Baseball is an unpredictable game, forcing teams to prepare for any situation that comes their way. In Virginia Tech’s 3-2 win over Radford Tuesday, that was certainly the case.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on our bunt game and this situation was just right,” head coach John Szefc said following the walk-off win. “The matchup, the count, it was just too good to not do it really.”
The situation Szefc was referring to came in the bottom of the 12th inning of Tuesday’s when second baseman Jack Owens executed a squeeze bunt to bring home Darion Jacoby for the winning run. Although it’s not the most exciting walk-off play, the Hokies did what they had to to get the win.
“You prepare for that play,” Szefc said. “Guys might not think it’s in a walk-off situation, but in a game like that you do whatever you’ve got to do to get it over with.”
The Hokies (3-5) took on the Highlanders (3-5) in the home-opener at the newly-renovated English Field at Union Park. Due to delays in construction, however, only terrace seating was available to fans.
The marathon of a game saw Virginia Tech strike first in the bottom of the second inning, when Nick Menken drove in Luke Horanski on an RBI single to left field.
Radford retaliated in the top of the third inning when centerfielder Luke Wise singled and catcher Straton Podaras scored on a throwing error.
Following two straight innings with no offensive action, the Highlanders struck again in the top of the fifth as Luke Belanger scored on an RBI single from Podaras.
From that point on, it was a tough road for the Hokies. Tech had a chance to score when Jack Owens stole second in the bottom of the eighth inning, but he was stranded after Tom Stoffel struck out to end the frame.
By the bottom of the ninth, though, Tech’s luck was about to change. Sam Fragale led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Luke Horanski flied out to right field in the next at bat, but it was enough to advance Fragale to third base. During Nick Menken’s at bat, Fragale come home to score on a wild pitch, tying the game at two runs apiece. After Menken and Jacoby each struck out, the game was headed to extra innings.
“We were lucky we kind of got that little gift there in the ninth to tie the game obviously,” Szefc said about the wild pitch that led to Fragale’s run.
In the top of the 10th inning, it looked like Radford would take the lead after first baseman Spencer Horwitz advanced to third on a single by Andrew Szamski. However, a popout by left fielder Carlin Christian, would end the inning without a run crossing the plate.
Radford nearly took the lead again in the top of the 12th when Tech pitcher Graham Seitz intentionally loaded the bases with two outs. When Christian grounded out to third base, though, the Hokies got themselves out of another jam.
Jacoby led off the bottom of the 12th for the Hokies with a full-count walk. Freshman DH Cam Irvine grounded out on a bunt attempt, but advanced Jacoby to second. Right fielder Stevie Mangrum singled on the first pitch he saw to advance Jacoby to third before Jack Owens stepped up to the plate. With the count at 1-1, Owens laid down a bunt as Jacoby barreled home. The play at the plate was not in time, and the Hokies would take the 3-2 win.
“I knew that it could be the start of something pretty big,” Jacoby said about his mindset after drawing a leadoff walk in the 12th inning. “I had good hitters behind us that could execute anything that coach asked them to do. I was confident that we could score that run.”
Jacoby went 0-for-4 on the day, but his one walk and run scored came when it mattered most.
“I knew Jack was going to get the job done as soon as I saw the suicide squeeze on the card,” Jacoby said. “I got a little nervous, but then had all the confidence in him that he was going to get it done.”
Fragale and Horanski led Virginia Tech in hits Tuesday, going 2-for-5 and 2-for-4 respectively. Each of them scored a run as well.
Virginia Tech used five pitchers in Tuesday’s win, including starter Nic Enright, who is in his first season back since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“He’s good, he’s just been building one outing at a time,” Szefc said about Enright. “We really just wanted to get either two innings or one or two times through the lineup out of him to kind of get us off to a good start.”
Enright pitched three innings while giving up one unearned run on three hits. Andrew McDonald led the Hokies in innings Tuesday, pitching 4.2 innings and giving up just one hit while striking out five batters. Sophomore Graham Seitz notched his first win for Tech, tossing the final inning and striking out two batters while giving up just one hit.
When talking about Tech’s overall performance, Szefc praised the way the team played in the field.
“We didn’t really do much offensively tonight. We pitched and played good defense,” Szefc said. “If you’re pitching and playing defense, you’re going to have a chance to win every game.”
The Hokies’ next game is Friday night at Stetson, part of a tournament that lasts through next Wednesday.