With the tying run standing on first, and No. 5 Virginia Tech in desperate need of some late game heroics trailing Liberty 1-0, Penn graduate transfer Eduardo Malinowski stepped up to the dish.
With a slightly open stance and a tad bit of a crouch, Malinowski strutted into the right-handed batter’s box wagging his bat just above his shoulder, looking to break the ice and erase the one-run deficit.
The first pitch - taken for a ball on the outside. A costly one at that. The 85 mile per hour fastball nicked off the glove of catcher Gray Betts, allowing Tanner Schobel to scamper into scoring position.
That set up the 1-0 - another fastball, chopped down the third base line.
There’s no way right-handed hurler Dylan Cumming would go back to the same pitch for the third time, right?
The 1-1 - fastball on the outside corner, poked through the right side for a base hit. Tie ball game.
The next batter? A first pitch single for the always dangerous Cade Hunter.
It’s Christian Martin’s turn now, he draws a six-pitch walk.
Then comes Lucas Donlon. Bases loaded. Two outs. Winning run just 90 feet away.
The McLean, Va. native had rarely seen any action early on in the 2022 campaign. But ever since stepping in as the starting first baseman, the right-handed hitting sophomore has produced at a high level. Now was just another chance.
After falling behind 1-2 in the count, Donlon stepped back in from the right side, crouched in his stance, waved his bat high in the air, and made reliever Cade Hungate pay for a hanging curveball that he smacked into left field for a walk-off single, propelling the Hokies (34-10, 14-8 ACC) to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Flames (30-17, 16-8 ASUN) to sweep the two-game season series.
The win also marked the maroon and orange’s second consecutive walk-off victory after taking down Villanova on Sunday on a Carson DeMartini game-winning double, while also serving as Tech’s 14th win in 16 tries.
It didn’t come with ease, though. The Hokies had just two hits through the first eight frames. And although Tech hadn’t surrendered an earned run all evening long, it looked as if it was going to be a wasted effort from the guys on the mound.
Through Jordan Geber (3.0 IP), Ryan Metz (3.0 IP), Christian Worley (2.0 IP) and Kiernan Higgins (1.0 IP), Virginia Tech was able to hold Liberty to just three hits throughout the duration of the contest.
And though it wasn’t the offensive showcase from Tech that fans are accustomed to seeing, John Szefc’s club just continues to find a way. As the Hokies just keep proving why they’re one of the nation’s best in 2022, and are now poised to host the program’s first regional since 2013 - Pete Hughes’ final season at the helm.
The job isn’t finished, though. The sights are now set on securing a top-8 seed. And with the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals (34-13-1, 15-8-1 ACC) coming to town this upcoming weekend, what a perfect opportunity to inch even closer.
Sure, hosting a regional would be quite the big deal. But if the Hokies can sneak into that top-8 seed line and can get through the regional round, an NCAA Super Regional awaits in Blacksburg for the first time in program history.
For a team once thought of to finish near the bottom of the ACC Coastal Division, Virginia Tech’s road to Omaha now runs through its own backyard.
And for a program that has yet to even sniff the College World Series, to be able to take that next step within the confines of English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park, would be a story that itself would be well worth writing.
Now it’s just up to the Hokies to tell it.