash, and Zagunis, the Hokies have a number of big bats to pace the offense. This offense is going to put Tech in a position to make the big dance this year. Pinder seems poised to explode onto the national scene.

2. Pitching is Off to a Good Start:

The return of Joe Mantiply, who took a perfect game into the fifth inning against UNC on the final weekend last season, is big and the performance of guys like Markey, McIntyre, and Burke over the weekend were encouraging. However, the pitching absolutely has to hold up over the course of the season. Without it, this season could end in disappointment. The offense will be able to keep Tech in the majority of the games this season, but the pitching is going to ultimately decide whether the Hokies are able to secure a spot in the ACC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament.

3. Chad Pinder is Talented: Pinder finished second on the team in batting average last season at .325 after starting all 53 games at third base. He finished the weekend 5 of 14 with two home runs, a double, and nine RBIs. Pinder has an athletic build and is impressive at the plate as well as in the field. He began his career as an outfielder at Tech but has made a smooth transition to third base. If you get a chance to go watch him play at English Field this season, keep an eye on him.

The Week Ahead
Feb. 22 - vs. Temple (3:00 p.m.) - English Field
Feb. 23 - vs. Holy Cross (3:30 p.m.) - English Field
Feb. 23 - vs. Temple (6:00 p.m.) - English Field
Feb. 24 - vs. Holy Cross (2:30 p.m.) - English Field

This weekend the Hokies host a tournament similar to the one they played in last weekend. Coming to Blacksburg will be two northern teams in Temple and Holy Cross looking to escape their frozen tundras. The Owls lost both games they played last weekend in Cary, NC by scores of 8-3 against Wright State and 8-4 against Delaware. Their two games on Saturday and Sunday were canceled. The Owls are coached by Ryan Wheeler, who spent a huge chunk of his career as an assistant coach at William & Mary and Richmond. Holy Cross was picked as pre-season co-champion in the Patriot League before the season and didn't play last weekend. They went 33-22 last season and open their season Tuesday against Boston College.

Realistically, after Tech's performance this past weekend, the Hokies should take this series fairly handily as well. The temperatures aren't too bad this weekend, but rain is in the forecast both Friday and Saturday which could create some issues.


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