#3 Virginia Tech Baseball Wins ACC Title After 7-2 Win Over Duke

#3 Virginia Tech Baseball Wins ACC Title After 7-2 Win Over Duke
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Baseball

Will Locklin | @@locklin_will

TLP: Writer
May 22, 2022

If you had told Hokies fans back in March that they’d rise to the top of the ACC baseball world, some would have laughed, others would have profusely refuted that sentiment. And yet here John Szefc and company are. Champions of the ACC Coastal Division and winners of the ACC overall with the top record of 19-9 in conference play.

Virginia Tech made program history with Sunday’s win over Duke. The Hokies beat the Blue Devils 7-2 which capped off their second series sweep of an ACC opponent this season. This was a series in which Virginia Tech controlled the majority. They came out on top in the scintillating show that was game one of this series. 15-11 the score of a back and forth offensive showcase that saw five Hokies register multi-hit games. The rest of the way was smoother sailing. Tech outscored Duke 13-3 over games two and three.

Saturday was the key day for the fate of this team as not only did they put themselves in position for the clinching win the following day but Tech got some help all the way down in Coral Gables. Notre Dame beat Miami in game two of their series 5-0. This opened the door for the Hokies to bust it all the way open and steal the Coastal from the pre-season favorite in Miami. The Hokies finished at 19-9 while the Hurricanes came in at 20-10.

Taking a step back from all the hype and hoopla that comes with Virginia Tech’s 4th conference title of the 2021-22 sports year, this one feels particularly special. Maybe it’s because these guys weren't picked or favored by the experts in many big series they played in. The comeback of Virginia Tech baseball is one that was built stone by stone at every stage of the season. To truly appreciate the accomplishment, we need to take a look back at each of those stages.

It was an ugly start for Virginia Tech baseball in ACC play. After some expected non-conference victories, the Hokies started 0-4 against ACC opponents. That tough start began with a sweep by Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech lost by one run in two of the three games and dropped the middle game in displeasing fashion losing 12-6. Their next ACC series was in Blacksburg against Pittsburgh. It didn’t get off to the right start as the Hokies gave up a two-run lead in the 6th inning and dropped the opener 4-3. Virginia Tech baseball lost three of those first four games by just one run.

Then the close loss script was turned upside down on March 19, with a 22-6 thrashing of Pittsburgh to force the rubber match. Where the Hokies had given up the lead in the 6th inning of the game prior, this was when they added insult to injury. To begin the 6th inning, Virginia Tech was up 8-4. The bats came alive with a vengeance that’s rarely seen as four home runs and eight runs later the Hokies had doubled their scoring output with 16 on the board. They followed up the blowout with a 7-1 win in the rubber match.

After games two and three of a Notre Dame series were canceled following Tech’s 10-5 comeback victory, the Hokies were ready to start making some history. They traveled down to Chapel Hill for a pivotal series against UNC. Coming into the series, the Tar Heels were ranked #18 in the country. Not only that, but Virginia Tech’s history in Chapel Hill for baseball was rocky, to say the least. Before this series, the Hokies were 1-17 against UNC in Chapel Hill since 2005.

The rankings and history didn’t faze this team one bit, however, as they blitzed UNC with eight-straight runs in game one and went on to win 12-1. They continued their strong offensive output with a 7-3 win in what was also ace pitcher Drue Hackenberg’s fifth career win. With that win, they notched their first series win over UNC in Chapel Hill ever. Tech dropped the final game but the statement had already been made. This baseball team was made of sterner stuff than in years past.

NC State marked Virginia Tech’s next victim. And like the beasts they were and still are, these Hokies tore into the Wolfpack with yet another 20+ run victory. While last time it was the 6th inning, the 7th provided Virginia Tech with a wealth of run support. They put up nine runs in the inning to blast them out to a 17-run lead in what would ultimately be a 21-10 win. After an 8-2 win in game two, Virginia Tech now grabbed their second series win over a ranked ACC opponent.

With that series win, Virginia Tech’s surge was gaining more national steam. They entered the top 25 for the first time all season and just in time for the big turning point. The high octane Miami Hurricanes traveled into Blacksburg looking to continue their excellent season. The second-ranked Hurricanes were bull rushed to start the series. Virginia Tech won the opener 12-5 and this marked the third series in a row where the Hokies put up double-digit runs in the opening game. Tech kept the bludgeoning going with a 13-2 win that saw seven Hokies get RBIs.

Miami was able to grab the final game of the series but the damage had been done and Virginia Tech came out on top over the second-best team in the country. As previously mentioned, Virginia Tech had a habit of starting their ACC series with double-digit run wins. But they also had a habit of dropping the final game of the series and not earning a sweep. Both these trends held true against UNC, NC State, and Miami. However, this wouldn’t be the case in Tech’s next series against Boston College.

The headline of this series was of course the Fenway Park game. Virginia Tech had blanked Boston College in game one thanks to one of Griffin Green’s best starts of the season. Then at Fenway Park, the likes of Jack Hurley and Gavin Cross guided Virginia Tech to a 6-1 win. So no the Hokies didn’t get a double-digit series-opening win but they did buck the other trend as well. Tech earned their first ACC series sweep by beating the Eagles 6-4 thanks in part to a bases-clearing three-RBI double from Cade Hunter in the 7th inning.

This series win had Virginia Tech at 11-3 against the ACC since the starting 0-4 in conference play. They had vaulted high in the rankings up to #7 as a trip to Charlottesville for the Commonwealth Clash was just on the horizon. The 11th-ranked Cavaliers proved to arguably be Virginia Tech’s toughest test yet. But it was still a test the Hokies passed as they outlasted the Cavaliers in game one for the 5-2 victory. The streak of winning the second game of the series was broken as UVA took game two, jumping on Hackenberg in the 5th inning and winning 6-3.

But just how they drew it up, Virginia Tech made an epic comeback in the rubber match. The Hokies came back from a 0-4 hole thanks to the big-time hitting of Tanner Schobel, Gavin Cross, and Hurley.

Now with a Commonwealth Clash series win and the team’s first series victory over rival UVA in Charlottesville, these Hokies felt unstoppable. The penultimate ACC regular-season series took place at English Field against Louisville. In-game one, the Hokies were shelled by the Cardinals losing 8-1. A lot of teams would have let a loss like that sit for some time but not this team. No, Virginia Tech came right back swinging with a 4-3 win in game two and a rubber match victory by the score of 6-4.

A fifth ACC series win over a ranked opponent and the second top 10 series win put Virginia Tech baseball up to the number three team in all of college baseball. And it of course set up the final series win over Duke to clinch the ACC Coastal and complete this incredible comeback of a season. From a 0-4 ACC hole, Virginia Tech went 19-5 the rest of the way and gave Hokies fans another team on the diamond to be proud of.

In the upcoming ACC tournament, Virginia Tech will be the number one seed and in Pool A to start. Tech will be joined in Pool A by #8 North Carolina and #12 Clemson. The Hokies didn’t play Clemson in the regular season but did go 2-1 against UNC in their early April series.

Pool play starts Tuesday, May 24th and will go on until Friday, May 27th until the semi-finalists emerge with the Hokies starting on Thursday, May 26th. But before Virginia Tech travels to Charlotte, North Carolina to play in the ACC Tournament, they will enjoy what they accomplished in the regular season. Hokies baseball has never been better and they have something special brewing in Blacksburg.