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April 29, 2014

Around The Bases: Week 11

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Virginia Tech's road woes continued this weekend, as the Hokies were swept at North Carolina. The sweep followed two midweek losses as the Hokies saved pitching for the weekend. The young team is mired in a late season slump and has now lost eight in a row. They have been swept on the road three times this season.

The Week In Review

Tuesday - Game 40: 11-0 L to Appalachian State
This was a poor effort for the Hokies, even as they tried out some younger pitchers on the mound to gear up for the weekend. Alex Perez, normally the everyday second baseman, made his fourth appearance of the season on the mound and gave up three runs on five hits over three innings. Six Virginia Tech pitchers combined to give up 14 hits, while Appalachian State starter Sean Mason threw a complete game and gave up just two hits to keep the Hokies off the board.


Wednesday - Game 41: 14-9 L to Campbell (10 innings)
Things begin ominously for Virginia Tech, as the Camels scored three in the top of the first inning off starting left-hander Kit Scheetz. The Hokies regained control of the game in the middle innings with two runs in the fourth inning, one run in the fifth inning, three runs in the sixth inning, and two more in the seventh inning. Four of those runs came off RBI singles by left fielder Logan Bible(twice), center fielder Saige Jenco, and first baseman Sean Keselica.

However, things got downright ugly beginning in the top of the eight for the Hokies. Luke Scherzer relieved Scheetz after six innings and worked a scoreless seventh inning before returning to the mound for the eighth frame. The Camels loaded the bases with two outs, which brought third baseman Elijah Trail to the plate. He promptly tripled to cut the lead from 9-3 to 9-6. Sean Kennedy relieved Scherzer immediately after and recorded the final out of the eight inning.

Virginia Tech went quietly in its half of the eight inning and entered the ninth inning with a three run lead. Kennedy recorded the first out of the inning, but then gave up a single, hit by pitch, and a walk to load the bases. Coach Pat Mason turned to freshman Aaron McGarity to try and get the final outs. The Camels went RBI single, RBI groundout, and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game before McGarity recorded the final out.

Once again, the Hokies were held scoreless in the bottom half of the ninth and they game headed into extra innings. Trail doubled off McGarity to lead off the top of the tenth inning and advanced to third on a sac bunt. Mason brought in Tanner McIntyre to try and get out of the jam without any damage.

A squeeze play scored Trail immediately to give Campbell a 10-9 lead. A stolen base and a single put runners on first and third when things really got out of hand. A single, double, and single by each of the next three batters plated four more runs and made it 14-9, Camels.

Over the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings, the Hokies gave up 11 runs on 11 hits.


Friday - Game 42: 3-2 L to North Carolina
Another Friday ACC game, another one run loss for the Hokies. Keselica was brilliant over eight innings as he scattered four hits and gave up just three runs. Right fielder Kyle Wernicki and Bible gave the Hokies a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning with a pair of RBI singles. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels battled back and scored two on an error off a double play ball that the Hokies could not convert.

The game entered the eighth inning still tied at two a piece, but UNC quickly put runners on second and third with a walk and a double. After Keselica forced a groundout and then intentionally walked UNC's three hitter Landon Lassiter to load the bases, he induced a ground ball to Perez. Perez and shortstop Ricky Surum couldn't turn the double play in time to get out of the inning and the decisive run scored, making it 3-2 UNC.

Bible reached second base with two outs in the Hokies' half of the ninth inning, but pinch hitter Miguel Ceballos struck out to give the Hokies another disappointing Friday night loss.


Saturday - Game 43: 6-4 L to North Carolina
With Brad Markey on the mound Saturday, the Hokies jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a RBI double by designated hitter Brendon Hayden and a RBI single by Keselica. Markey couldn't respond with a shutout inning in the bottom of the first inning as the Heels tied the game with two runs, both scored with two outs.

