The middle innings were tough for #4 Virginia Tech last night with Wright State charging back to tie it at 5 in the 5th before the Hokies used a 5-run bottom of the 5th inning to take the lead for good.
Tonight, the middle innings proved extremely fruitful for the Hokies on their way to the regional final having 2 games to win 1 to advance to their first super regionals.
#4 Virginia Tech beat Columbia 24-4 led by a 14-run fourth inning which is the most in the ACC-era for the Hokies, but didn't break the school record of 17 runs in a single inning set against Howard in 1989. Columbia will get a rematch against Gonzaga at 1pm with the winner taking on the Hokies at 7pm in the first of potentially 2 regional final games.
With the win, Virginia Tech is now 1 win away from making history and reaching their first Super Regionals in program history. Doing that would undoubtedly cement this Virginia Tech team as the best baseball team in school history with the Hokies certainly having loads of confidence offensively after 39 runs in their first two games.
There were plenty of stars starting with birthday boy Tanner Schobel who went 3-4 with 3 RBIs while adding 2 walks. This came after a tough game for Schobel against Wright State with this bounce back game being a reminder of why he was a semifinalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award.
Gavin Cross had another big game going 3-5 including a two-run home run while Jack Hurley went 3-6 with 3 RBIs and Carson DeMartini had a three-run triple plus 3 walks in 7 plate appearances on the night. Cade Hunter and Carson Jones were each 2-4 with 2 RBIs while Nick Biddison had a quiet 1-6 game plus a walk after reaching in all 6 plate appearances last night. However, that one hit was a two-run, inside-the-park home run on a ball that the left fielder lost in the lights in that wild fourth inning.
Conor Hartigan went 2-5 with 2 RBIs while even backup catcher Gehrig Ebel got in the game and on the scoreboard with a two-run home run. While Griffin Green struggled in 2 innings giving up 2 runs, Jordan Geber and Ryan Okuda stepped up big as Geber went 3 innings only allowing 1 run while striking out 3 with Okuda going 2 innings striking out 3 while only allowing 1 hit.
It looked like a tight game early, but the Hokies relied on a big fourth inning that got bigger thanks to some outfield issues for Columbia to blow this game wide open and then hit cruise control with a steady stream of runs after.
While the Hokies did blow previously projected Sunday starter Geber in this game, Tech's rout allowed them to avoid using any of their top available bullpen arms. That sets the stage for Tech to have Kiernan Higgins, Graham Firoved Christian Worley, Henry Weycker, Jonah Hurney, and Ryan Metz available tomorrow with Metz likely to get the start for the Hokies.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech bats are firing on all cylinders to say the least, and will likely face a depleted pitching staff working on its fourth game in three days and second game of the day from either Columbia or Gonzaga.
For the Hokies, tomorrow looks like it very well could be the day where history is made and #4 Virginia Tech reaches their first Super Regionals in program history with an offense ready to power Tech's way to it.
For more on how this game played out, check out our inning-by-inning recap below.
Inning By Inning Recap
The Hokies once again got on the board first with Carson Jones walking home with the bases loaded with 2 outs to give Tech a 1-0 lead. However, Tech struggled to convert on opportunities early leaving 6 runners on base in the first 3 innings including the bases loaded in the first after an Eduardo Malinowski fly out to end the top of the 1st.
Meanwhile, Griffin Green struggled allowing 2 runs in the second inning before getting pulled prior to the start of the 3rd inning with Tech bringing in Sunday's previously projected starter Jordan Geber. Geber stabilized things though in the 3rd giving up a walk before getting a double play and then another ground out.
However, the potential tight game turned quickly into a rout after a spectacular offensive fourth inning for the Hokies.
It all started with a Conor Hartigan single with Hartigan advancing to 2nd on a wild pitch before they loaded the bases after Carson DeMartini walked and Nick Biddison was a hit by pitch. After a strikeout by Gavin Cross and a pitching change from starter JD Ogden to Graham Pelfrey, birthday boy Tanner Schobel got the massive inning going with a bases-clearing double to take a 4-2 lead for the Hokies.
Things were just getting started as Jack Hurley then brought home Schobel with a RBI single followed by a Cade Hunter single to give Tech runners at the corners with a Carson Jones single bringing Hurley home. Then Malinowski and Hartigan walked to bring home another run making it 7-2 with Pelfrey coming out and Camron Hubble coming to a bases loaded situation for Columbia.
