#4 Virginia Tech kicked off their 2022 NCAA Baseball Tournament with an offensive roller coaster against a familiar foe in Wright State but on a night where Tech's pitchers struggled, their bats did not on their way to victory.
The #4 Hokies beat Wright State 15-9 to advance in the winner's bracket where they'll face Columbia at 7pm on Saturday while Wright State will face Gonzaga who was upset by the Lions in an elimination game on Saturday at 1pm at English Field.
Tech's bats got off to a fast start with a two-run home run from Gavin Cross over the scoreboard getting things going before the Hokies added three more in the second and third innings including via a Cross RBI single, a Cross steal attempt turned pickle that brought Nick Biddison home from third with Cross still getting the steal, and a Cade Hunter solo home run.
With Tech up 5-0 through 3, this seemed poised to be one of the numerous 1 seed routs on the opening day of the 2022 NCAA Baseball Tournament. However, Wright State had other ideas with 2 runs in the fourth thanks to five-straight singles with Hackenberg rallying to limit the damage.
Then they put up 3 more in the fifth to begin the bullpen churn with Hackenberg taken out in the 5th without getting a out that inning. This included Henry Weycker coming in briefly before Graham Firoved stopped the Raiders' run in a top of the 5th but not till after the game was tied heading to the bottom of the 5th.
However, the Hokies' powerful bats had answer in a variety of ways starting with a one-out RBI double from Carson Jones after Jack Hurley and Cade Hunter got on base to get things rolling. From there, Tech used small ball to their advantage with back-to-back safety squeeze bunts turned run-scoring plays from Lucas Donlon and Carson DeMartini who both reached first as well. Nick Biddison and Gavin Cross added to their big nights with RBI singles to grow Tech's lead to 10-5, a lead that wouldn't be surpassed the rest of the way.
Things would get tight with Wright State gaining three runs in the top of the sixth innings while churning out Firoved and Jonah Hurney. However, the Hokies eventually found their bullpen answer in Christian Worley who came in and led Tech out of the jam with minimal damage allowed given the situation.
From there, Worley was dominant with an impressive 3.1 innings of work pitching into the 9th while only allowing one run (which came on a hit in the 9th after he left) plus 2 hits and 2 walks to go with 5 strikeouts including all 3 outs in the 6th inning.
Meanwhile, Tech picked up what felt like an important insurance run in the 7th that all started with a leadoff Nick Biddison single with Tech's table setting veteran stealing second and third base, his 2nd and 3rd stolen bases of the night. Jack Hurley would capitalize after a Tanner Schobel one-out walk via a sac fly that brought Biddison home to make it 11-8.
Of course, Tech went on to add 4 more runs in the bottom of the 8th inning starting with RBI ground rule doubles from Carson Jones and Carson DeMartini. Tech's stars of the night added their own touch as well with Nick Biddison having a RBI single and Gavin Cross adding an RBI double. While Wright State would add one more in the 9th inning, the Raiders didn't get much going to make it seem like a remote comeback was even possible.
Likely future first round pick Gavin Cross was big in his postseason debut going an impressive 5-6 with 5 RBIs including a two-run home run, a RBI double, and 2 RBI singles. Veteran leadoff hitter Nick Biddison also had a massive game reaching base in all six plate appearances with 5 singles and a HBP in the first inning plus a RBI while also scoring a team-high 4 times with Cross taking advantage of much of Biddison's successful table setting at the leadoff spot.
Carson Jones also had a strong night going 2-4 with 2 RBIs plus a walk while Carson DeMartini went 2-5 with 2 RBIs, and Cade Hunter was 2-4 including his solo home run plus a walk. Firoved was credited with the win though Christian Worley was undoubtedly the difference maker on the mound for the Hokies.
While it wasn't the night Virginia Tech's pitching staff hoped for, the Hokies' loaded offense once again shined and carried Tech to the opening victory.
Now, Tech will take on a Columbia team with lots of momentum after their upset win over Gonzaga though one that has a similar profile to Wright State with a good offense but not much on the pitching front.
The good news for the Hokies is that their pitching should be better than tonight's rough night given what we've seen all year from them, but Tech's hammers are still firing on all cylinders enough to carry the Hokies to victories in this regional even when the pitching staff is having one of their worst games of the season.