Hayden and Keselica drove in another run each in the top of the fifth inning to make it 4-2 Hokies, but again VT couldn't keep UNC from responding immediately. Before Markey could record an out in the bottom of the fifth, UNC strung together four singles in a row to score two and make it 4-4. UNC first baseman Parks Jordan drove in the go-ahead run with one out to make it 5-4 before Markey induced a double play to end the inning.

From there, both teams battled without scoring until UNC added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning on an RBI single off Scherzer, who replaced Markey after six innings.

Right fielder Mark Zagunis had a chance to tie it in the top of the ninth inning with a runner on first and two outs, but he flied out to right field to end the game.


Sunday - Game 44: 5-4 L to North Carolina
With two tough losses under their belt around, the Hokies made it three with a ninth inning loss to the 'Heels. Once again, Virginia Tech jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a run in each of the first two innings. UNC responded with three runs in the bottom of the third inning off Virginia Tech starter Jon Woodcock. He was pulled after three innings and Mason went with a committee of pitchers in Scheetz, McIntyre, Kennedy, and Scherzer the rest of the game.

Wernicki's sacrifice fly to center field in the top of the fifth inning tied the game at three a piece, only to see UNC gain it back with a solo home run by right fielder Tyler Ramirez in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Virginia Tech's best opportunity came in the bottom of the eighth inning. Keselica led off with a walk followed by singles by Wernicki and Bible to load the bases with nobody out. Pinch hitter Phil Sciretta came through with an RBI single to tie the game at 4-4 and keep the bases loaded with nobody out.

That prompted a pitching change from the Tar Heels followed by three consecutive fly out that ended the Hokies' threat with just one run to show. Virginia Tech loaded the bases again in the top of the ninth, but couldn't plate a run in that frame either.

Two huge missed opportunities set the stage for North Carolina to steal this one in the bottom of the ninth. Tar Heels leadoff hitter Michael Russell led off with a single and stole second. Scherzer intentionally walked the next guy to set up a double play opportunity. Russell advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by the next batter, which meant the Hokies would intentionally walk another batter to load the bases and set up a force anywhere in the infield.

Unfortunately, Ramirez hit a fly ball deep into center to score the game winning run and UNC walked off with a series sweep.


What We Learned

If there is a weekend that put Virginia Tech's season in a nutshell, it was this one. The Hokies battled hard all week and got some truly excellent pitching performances and chances. They had a chance to win each of the three games against North Carolina. With such a young team, things like this happen. It is incredibly difficult to close out games on the road, particularly with a bunch of youth, and that is exactly what has happened numerous times this season. Virginia Tech has now lost an incredible six Friday night games by one run.

The three game sweep dropped the Hokies to 7-17 in the ACC, which puts them 13th in the conference. They now have a ton of work to do and will probably have to record consecutive sweeps to have a chance of reaching the ACC Tournament. In a pretty stunning development, Boston College swept Maryland this weekend. They have now won five of six and moved from 3-15 and in a tie for last to 8-16 with a shot at qualifying for the tournament. They have a winnable three game series against Pittsburgh this weekend.

The Week Ahead

Tues, Apr. 29 - at Radford (Cancelled)
Fri, May 2 - at Georgia Tech (7:00 p.m., ESPN3)
Sat, May 3 - at Georgia Tech (1:00 p.m., RSN)
Sun, May 4- at Georgia Tech (1:00 p.m., ESPN3)

Virginia Tech's midweek game scheduled for Tuesday at Radford was cancelled with a steady rain falling in the area. The Hokies don't really need to play this game, as they now get to save all their pitching and rest up for the weekend.

This weekend the Hokies travel to Atlanta to face a Georgia Tech team right in the thick of a battle for an ACC Tournament berth. They are currently tied for seventh, which keeps them out of the play-in game. Their biggest achievement this season as a series victory against Florida State, one of the top teams in the country. However, since then they have lost series on the road to Maryland and NC State. As mentioned above, the Hokies need three wins here to get back into the conversation of a possible ACC Tournament berth.





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