On Thursday night, the #2 Virginia Tech baseball team road the surge of their hot offense behind 6 home runs to defeat the Clemson Tigers 18-6. The result hurts Clemson's NCAA Tournament hopes, and while the Hokies did not need to win tonight’s game with higher-seeded UNC winning their matchup against the Tigers earlier in the week, by no means did the Hokie offense take the night off. They utilized 15 hits and 10 walks to go along with the homers to dispatch of the Tigers. Only twice did the Hokies fail to have a runner reach base.
The top of the third inning was when the Hokie bats got hot in a big way. With Cade Hunter on base, Carson Jones hit the Hokies' first homer of the game over the right field wall and the outfield entrance gate behind it, into the streets. It was Jones’ seventh homer in five games. He credited preparation all season that has allowed him to be successful when his number has been called lately.
“It definitely feels good to go up there and put good swings on baseballs and get the results you’re looking for,” Jones said after the game.
His home run put the Hokies up 5-2, but they weren’t done just yet. After the Tigers pulled starting pitcher Billy Barlow, Lucas Donlon walked and Carson DeMartini singled to center field to bring the top of the order up. What followed were three thunderous back-to-back-to-back home runs from Nick Biddison, Gavin Cross, and Tanner Schobel. The atmosphere was electric with a pro-Hokies crowd on hand at Truist Field.
After the three straight bombs from the Hokies’ top of the order, the score was 10-2 in Tech’s favor. The game appeared to be headed towards blowout territory, but Clemson slugger and ACC Player of the Year, Max Wagner, crushed his 27th homer of the season. His two-run blast tied the Clemson school record for home runs in a single season set by Khalil Greene, an honor that Wagner said he was “grateful” for after the game despite the loss. The Tigers then added two more runs in the fourth inning on another home run to make it 10-6.
When it looked to be an ongoing home run party by both teams, Hokie bats answered right back from the fifth inning onward. They scored eight unanswered runs. Ultimately, John Szefc acknowledged the Hokies’ obvious offensive production, crediting both their hitters’ plate discipline as well as their pitchers’ ability to limit Clemson on the basepaths, but what really stuck out to him was the pitching of Christian Worley.
He pitched 3 1/3 innings giving up just 1 hit, striking out 3 of the 11 batters he faced, walking none, and probably would have pitched to a few more batters if not for a severe weather delay that lasted about 54 minutes. When asked about Worley’s success, Szefc pointed to his renewed health and confidence he has gained from recent successful outings.
Tonight, the Hokies take on UNC at 7pm on the ACC Network in a game which will decide who advances from Pool A and secures a spot in the ACC Semifinals on Saturday against Notre Dame. When asked after the game last night what his thoughts were on facing the Heels tonight, John Szefc had this to say.
“They’re hot. We’re hot. Should be a good game. Should draw real well. I mean, I’ll put our guys up against anybody. I don’t care who we’re playing,” he said adamantly and continued, “We took care of them at their place a month and a half ago or so. We’ll have our hands full, but they’ll have their hands full too.”