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March 26, 2013

VT Around The Bases 3.26

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Last week, Virginia Tech took down Liberty at home and lost two out of three at Miami in conference play. This week presents maybe the toughest and definitely the premier weekend set of the season as the sixth-ranked Florida State Seminoles come to Blacksburg.

The Week In Review

Tuesday - Game 21: 16-6 W over Liberty

Liberty is a very respectable Big South program, which makes this win a little more impressive than your typical midweek game. The Hokies wasted no time taking control of this one, scoring five runs on a two-run home run by right fielder Kyle Wernicki, a two-RBI triple by catcher Mark Zagunis, and a sacrifice fly by second baseman Brendon Hayden.

Liberty's starter, Blake Fulhgum, was removed from the game before recording an out. Virginia Tech really put this game out of reach with a seven run explosion in the fourth inning, led by a solo home run from Zagunis, a two-run bomb from center fielder Andrew Rash and a two-run bomb from starting pitcher Sean Keselica.

Keselica was terrific on the mound as well, throwing six innings while scattering eight hits and surrendering four runs. With that kind of run support, it's important to just get the ball over the plate and let the defense make plays.

Friday - Game 22: 11-9 L to Miami

For the first time this season, Virginia Tech ace Brad Markey struggled through his outing, surrendering eight runs (seven earned) in six innings. Despite taking a two-run lead in the first, the Hurricanes battled back and held what looked like a comfortable 11-2 lead going into the ninth inning.

That's when the craziness of college baseball started. Miami's ace, Chris Diaz, went eight strong innings before giving way in the ninth, an inning that required four Miami relievers to escape. Virginia Tech scored seven runs on a walk, a single, a two-RBI double by Chad Pinder, a two-RBI double by Tyler Horan, and a throwing error. However, Rash struck out to the end threat, even as he represented the tying run at the plate.

Saturday - Game 23: 2-0 L to Miami

This game went like the Friday nighter was expected to go, as the pitchers locked into a fierce pitching duel and the game was over in a mere two hours, 24 minutes. Devin Burke started for the Hokies and threw seven innings, surrendering runs in the fifth inning on an RBI triple and in the seventh inning on a throwing error.

Miami starter Bryan Radziewski went the distance while surrendering just two hits and striking out 16 batters for the win. It was about as dominant effort from a pitcher as anyone could hope for, as Radziewski failed to strike out at least one batter in the only the eighth inning and recorded at least two in an inning six times.

Sunday - Game 24: 8-5 W over Miami (10 innings)

After dropping the first game, Virginia Tech was desperate to steal a conference victory during the matinee Sunday afternoon. Virginia Tech jumped out to a hot start with four runs off a Zagunis two-run home run and a Hayden two-RBI double. Virginia Tech starter Joe Mantiply kept the 'Canes in check through his five innings of work, surrendering just two runs.

Chad Morgan extended the Virginia Tech lead to 5-2 in the fourth inning after a throwing error by the Miami third baseman. However, the Hurricanes tied the score at five with an RBI-single in the sixth inning and a pair of RBI-singles in the seventh. Hokies reliever Tanner McIntyre worked out of a ninth inning jam and induced a ground out with the winning run on third to end the inning.

With one out in the top of the tenth, Pinder and Zagunis singled to put runners on first and second and brought Rash to the plate. Rash promptly doubled to score both runs and give Virginia Tech the lead. Rash would eventually score on a throwing error to give the Hokies a three-run lead. You could tell both teams were tired after a pair of intense games on Friday and Saturday, as the teams combined for eight errors (three by VT, five by Miami), which basically decided the game.

What We Learned From The Past Week

1. Andrew Rash Remains Dangerous

Rash struggled during the first two games of the weekend, going 0-5 in both outings. However, he remains a very talented and dangerous hitter, as he proved when he connected for the game winning double in the tenth inning on Sunday.

2. The pressure is on for Brad Markey this week

Markey is Virginia Tech's ace, but no pitcher is going to go out and dominate each and every Friday night. He struggled for the first time this season, against the 'Canes, but he can't afford to let that one rattle his confidence. One of the best teams in the country is coming to Blacksburg this week and the Hokies need him at the top of his game to compete on Friday.

The Week Ahead
Mar. 26 - vs VMI, 5:30 pm
Mar. 29 - vs Florida State, 5:30 pm
Mar. 30 - vs Florida State, 2 pm
Mar. 31 - vs Florida State, 1 pm

The Tuesday midweek game this week should be a breeze. VMI had a little momentum as a program back in the mid 2000s, but has really dropped off in recent years. Expect the Hokies to bang out a bunch of hits Tuesday night.

As mentioned above, the Seminoles present one of the toughest tests of the season and are one of the top teams in the country. They are ranked No. 6 by Baseball America and have a 22-2 record going into the week. They are seventh in the country in team ERA with a 2.22 ERA and are tenth in the country offensively in runs. If the Hokies can take one of the games this weekend that would be a serious achievement.


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