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April 9, 2013

VT Around The Bases 4.9

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The Atlantic Coast Conference traditionally is one of the toughest college baseball conferences in the country, and aside from a couple programs like Boston College and Maryland, this year is no different. However, that doesn't make the three losses the Hokies took on the chin at NC State last weekend any easier to handle.

The Week In Review

Tuesday - Game 29: 11-5 W over VCU

Fresh off a series victory over Florida State, Virginia Tech hosted a tough VCU team Tuesday night at English Field. Just as we'd suspected, this one was a tight battle during which the Hokies didn't pull away until late.

The Hokies and Rams each pounded out 12 hits and used four pitchers. Neither starter made it past the third inning, although Virginia Tech starter Brendon Hayden was pulled after just 1.2 innings of work. Two Chad Pinder home runs and a Tyler Horan double had the Hokies up 5-2 after six innings, before VCU shortstop Vimael Machin smoked a two run home run to cut the lead to one.

The bottom of the seventh was the decisive half-inning in this one, as Mark Zagunis doubled home a run and Horan put the game out of reach for good with a three-run blast.

Friday - Game 30: 8-7 L to NC State (14 innings)

Virginia Tech Friday starter Brad Markey surrendered six runs in just three innings of work and the team committed six errors as a whole, but somehow the Hokies were in this one well into the night. The game lasted nearly five hours and featured 23 hits, 10 errors, 10 pitchers, and 22 runners left on base. To say it was the crispest game would be a boldfaced lie.

The Hokies were down 7-5 going into the eighth inning but tied it with a Kyle Wernicki solo blast and an Andrew Rash RBI double. Virginia Tech struggled in extras though as they managed just one hit and struck out eight times in five innings of free baseball.

Even then, the way they lost is about the worst way to lose. An error on a single put a Wolfpack runner on second, he advanced to third on a balk, and then scored the winning run on a passed ball.

Saturday - Game 31: 13-4 L to NC State

The Hokies were playing this one well and leading 4-2 after six innings before the wheels came unhinged and this one got out of hand in the seventh.

Virginia Tech starter Devin Burke got the first two batters of the inning to pop out and ground out. Then he surrendered a double, RBI single (4-3), single, walk, 3-RBI triple (4-6), and a RBI double (4-7) before being replaced by Eddie Campbell.

The poor inning continued from there as Campbell walked the first batter he faced, NC State executed a double steal to put runners on second and third, and then NC State catcher and No. 3 hitter Brett Austin singled to add on two more runs. By the time the inning was over the Hokies had gone from up 4-2 to down 9-4 and saw their chances of winning the series slip away. NC State added four more in the 8th to really put this one to bed.

Sunday - Game 32: 7-3 L to NC State

Virginia Tech jumped ahead early in this one too, moving ahead 2-0 after two innings thanks to an error and a single by Chad Morgan. NC State battled back with three of their own in the third off VT starter Joe Mantiply, who capably threw 6.2 innings and scattered eight hits while surrendering just the three runs in the third.

A sacrifice fly by Hayden tied the score at 3-3 after seven, but the Hokies faltered with Clark Labitan on the mound in the eighth. NC State scored four runs on a single, a throwing error that scored two, and a sacrifice bunt to make it 7-3.

Sean Keselica singled to get things started in Tech's half of the ninth, but that's all they could muster as the Wolfpack completed the three-game sweep.

What We Learned From The Past Week

The ACC is an incredibly tough baseball conference. There are six teams in the Baseball America top 25 this week. Going on the road in the conference is always going to be a tough test and Virginia Tech learned that the hard way this week just several days after pulling off a series win over one of the top ten teams in the country.

After the Florida State win, the Hokies were lining up to make a run at a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now, they are fifth in the Coastal Division and are facing a three-game set against the top team in the country, North Carolina, this weekend.

With sets against Maryland, Boston College and Wake Forest coming up - the three are a combined 8-36 in conference - another sweep wouldn't be disastrous for their tourney hopes, but it certainly might put them out of reach for a two-seed.

The Week Ahead
Tuesday, Apr. 9 - vs. Longwood (5:30 p.m.)
Friday, Apr. 12 - vs. #1 North Carolina (5:30 p.m.)
Saturday, Apr 13- vs. #1 North Carolina (2:00 p.m.)
Sunday, Apr 14 - vs. #1 North Carolina (1:00 p.m.)

Longwood is a decent little baseball program playing in their first season in the Big South. They are 16-17 overall this season and 6-6 in the Big South. They have gotten blown out in a lot of games, but have won four out of five, including one at Tennessee, so they will be coming in with some confidence.

Friday brings North Carolina to town for the second high-profile home series in three weeks for the Hokies. The Heels are 29-2 overall this season with losses on April 1 to Clemson in extra innings and Miami on March 15. The Tar Heels are second in the country in team ERA at 1.86 and first in the country in scoring at 8.7 runs per game. One win this weekend would be a coup for the Hokies.


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