Carson DeMartini kept it rolling with a bases-clearing triple to make it 10-2 Hokies at that point with the chaos about to hit another level.
Nick Biddison hit a fly ball that seemed like a routine one, but instead was lost in the lights dropping tens of feet away from the left fielder with Biddison flying around the bases for a two-run inside the park home run to make it 12-2. Now it's important to note that Columbia doesn't have lights at their stadium nor do many Ivy League teams with the Lions rarely playing at night.
That was not the only ball lost in the lights as the Columbia left fielder lost another one with the next hitter though that one wasn't as far away becoming a triple for Gavin Cross. Schobel then walked with Jack Hurley bringing home Cross on a RBI single that advanced Schobel to 2nd. Hurley and Schobel would advance to 2nd and 3rd on a wild pitch with Hunter hitting what would be the third lost ball in the lights for Columbia between three players becoming a two-run double to make it 15-2. Carson Jones would add a walk but Tech would bring in no more runs in 4th inning that was simply insane as the numbers show.
Stats on the #Hokies' 14-run 4th inning:— Tim Thomas (@TimThomasTLP) June 5, 2022
5 extra-base hits
3 balls lost in the lights that became hits (Biddison HR, Cross triple, Hunter double)
1 HBP https://t.co/g40eJ99bX3
Yeah, one of the most insane offensive half innings you'll likely ever see in postseason baseball to say the least.
Columbia would add a solo home run from Skye Selinsky in the bottom of the 4th to make it 15-3, but the Hokies' offense kept rolling.
The fifth inning saw Tech add 3 more runs after Columbia brought in Brandon Madrigal as Gavin Cross hit a two-run home run down the right field line that may have cleared the road bullpen. Then, Jack Hurley brought home Schobel on a ground out after Schobel had hit a double and advanced to third on a passed ball to make it 18-3.
After a 3 up, 3 down bottom of the 5th inning, Tech kept it rolling in the 6th inning against Phil Healy with Carson Jones walking and Eduardo Malinowski hitting a single with Malinowski getting to 2nd and Jones to 3rd after a fielding error in left. Conor Hartigan then brought home Jones on a ground out with Carson DeMartini walking and then Nick Biddison bringing home Malinowski on a fielder's choice gone wrong as Healy through the grounder back to him into center, making it 20-3.
Jordan Geber would be taken out going into the bottom of the 6th for Ryan Okuda after Geber had 3 strong innings allowing only 1 run, 2 hits, and 1 walk with 2 strikeouts. Geber only threw 48 pitches so there's a chance that Geber would be available if the regional final went two games to Monday. Meanwhile, Gehrig Ebel came in for Cade Hunter as the Hokies' gave their standout catcher the rest of the night off.
Tech kept it going following an Okuda 3 up, 3 down bottom of the 6th inning in the top of the 7th with Gehrig Ebel being hit by a pitch and Carson Jones singling to start. Then, the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd on a one-out sac fly from Conor Hartigan with a wild pitch bringing home Ebel to make it 21-3.
After Okuda had a solid 7th inning giving up only one baserunner via a double while striking out the final 2 batters, Tech kept it rolling against now Justin Tucker in the 8th inning with one-out walks from Nick Holsea and Lucas Donlon. Then with 2 outs, Tucker had back-to-back wild pitches to bring Holsea home and Donlon to third. Backup catcher Gehrig Ebel added on to it with a two-run home run to left field to make it 24-3.
Tech followed that home run with a Carson Jones walk, Christian Martin single, and Conor Hartigan walk to load the bases leading to another Columbia pitching change from Justin Tucker to Will Parkinson. Parkinson was able to get Carson DeMartini to end the top of the 8th inning.
Sean Fisher would come in for the bottom of the 8th inning after Ryan Okuda finished with 2 scoreless innings allowing only 1 hit while striking out 3. Fisher struggled as Alex Krylov walked with 1 out followed by John San Jule reaching because of a throwing error Anton Lazits and Joshua Solomon walking after that bringing home a run to make it 24-4. That led to another pitching in the bottom of the 8th with Grant Umberger replacing Fisher.
Umberger came in and got the final 2 outs to end the 8th inning via a strikeout and ground out without Columbia adding another run.
Tech got a Nick Biddison walk to start the 9th inning but were unable to do anything with it, their first scoreless inning since the 3rd. Umberger gave up a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 9th followed by a strikeout before coming out for Brady Kirtner after Umberger went 1 inning with 2 strikeouts and 1 walk. Kirtner finished the game off with back-to-back strikeouts.