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Virginia Tech Baseball Comes Up Short at James Madison 8-7

VT Baseball Team 1 Charlotte 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics
Ryan Duvall | @RyanGDuvall
Writer/Baseball Beat Reporter

Well that was exciting, or at least the last three innings were.

On Wednesday, the Virginia Tech Hokies baseball team (2-2) dropped the first midweek game of the season to the James Madison Dukes (2-3) 8-7 in a back-and-forth affair.

On the bump for the Hokies was Madden Clement, a six-foot-two freshman hurler from Butler, Pennsylvania.

Clement pitched just a third of an inning in relief over the weekend against Charlotte, striking out one of the two batters he faced.

However, on Wednesday, the Dukes got to him early, forcing the southpaw making his first career start to exit after just 1.2 innings of work, having given up four runs, three hits, and two walks on 37 pitches.

Ole Miss transfer Jordan Vera was also hit hard today, going 2.1 innings in relief, allowing three hits, a walk, and two earned runs.

Redshirt junior Brady Kirtner, who returned to school after turning down the MLB this offseason, shined in two innings of work. He struck out two batters, while allowing just two baserunners and keeping his outing scoreless.

For the Dukes, it was Donovan Burke on the hill in Harrisonburg. Burke - a left handed graduate student made the quality start - despite earning a no decision.

On the way to his six innings pitched, Burke tied a career high in punchouts with seven, gave up six hits, two walks, and just two runs on 79 pitches.

Those two runs allowed by Burke were a Carson DeMartini RBI single; one of four on the day for the junior third baseman, and a home-run for Eddie Micheletti Jr., the first as a Hokie for the George Washington transfer.

Tech really got going at the dish once Burke departed from the game. Down 6-2 in the seventh, Henry Cooke (who got the start at catcher; going 3-for-3 in the process) got on base for Carson DeMartini to launch a deep fly to right field; in the process making it a 6-4 ball game via DeMartini’s second home run of 2024.

Next at-bat, Chris Cannizzaro hit a blooper that got lost in the shallow outfield for a double, which set up a Garrett Michel RBI double to make the midweek matchup a one-run game.

In the eighth inning, shortstop Clay Grady singled in the tying run, leading to a Carson DeMartini sacrifice fly to take an 8-7 lead with six outs remaining in the ball game.

Unfortunately, the comeback would not last all nine innings. In the bottom half of the eighth, Dukes third basemen Wyatt Peifer bunted in a run with bases-loaded (one of four bunts James Madison laid down on Wednesday).

And in the bottom of the ninth, with the Hokies desperately trying to force extra innings, Jacob Stretch loaded the bases for a second straight inning, forcing Tech head coach John Szefc to pull him for sophomore Jacob Exum. That unfortunately didn't hold back JMU. In the next at bat, Exum gave up a single to right field from JMU shortstop Coleman Calebrese, officially ending the ball game as a loss for Virginia Tech.

The loss in the first midweek game of the season was one that the Hokies really could have won, hitting a plethora of hard balls in the early portion of the game, that just ended up in the gloves of the Dukes.

Additionally, the pitching staff, with a lot of new names and little-to-no ACC experience, has some work to do before conference play starts.

The Hokies and Dukes will face off once more this season, with that game taking place in Blacksburg on May 14th.

For Virginia Tech, the team will be at home at English Field for the first official home series of the season against Rhode Island.

First pitch on Friday is set for 4pm.

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