The past few weeks for Virginia Tech baseball have been quite the change of pace from where the team stood in March.
Following a 9-5 defeat to the Virginia Cavaliers on March 31, the Hokies sat at a mere 2-8 in conference play. Now, nearly a month later, Tech has managed to turn its season around, sitting at 25-14 overall including 11-10 in the ACC following a 7-0 series-opening victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels (25-17, 9-11 ACC).
Dealing with injuries across the diamond, the Hokies' turnaround was unexpected, but the resilience of John Szefc’s team has been impressive.
“It’s been a lot of stuff,” said Szefc on the keys to Virginia Tech’s turnaround. “It’s been starting pitching, it’s been getting really good bullpen pieces…we’ve gotten a lot of timely hitting…you’ve gotten other contributors [to step up with injuries to Jack Hurley, Griffin Green, Carson DeMartini].”
The key in today’s shutout victory: the performance of senior RHP Anthony Arguelles.
Arguelles, a transfer from Miami, has been excellent since claiming the Friday role for the Hokies against Georgia Tech due to a weird scheduling week that pushed Griffin Green to the weekend in his final start before suffering an injury.
Following an outing against Florida State last Frida, in which he set career highs in both innings pitched (6.1) and strikeouts (7), Arguelles stifled the UNC bats with a killer curve and slider combo, striking out seven batters - all swinging.
In 7.1 (new career high) innings of shutout baseball, Arguelles tossed 104 pitches, allowing just five hits and two walks before receiving a standing ovation when Szefc pulled him in the eighth inning.
For Arguelles, who began the season as the Sunday starter, he is now pitching for more people than just himself, noting the elbow injury that has left Griffin Green sidelined has inspired him to be better.
“I’m definitely not pitching for myself…I’m pitching for other people like Griffin [Green], Griffin Stieg, one of my friends who passed away in high school just to keep those people with me,” said Arguelles on his mentality since taking over the Friday role.
Arguelles has lowered his ERA to 5.00 on the season, and with the win today, he holds a record of 2-1 in ten starts to go along with 43 strikeouts in 2023 - 2nd for the Hokies only to Drue Hackenberg.
Following the standout performance from Arguelles, Brady Kirtner got to see his first action in two weeks, throwing the final 1.2 innings, striking out three UNC batters, allowing just two baserunners.
Kirtner has been solid out of the bullpen in 2023, and has the ‘stuff’ to keep Tech in any game down the line.
As for the bats, the Hokies were without Jack Hurley (hit by pitch - hand) for the third-straight outing, with Szefc unsure if the All-American outfielder will suit up this weekend.
It didn’t seem to matter though, as the Hokes brought out the hammer on UNC starter Connor Bovair and reliever Will Sandy three times.
Tech put up a three spot on the Tar Heels in the second inning to get the scoring going, thanks to a two-run double from Eddie Eisert and an RBI single from David Bryant.
Bryant, who has been on a tear since re-entering the lineup at third base due to Carson DeMartini’s shoulder injury, tacked on two more RBI’s in the fourth, hitting a moonshot right over Mac Horvath’s glove in right-center for his fifth homer of the year.
More insurance came in the eighth as both Brody Donay (8) and Christian Martin (2) homered to put the Tar Heels away.
Tech continues to stay hot even as injuries have mounted due in large part to how this team has rallied around each other.
“I think we’re a really tight knit group,” said Bryant on why the Hokies haven’t folded despite the plethora of injuries they’ve had to deal with in 2023. “Injuries are unfortunate, but you can’t really do anything about it, you gotta pretty much move on.”
Bryant and the Hokies will attempt to take their fourth ACC series of the season with a double-header set for Saturday. First pitch of game one will be at 2:30 with game two at 7:00 on ACC Network.