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Virginia Tech Baseball Drops 2 of 3 Games at North Carolina

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

Forced to run the gauntlet in April, the Virginia Tech Hokies baseball team (27-14, 13-11 ACC), a ball-club that was once ranked No. 11 in the nation (per D1Baseball) and sat atop the Coastal division, has fallen short of its stellar start in March.

This past Saturday, the Hokies dropped their fourth straight series of the 2024 season, following a 7-0 record in weekend sets to begin the campaign.

At 13-11, Tech sits at fourth in the Coastal, four games behind the No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels (33-11, 17-7), whom the Hokies dropped two-of-three to in Chapel Hill over the weekend.

Friday night the series kicked off, with North Carolina welcoming Virginia Tech to Bryson Field in a loud way, taking the Hokies down 8-1.

The series opener, started by LHP Jeremy Neff (his second consecutive weekend start) began with a bang, as the Tar Heels scored six runs in the first four frames to knock the Richmond transfer out of the game.

In relief for Neff was Grant Manning, who delivered a career game out of the bullpen.

In five innings of work, Manning allowed five hits, four walks, two runs (one earned), while striking out a personal best of eight batters.

Unfortunately for the six-foot-six RHP, the Tech bats could not provide a ton of support on Friday, scoring just one run (five total hits) on a Carson DeMartini deep fly. The home run was the 18th of the year for DeMartini, a Golden Spikes nominee.

Friday was a story of Tar Heels hurler Jason Decaro having his way with the Hokies lineup, lasting seven innings on 105 pitches, allowing six total Tech batters to reach base, while punching out eight.

Virginia Tech also had four errors on Friday night, a surefire contributor to the loss.

On Saturday, North Carolina officially won the series, 6-3, after holding the Hokies scoreless for six innings, following one run via an Eddie Micheletti Jr. groundout in the first.

The Tar Heels staff was just very hard to hit, and hit consistently in this series, as Saturday starter Shea Sprague tossed 6.2 innings of one run ball, getting six batters on strikes - on 99 pitches.

The Hokies attempted to rally late, with Christian ‘Chick’ Martin blasting his sixth homer of the year over the right field wall, scoring David McCann, cutting the UNC lead to just three runs, yet Tech was unable to get any more runs across the plate.

Brett Renfrow, a mid-season Freshman All-American (Perfect Game), struggled in his start on Saturday, allowing ten North Carolina batters to get on base, as well as four runs in 5.1 innings of action.

Renfrow did manage to strike out five Tar Heels, prior to handing the game over to David Shoemaker, Jacob Stretch, and Matthew Siverling - who gave up a total of two runs and three hits across three innings.

With the threat of a sweep looming, the Hokies bounced back in Sunday’s series conclusion with a victory - thanks to Brady Kirtner (7-0) and Jordan Little, the ECU transfer that collected his sixth save of 2024.

Tech won game three 4-3, thanks to major contributions on offense via a first inning solo shot (3) from Ben Watson, who is now batting an astounding .406 - impressive considering the Division III Elizabethtown transfer has played in all 41 games this season.

In addition to Watson’s long ball, sophomore shortstop Clay Grady mashed his first home run of 2024, a two-run shot to left-center in the fourth that gave the Hokies a 3-2 lead.

Chris Cannizzaro extended that lead in the fifth, singling Watson home.

Usual Sunday starter Griffin Stieg departed in the opening inning of the series finale, due to an apparent hand/throwing arm injury.

The RHP was replaced by Jacob Exum, a sophomore that was able to last four innings for the Hokies, with just three runs to his name, it was an impressive long relief appearance from Exum.

Kirtner pitched the next 4.1 innings, punching out five, allowing just a run, before John Szefc and company handed the ball to Jordan Little, who collected a five-out save.

The Hokies, still a consensus tournament team despite the April skid, have some ground to make up in the ACC.

But this week - they’ll need to rack up some non-conference wins against North Carolina AT&T (Wednesday) as well as Ohio (Saturday and Sunday) in order to boost the team RPI, currently 38th in the country.

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