After the series opened with a Thursday evening shootout, Friday proved to largely be a pitcher's dual early before the Hokies came alive enough to bring Virginia Tech to the brink of a massive achievement.
#3 Virginia Tech beat Duke 6-1 while Miami suffered a loss at Notre Dame meaning that the Hokies only have to beat Duke to complete the sweep to win the ACC Coastal title. If they do that, they'll also be the 1 seed at the ACC Baseball Tournament and be the closest thing to an overall ACC regular season champion whether that's fully recognized or not.
Drue Hackenberg was the star of the night for the Hokies as the freshman ace had another standout performance pitching into the 8th inning while having his best stuff in key moments even into the 7th. Hackenberg finished the game with an impressive 7 innings of work with 7 strikeouts while allowing only 2 hits, 3 walks, 1 HBP, and 1 run.
Hackenberg also recorded his 10th win of the night becoming the first Virginia Tech pitcher since 2013 to have 10+ wins in a single season. John Szefc told us that Hackenberg is also the first pitcher that he's coached who has reached 10+ wins in a single season since 2014.
The Hokies have had plenty of talented pitchers in recent years who have had great success in Blacksburg and who often have been high draft picks and successful MLB pitchers like Packy Naughton, Ian Seymour, and Chris Gerard. It may be early in his career, but Hackenberg is showing the potential to surpass the draft slots of Seymour and Naughton, and join Naughton (and maybe Seymour and Girard) in the majors in the future.
Kiernan Higgins stepped up big to close the game out as well not allowing a single hit or walk in 2 innings of work while getting Tech out of a 2-on, no out jam while allowing only one run via a sac fly after a fielder's choice gave Duke runners on the corners in the 8th with 1 out.
The bats did take a while to get going in this game for both teams as Hackenberg got 9-straight outs to open the game as he did his best Keely Rochard impression (Rochard got 18-straight outs to start the VT-Saint Francis regional game on her way to her 9th no-hitter).
Tech broke through first though as Carson DeMartini hit a solo home run to left field to get the Hokies on the board and take a lead that they would never relinquish.
The game would continue to be a nail-bitter with neither team being able to string together enough hits until Carson Jones hit a two-run home run in the 7th to expand the Hokies' lead to 3-0. This was Jones' fourth home run in the past 3 games after not playing since the Georgia Tech series as he continues to be a revelation this week who seems certain to continue to be in the lineup going forward into the ACC Tournament next week.
After Duke picked up 1 run in the top of the 8th inning, the Tech bats came alive to add plenty of insurance with Eduardo Malinowski bringing home Tanner Schobel on a RBI double before Malinowski and Jack Hurley were brought home soon after on a two-run single from Conor Hartigan.
For the Hokies, it was a fascinating game that showed how John Szefc has built a team full of guys who can make a difference despite their varied experiences and backgrounds that can pick up the slack even when stars like Gavin Cross and Tanner Schobel combine for an 0-8 night. That goes from star freshmen like Drue Hackenberg and Carson DeMartini to talented transfers like Eduardo Malinowski, Conor Hartigan, and
Combine those guys with stars and veteran leaders like Cross, Schobel, Jack Hurley, Nick Biddison, and Griffin Green; and you have a Virginia Tech baseball team on the brink of making more history with an ACC Coastal title and a 1 seed in next week's ACC Tournament.
All that's left now is one more game against Duke knowing that a win will be enough to win the Coastal and take the 1 seed though knowing that can add a little extra pressure that this team may not have faced yet.
However, if the struggles that Tech has bounced back from and jams that Tech has escaped are any indication of the mental toughness of this team, then the Hokies should be ready for the pressure and weight of the games that starts to increase tomorrow and won't decrease till the season ends whenever that may be.