Virginia Tech took the diamond against one of its oldest opponents on Tuesday night, defeating VMI 10-9 at English Field. The 181st meeting between the two squads was dominated by the Hokies for the first eight innings, but VMI wouldn’t go down easily.
“I thought our guys pitched really well before we got to the eighth inning,” head coach John Szefc said. “We only had three three-ball counts and gave up two free bases in the first eight innings. So up until that point it was a really well pitched game.”
A big part of that pitching performance was sophomore Ryan Okuda, who picked up his third win of the season. Coming in in the third inning to relieve Luke Scherzer, Okuda pitched four innings, giving up just one run on two hits while striking out seven batters.
“He was really good. He’s been good all year,” Szefc said. “He’s pitched in a lot of different roles. I give him a lot of credit. He was a big part of us winning that game. He did a really good job in the middle innings and he got us to [Nolan] Wilson.”
In his four-inning outing, Okuda threw 59 pitches. 43 of those pitches were in the strike zone, which led to him setting a season-high in strikeouts while also getting plenty of outs on contact.
“What he does is he just throws a ton of strikes and he keeps the defense active and he gives your hitters time to score runs,” Szefc said. “He’s consistently done that. So I give him credit, he’s really done a good job.”
Once the game reached the ninth inning though, the tide started to turn. VMI’s first three batters walked before back-to-back singles brought in three runs. Jake Huggins homered later in the inning to send three more runs across the plate and bring the Keydets within one run of tying the game.
Jack Dellinger came onto the mound with two outs and no runners on. After giving up a single, he closed out the game when Josh Hollifield flew out to left field. Tanner Thomas made a gold glove-worthy diving catch to save the tying run from scoring and clinch the victory for the Hokies.
Tech fared well offensively in the contest as four different players registered multiple hits in the game and six different players came across the plate to score in the game. The third inning was the biggest as Tech scored four runs in the frame, highlighted by a solo home run blast by Nick Biddison.
Now the Hokies will turn their attention to an NRV matchup against Radford on Wednesday night before traveling to Miami for an ACC series. Sitting in sixth place in the Coastal Division, Tech needs all the momentum they can get going into the home stretch.
“We kind of sit on the fence a lot,” Szefc said. “We’ll play competitive games but we really kind of have struggled to put a full thing together on a weekend.”
Szefc said the youth of the team has contributed to some of their struggles, but he didn’t want to make excuses. He knows that the team is going to have to keep improving over the next three weeks to get to where they want to be.
“We still clearly control our own destiny which is a good thing,” Szefc said. “That’s what any team wants, so hopefully we can turn a little bit of a corner.”
They’ll start turning that corner when they take on Radford at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.