Virginia Tech had to sweep NC State this week to have a shot of getting into the ACC Tournament, so when the Hokies dropped the series opener Friday afternoon, the weekend quickly turned into the end of the 2014 baseball season. The Hokies salvaged a win on the final day and ended head coach Pat Mason's first season in charge with a 21-31-1 record overall and 9-21 in the ACC.
The Week In Review
Tuesday - Game 50: 4-1 L to William & Mary
As I mentioned in last week's column, William & Mary is a very good baseball team so this result is not a surprise. The Tribe - probably the top team in the CAA - cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Hokies behind a committee of four pitchers that scattered nine hits and struck out seven.
Freshman Aaron McGarity started for the Hokies and threw two innings. He gave up two runs on five hits before giving way to Jon Woodcock, who gave up two runs on three hits in three innings of work.
William & Mary struck first in the top of the second inning after a pair of one out singles and a hit-by-pitch sandwiched a fly out. With the bases loaded and two outs, Tribe second baseman Nick Thompson singled in two runs to give William & Mary the early 2-0.
Mason pulled McGarity in the top of the third inning after he gave up a leadoff single and a walk to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Woodcock came in to do terrific work as he struck out two and induced a fly out to get out of the jam. However, a solo home run by W&M designated hitter Charley Gould and an RBI double by right fielder Josh Smith in the top of the fifth inning ended Woodcock's day and gave the Tribe a 4-0 lead at the midway point.
Virginia Tech loaded the bases in the bottom of the second inning and the bottom of the third inning but failed to capitalize. The Hokies weren't able to get on the board until the bottom of the eighth inning when left fielder Phil Sciretta drove in a run with a groundout to second base.
Friday - Game 51: 9-4 L to NC State
Rain on Thursday forced a doubleheader Friday in Blacksburg as graduation ceremonies took place across campus. The Hokies, in a must-win game, faced the likely #1 selection in the upcoming MLB Draft in NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon. To oppose him, Mason sent out his own ace, Brad Markey.
The Hokies actually fared very well against the NC State ace as they took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on RBI singles by shortstop Ricky Surum and third baseman Ryan Tufts. Rodon lasted just five innings as the Hokies produced eight hits and forced him to throw 109 pitches.
Unfortunately for the Hokies, Markey struggled to keep the Wolfpack off the bases as he gave up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits over four innings of work. The inning immediately after Virginia Tech took a 2-0 lead, NC State responded with two of their own to tie the game after two and a half frames.
The game went back-and-forth in the fourth inning as the Wolfpack scored two in the top of the inning on an RBI double and an RBI single. However, the Hokies battled back with two of their own on an RBI groundout by second baseman Alex Perez and an RBI single by catcher Mark Zagunis. After four innings, the game was tied at four apiece.
From there, it was all Wolfpack as a leadoff home run in the top of the fifth inning followed by a double and a run scoring on an error by Perez chased Markey from the game with nobody out in the fifth and a 6-4 lead for the Wolfpack.
The game got away from the Hokies in the top of the seventh inning as the Hokies had to use three pitchers - Woodcock, Luke Scherzer, and Sean Kennedy - to get out of the inning. Woodcock was pulled after he surrendered a leadoff single. Scherzer came on and promptly walked the first batter, threw a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third, and then intentionally walked the second batter he faced to load the bases with nobody out. That brought on Kennedy who, although he wasn't charged with any runs, saw two runs cross the plate on a fielder's choice groundout and after he issued a walk.
Friday - Game 52: 6-5 L to NC State
It wasn't the series opener, but it was still a Friday so it came as no surprise that the Hokies dropped a game by one run. It was Virginia Tech's 10th one-run loss of the year.
Sean Keselica started on the hill for the Hokies while Logan Jernigan started for the Wolfpack. Both pitchers cruised through the first three innings before an eventful fourth frame chased from the mound.
The Wolfpack scored five runs in the top of the fourth inning on five hits as Keselica struggled to keep them off the base paths. Four RBI singles and a squeeze bunt did the damage and the Wolfpack even left runners on second and third when the inning ended.
However, the Hokies responded quickly with three of their own in the bottom of the fourth inning. Zagunis led off with a solo home run, followed by a pair of one-out singles by Sciretta and Keselica. Unfortunately, Sciretta was thrown out at third base on Keselica's single. Left fielder Kyle Wernicki and catcher Andrew Mogg walked to load the bases and Tufts doubled home two runs to make it 5-3, Wolfpack.
In the top of the fifth inning, McGarity relieved Keselica and threw four terrific innings. He gave up just one run on four hits and struck out five batters as he gave the Hokies an opportunity to further chip away at the lead. Unfortunately, the Hokies couldn't. NC State reliever Cody Beckman kept the Hokies at bay until the bottom of the ninth when the Hokies tried to stage a dramatic comeback down 6-3.
Tufts led off the inning with a double followed by a single by center fielder Saige Jenco and an RBI single by Perez to make it 6-4. That knocked Beckman from the game in favor of Jon Olczak, who didn't fare much better as he walked Zagunis, got Hayden to pop out for out one, and gave up an RBI single to Sciretta to make it 6-5 with Zagunis on third.
NC State turned to Will Gilbert to get the final out, and he struck out Keselica looking to end the Virginia Tech comeback bid.
Sunday - Game 53: 8-5 W over NC State
Redshirt freshman left-hander Kit Scheetz started the season finale for the Hokies and earned the win after he threw 5.1 innings and gave up just two runs on five hits. Scheetz finished the year with a 5-1 record.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech roughed up NC State starter Patrick Peterson, as he exited after he gave up six runs on seven hits over just 3.1 innings. After Jenco led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, Perez tripled him home and Zagunis singled in Perez to give the Hokies an early 2-0 lead. The Wolfpack would cut the lead in half in the top of the fourth inning, but from there it was all Hokies.
In the bottom of the fourth, Wernicki singled in a run, Surum doubled in two runs, and Jenco singled in another to make it 6-1 after four innings. Surum added another RBI in the fifth inning with a sacrifice fly.
Zagunis ended his junior season - and probably his career - in appropriate fashion, as he drove in the eighth run of the game with a sacrifice fly to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Wolfpack made things interesting with three runs in the top half of the ninth inning to cut the lead to 8-5, but senior Tanner McIntyre got out of the inning to give the Hokies one last victory in 2014.
The Hokies move into the off-season now as they failed to qualify for the ACC Tournament. The team was simply too young and didn't have enough pitching to compete over the course of a grueling ACC season, particularly on the road. I will touch more on the future of the program in a column slated for Thursday, but Pat Mason must continue developing his young players, particularly, young pitchers like Scheetz and McGarity. The majority of players will head right into summer ball around the region, which provides a terrific opportunity for them to compete and develop against other collegiate baseball players.