After Oklahoma's Jake Bennett and Trevin Michael quieted Virginia Tech's powerful offensive in the opener of the Blacksburg Super Regional, the Hokies' bats found their rhythm in Game 2 to force a winner-take-all Game 3 for a spot in the Men's College World Series.
#4 Virginia Tech beat Oklahoma 14-8 with Jonah Hurney getting the win after a strong 4 innings of relief to improve to 6-1 while David Sandlin took the loss to fall to 8-4 on the season.
After going 0-7 with runners in scoring position in game 1, Virginia Tech's offense was timely in Game 2 as they were 4-8 with runners in scoring position plus 7-15 with two outs with that two-out hitting turning into 4 runs. They also only left 6 runners on base while Oklahoma left 9 on the game.
The middle innings which were fruitful last weekend proved fruitful again today with Tech having a 7-2 advantage in that stretch thanks to 4 runs in the 5th and 3 runs in the 6th.
Meanwhile, Jonah Hurney came out of the bullpen after a tough 3rd inning for starter Drue Hackenberg and brief appearance for Christian Worley and was dominated going a career-high 4 innings with a career-high 7 strikeouts while only allowing 1 run and 2 hits. Hurney's performance was huge for the Hokies in not only stabilizing the game after a good 2 innings went bad in the 3rd for Hackenberg but also preserving the rest of Tech's bullpen for tomorrow.
Tech's bats had plenty of star players today including freshman Carson DeMartini who was 3-4 reaching base in his first four plate appearances while scoring twice and driving home 1 run. He also scored all the way from 1st base on a stolen base attempt that Cade Hunter also had a big game going 3-4 scoring 3 times and driving in two runs via a third inning home run that made it 5-0 while Nick Biddison went 3-5 with a pair of solo home runs plus a walk in what was a strong performance for Tech's veteran leadoff hitter.
Gavin Cross went 2-5 driving in 2 runs off his two-run home run while Carson Jones added 2 RBIs and Eduardo Malinowski also drove in a run off a sacrifice bunt. Conor Hartigan reached base 3 times thanks to a 1-3 day with 2 walks while Tanner Schobel added a solo home run and Jack Hurley went 1-4 but scored twice and had a walk along with Schobel.
Tech held Oklahoma's star duo of Peyton Graham and Tanner Tredaway to a 2-8 day at the plate with only 2 RBIs including one of those coming off a bases loaded walk to Graham. Jimmy Crooks and Blake Robertson led the way for the Sooners with 2 RBIs each. The Hokies did chase David Sandlin from the game earlier as he only went 3.2 innings giving up 5 runs, 6 hits, and 2 walks though he did strike out 6.
For the Hokies, it was a vintage offensive performance for this team that may be known by many for their hammer, but that hammer's rise to fame wouldn't be without the offense that doesn't require its presence to put on a show even if it's absence is an unnecessary decision by the NCAA.
Hurney's big performance today means he's out for tomorrow, but does preserve a strong bullpen of Kiernan Higgins, Graham Firoved, Christian Worley, Ryan Metz, and potentially Henry Weycker behind having regular Sunday starter Jordan Geber to lead the way. Oklahoma's bullpen has always been thinner but they'll have star closer Trevin Michael (who could start) and Carter Campbell, their only other reliever with an ERA under 5, available along with likely starter Cade Horton who has pitched better lately for the Sooners.
Now, the stage is set for a winner-take-all Game 3 between #4 Virginia Tech and red hot Oklahoma with a spot in the Men's College World Series in Omaha on the line at 1pm tomorrow. Oklahoma has been red hot since their late season surge that started with winning the Big 12 Tournament, but Virginia Tech's elite offense continues to fire on all cylinders and holds the advantage on paper entering tomorrow.
But there's a reason why they play the games and don't simulate them given the pressures and stakes that can cause players to either struggle or rise to the occasion as both teams seek to reach college baseball's grandest stage.
Tech's bats got off to a very quick with Nick Biddison sending the second pitch of the game out of the park for a solo home run to give the Hokies a 1-0 lead. However, David Sandlin found his rhythm for the Sooners after that while Drue Hackenberg was dominant over the first 2 innings of this game.
Things got going in the 3rd inning for both teams though starting with the Hokies as Carson DeMartini had a leadoff double followed two hitters later by Gavin Cross who hit a two-run home run over the right center fence to extend their lead to 3-0. Tech kept it going with two outs as Jack Hurley walked and then Cade Hunter added another two-run home run to right field to make it 5-0.
However, Oklahoma's bats turned it back around in the bottom of the 3rd to stay in it starting with a Brett Squires HBP to lead off and a John Spikerman one out walk. Squires then advanced to third on a long foul pop out to set it up for Blake Robertson who drove home Squires with a RBI single. Tanner Tredaway then loaded the bases after a HBP with Jimmy Crooks hitting a two-run single to make it 5-3. Hackenberg then walked Wallace Clark before being pulled in favor of Christian Worley who stepped up and got a strikeout to get out of a bases loaded jam.
After the Hokies were unable to turn a pair of two-out singles into runs in the top of the 4th after Carter Campbell struck out Gavin Cross coming in for Sandlin, Brett Squires led off the bottom of the 4th with a solo home run before a walk to Kendall Pettis led to a pitching change to Jonah Hurney with Tech only up 5-4.
That's when things changed in a big way back again in Tech's favor as Hurney got three-straight outs to get out of the jam. Tanner Schobel kept the momentum going immediately with a leadoff solo home run. After getting a couple runners on after that, Oklahoma had a pair of passed balls that advanced Carson Jones to 3rd and Cade Hunter to home from 2nd with one from Campbell and one from Carson Atwood.
Tech followed that with a Conor Hartigan walk before an Eduardo Malinowski sac bunt brought home Jones and advanced Hartigan to 2nd with Carson DeMartini driving Hartigan home with a RBI single to make it 9-4.
Tanner Tredaway cut Tech's lead down to 9-5 with a solo home run, but Hurney bounced back with 3-straight outs. Carson Jones then turned a runners on the corners into 2 runs first with a RBI single with the bases loaded to bring home Cross and Hurley, and move Hunter to 3rd before a double steal had Jones out at 2nd but Hunter able to take home without a throw to make it 12-5.
Meanwhile, Hurney was on cruise control in the 6th and 7th innings striking out 4 while only allowing one baserunner via a leadoff double to Peyton Graham in the bottom of the 7th. Tech added one more on to make it 13-5 in the top of the 7th after Carson DeMartini walked, stole 2nd with an errant throw going into the outfield allowing him to advanced to 3rd, and then an errant throw from the center field allowing him to advance to home.
Hurney's day was done after a career high 4 innings with Tech sending in Ryan Metz to start the bottom of the 8th inning, but he struggled as he gave up a walk to Wallace Clark and single to Jackson Nicklaus to lead off the inning before Kendall Pettis had a one-out single to drive home Clark and send Nicklaus to 3rd.
Tech then brought in Graham Firoved who walked back-to-back hitters to load the bases and bring home a run leading to another pitching change to Kiernan Higgins. Higgins locked things getting a ground out from Blake Robertson that did bring home a run followed by a fly out from Tanner Tredaway to send it to the 9th with the Hokies up 13-8.
Nick Biddison added an extra insurance run to make it 14-8 with his second home run of the day, a solo home run that tied the school record for most home runs in an NCAA postseason game at 2 before Higgins came in to finish it off in the bottom of the 9th with a fly out plus a pair of strikeouts split by a single and steal to end the game.