Head coach John Szefc wasn’t at Virginia Tech’s 4-3 loss to Liberty on Tuesday, but according to assistant coach Kurt Elbin, that didn’t change the team’s approach to the game.
“If we have to coach in games, it’s way past us,” Elbin said following the extra-innings defeat at English Field. “We coach when we practice. If we have to coach in games, then we’re in trouble.”
While he praised his team’s maturity at this point in the season, Elbin acknowledged that the Hokies need to work on their defense if they want to win going forward.
“We have to play better defense and pitching,” he said. “I actually though we threw the ball really well on the mound. We gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Liberty came out hot, scoring one run in each of the first three innings. As Elbin noted, the Hokies gave up six free bases in those first three innings, allowing the Flames to get ahead early.
A solo home run by Joe Freiday, Jr. in the bottom of the second inning followed by a couple of RBI hits in the bottom of the fifth tied the game for the Hokies.
With the game locked at 3-3, Sam Fragale attempted a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the eighth inning, but the lead runner, Tom Stoffel, was thrown out at third. The Hokies would go on to leave two runners stranded on base in the eighth.
“That hurt, especially with having [Andrew McDonald] back there being able to finish the game for us,” Elbin said. “We didn’t get a sac bunt down, but we have all the confidence in the world for Frags to do that again, just didn’t happen there.”
In the top of the 10th inning, Liberty’s Logan Mathieu hit an RBI single that scored Cam Locklear in what would be the winning run. The Hokies were retired in order in the bottom half of the inning to secure the victory for the Flames.
Dylan Hall started the game for Virginia Tech, lasting 2.2 innings and giving up three runs on four hits. Andrew McDonald was tagged with the loss, pitching the final 1.2 innings of the game and giving up one run on one hit.
Freiday went 1-for-4 with a home run for the Hokies. Jack Owens went 2-for-5 on the night with an RBI and a run scored.
The Hokies left six runners on base and did not have much luck hitting with runners in scoring position, something that Elbin knows needs to improve.
“We’ve got to be better about limiting free bases and we’ve got to get hits with runners in scoring position,” he said.
Despite keeping the game close, Elbin said the team needs to be more prepared in future games if they want to win.
“They’ve got to be ready to play in our home park and against an in-state foe,” he said. “We just weren’t prepared mentally there and that’s on the coaches, but we’ll be better for that.”
The Hokies host NC State in an ACC series this weekend, but Elbin said they aren’t focused as much on their opponent as they are on playing better baseball.
“I don’t think worrying about the opponent is the issue right now, it’s more about what we do,” Elbin said. “It’s always going to be about what we do. They’re obviously a quality ball club, one of the better ones in the nation.”
The Wolfpack are ranked in the top 10 in most rankings, and the Hokies have not won a game against them since 2014.
This weekend’s series begins today. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.