The John Szefc era is underway in Blacksburg as Virginia Tech (1-3) opened its season with a series of games in Myrtle Beach this past weekend. Fans everywhere rejoice as college baseball makes its long-awaited return! The cold winter is almost over and spring is near.
In the second edition of the Hokies’ Baseball Notebook, we take a look at Virginia Tech’s games from this weekend and some interesting tidbits that have shown up early on.
Hokies go 1-3 at Coastal Carolina Tournament
Virginia Tech Loses Opener to Coastal Carolina
John Szefc’s first game as the skipper of the Hokies was a tough one as they faced Coastal Carolina in the first game of the Brittain Resorts Baseball at the Beach Tournament. The 2016 College World Series champions wasted no time getting on the board, scoring two runs in the first inning before blowing the game wide open with a five-run fourth inning in which 11 batters came to the plate.
Virginia Tech did not score any runs until the top of the fifth, when Darion Jacoby scored on an RBI single by Sam Fragale. The Chanticleers added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth to make the score 9-1. After a scoreless sixth inning, Tom Stoffel scored for the Hokies on a sacrifice fly by Sam Fragale, his second RBI of the night.
Virginia Tech would not score any more runs in Friday’s game and the Chanticleers ultimately went on to win 17-2 in the season opener.
Sam Fragale was the key offensive performer for Virginia Tech, going 1-for-4 with two RBIs.
Redshirt sophomore Nic Enright made his return to the mound after being injured last season, pitching 3.1 innings while giving up four runs on five hits and striking out two batters.
Virginia Tech Comes Up Just Short Against #17 South Alabama
The Hokies next matchup was a little closer, but still not within the grasp of victory. South Alabama defeated Virginia Tech 7-5 on Saturday in an afternoon matchup.
The Jaguars struck first, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning, but the Hokies were not far behind. Sam Fragale scored on an RBI double from Luke Horanski in the bottom of the first to make the score 2-1 in favor of South Alabama. Virginia Tech added more runs in the bottom of the third inning, when Jack Owens, Fragale and Horanski all came across the plate, giving the Hokies a 4-2 lead.
South Alabama started to come back in the fifth on a solo home run by Travis Swaggerty, and eventually took a 7-4 lead in the sixth thanks to a four-run inning.
Tom Stoffel scored on an RBI single from Luke Horanski in the bottom of the sixth, but it was not enough to overcome the Jaguars’ lead.
Luke Horanski went 3-for-5 on the day for Virginia Tech, scoring a run and driving in three more. Tom Stoffel also went 3-for-5 and scored a run while Sam Fragale went 2-for-4 and came across the plate twice.
Starting pitcher Connor Coward pitched five innings, giving up two earned runs on two hits and striking out seven batters.
Virginia Tech Gets First Win of John Szefc Era Against Oklahoma
It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon when the Hokies were finally able to give head coach John Szefc his first win in maroon and orange. Playing against Oklahoma, Virginia Tech’s offense exploded in the third inning, when the Hokies sent six men across the plate. Things progressed from there as Tech added five more runs in the fourth, including a three-RBI double down the left field line by Joe Freiday, Jr. that scored Steve Mangrum, Jacoby, and Nick Owens.
Oklahoma got their first run on the board in the top of the fifth to make the score 11-1, but the Hokies came right back in the bottom half of the inning when Sam Fragale scored on an RBI single by Nick Menken to make it 12-1.
The Sooners added one run each in the sixth and seventh innings, but the Hokies scored twice in the eighth. Cam Irvine scored on an RBI single by Jack Owens before Freiday came home on a sacrifice fly by Fragale.
Two runs from Oklahoma in the top of the ninth were not enough and Virginia Tech held on for the 14-6 victory.
Jack Owens went 4-for-6 in the win, scoring twice and driving in a run. Fragale drove in two runs while going 1-for-3 and scoring three runs of his own. In total, 10 batters crossed the plate for Tech in Sunday’s game
Dylan Hall picked up the win for Tech, tossing five innings and giving up one run on six hits.
Kansas State Comes Back to Beat Virginia Tech
In the final game of this weekend’s tournament, Virginia Tech faced Kansas State on Monday, the two programs’ first meeting since 1989.
The Hokies fell behind early as Kansas State took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Tech scored on a two-run homer by Horanski in the fourth, but the Wildcats answered with a homer of their own in the 6th to tie the game at two runs apiece.
The Hokies took the lead again in the seventh thanks to a three-run inning that started with a solo home run by Menken. Nick Owens later scored on a sacrifice bunt before Freiday reached home on an RBI single by Stoffel to make the score 5-2.
Virginia Tech took its lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but a four-run inning by the Wildcats was too much to overcome and Kansas State took home the 6-5 victory.
Stoffel went 2-for-5 for Virginia Tech with an RBI in Monday’s game. Horanski and Menken each went 1-for-4 with a home run and a run scored.
Freshman Ian Seymour made his first start of the season, pitching 5.2 innings and giving up two runs on one hit while striking out eight.
Freshmen Make Their Debuts
Twelve freshmen made their collegiate debuts for the Hokies during this weekend’s tournament.
Ian Seymour appeared in two games, starting one. Seymour tossed six innings this weekend, giving up five runs on two hits and striking out eight batters.
Ryan Okuda made two relief appearances, giving up three runs on two hits in 1.2 innings. Okuda struck out three batters during his time on the mound.
Ryan Metz made two appearances, both in relief, pitching 2.2 innings and giving up two runs on three hits.
Cam Irvine made his debut in the season opener against Coastal Carolina, pinch-hitting for JD Mundy in the top of the eighth. Irvine appeared again in Sunday’s win over Oklahoma, drawing a pinch-hit walk in the eighth inning before scoring on a single by Jack Owens. (If you haven’t already read our feature on Irvine, you can find it here.)
Darion Jacoby started all four games for Virginia Tech this weekend, going 2-for-11 and coming across the plate three times, including scoring the first run of the year against Coastal Carolina. Jacoby also drew three walks and was hit by a pitch twice.
Zach Brzykcy, Zach Kokoska, Gavin Hinchliffe, Jojo Odachowski, Michael Fernandez, Grant Squyars, and Brian Sisson all made their debuts as well.
Pitching Still Needs Improvement
It’s still way early in the season, as the Hokies have only played four games, but Tech’s pitching staff has a long way to go. Through the first four games of the season, the Hokies have a collective 7.41 ERA. That number is likely skewed by the 17 runs scored by Coastal Carolina, a team that has had a top 50 scoring offense each of the past two seasons, but is still far from where the Hokies need to be.
First-year pitching coach Ryan Fecteau is known for producing teams with low ERAs, so no one should be panicking just yet. As the Hokies play more games and start to get a feel for where they are as a team, Fecteau brings the experience and knowledge needed to make the proper adjustments.
Tech Ranks Second in Sacrifice Flies
Here’s an interesting fact, maybe not all that relevant, but interesting nonetheless: Virginia Tech ranks second in the country in sacrifice flies after this weekend’s games with five. Only Middle Tennessee State has more with six.
If that doesn’t interest you, maybe, just maybe this will: Tim Kurkjian was recently in town for the annual Baseball Night in Blacksburg. Kurkjian is well-known for his position as an MLB analyst on ESPN, but he also wrote a book recently entitled I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies. Coincidence? Probably. Interesting? I thought so.
Following this weekend’s season opening tournament, Virginia Tech will travel to New Orleans Friday to participate in a tournament hosted by the University of New Orleans. The Hokies will face Iowa Friday night before taking on New Orleans and Ball State each of the following days. Friday’s first pitch is set for 1:30 p.m.