In 2022, Virginia Tech baseball had a program altering year.
The Hokies went 45-14, finished the regular season tied for first in the Coastal division of the ACC, and had the chance to host an NCAA regional for the first time since 2013, in addition to a Blacksburg super regional for the first time in school history.
With all of that success, there came some losses, as players graduate, transfer, and in the 2022 team’s case, get drafted.
The Hokies put their stamp on the MLB Draft, with five key players being selected in the first-year player draft.
Two of those drafted were outfielders Gavin Cross (9th overall to the Kansas City Royals - highest player drafted in Tech history) and Nick Biddison (135th overall to the Los Angeles Dodgers).
So, with two big holes to fill, sixth year head coach John Szefc and his staff set out to find 2022 All-ACC first teamer Jack Hurley some partners in the outfield.
One name the staff had already received a commitment from was Chris Cannizzaro - a graduate transfer outfielder from Bucknell. The four year starter at Bucknell chose Tech over programs like Duke, Florida Atlantic, Penn State, Richmond, and Rugters.
Ironically, Cannizzaro not only ended up Hurley’s outfield mate, but also his roommate.
“Those are my roommates, so I love them,” said Hurley preseason on Cannizzaro and Radford transfer David Bryant. “They’re really consistent players,” proclaimed the preseason Golden Spikes watch list member.
Cannizzaro, a five-foot-ten 175 pound native of Staten Island, had a stellar career as a Bucknell Bison. The outfielder was named to the All-Patriot league in both 2021 and 2022, and came to Blacksburg as a career .328 hitter.
When the 2023 season came rolling around, Cannizzaro had set himself apart, and was named the opening day left fielder for Tech’s first game on the road against College of Charleston.
“It’s definitely really different…everything is a lot bigger and blown out of proportion…it’s been really easy [the transition to Tech], the guys have made it easy for me, made it feel like home,” Cannizzaro said of the adjustments he’s made between Bucknell and Virginia Tech.
“I think there’s a lot more pieces of the puzzle…with nutrition, a weight lifting staff, just stuff we didn’t have at Bucknell.”
Despite a 5-2 opening day loss, Cannizzaro showcased the hitting he had shown for four years in college, singling from the leadoff spot.
Now, nearly a month after that February 17 loss, the No. 17 Hokies sit at 12-4, having just concluded a 13 game homestand in which they went 10-3.
Cannizzaro was a big part of that.
The transfer paces Virginia Tech in just about every offensive stat, hitting .461 with five homers and twenty RBIs. He also leads the nation in hits with 35 in 16 games - no big deal or anything.
“Really fine hitter,” Szefc said of Cannizzaro. “He’s a really good part of what we have going on offensively and the fact that he’s a right-handed hitter amongst all the lefties we have makes it that much better.”
The most impressive part of the homestand was a stretch from February 26th to March 8th during which the left fielder had at least three hits in seven-straight games.
The tear began in game three of the first series at home, when Cannizzaro hit for the cycle in six innings to help Tech defeat Bryant and take the series.
Cannizzaro went 5-6 with two homers, in what was the first cycle hit by a Hokie since Cross - one of the hitters Cannizzaro was brought in to replace, did it in 2021.
“That’s a pretty special day,” said Szefc regarding the cycle. “You rarely see the cycle..that’s a day that people should really enjoy…to get the cycle within six innings, that’s the story within the story.”
Following the stellar performance, Cannizzaro totaled 20 hits over the next six games, winning ACC Player of the Week along the way.
Clearly an impact player from the get go, it will be interesting to see if Cannizzaro can keep up his hot start to the season, as Virginia Tech dives into ACC play.
But it’s no secret that Cannizzaro was brought in to help this team accomplish what it fell just short of in 2022, a trip to Omaha, and the College World Series. And it's clear that Chris Cannizzaro could help the Hokies reach the pinnacle of the sport this year.