The big question entering this past weekend’s road series at Florida State had to be this: could the Virginia Tech Hokies' baseball team stand tall without its leader on the mound?
The Hokies, who were coming off a sweep of Georgia Tech, followed by a deflating midweek loss to Radford, had lost 2022 All-ACC RHP Griffin Green to an elbow injury amid a 13-1 victory over the Yellow Jackets on April 16th.
With the diagnosis TBD after an evaluation on April 18th, head coach John Szefc revealed a second evaluation was set for Monday, April 24th, meaning Tech would be without Green for at least the weekend series in Tallahassee.
Instead, the Hokies (23-14, 10-10 ACC) opened the series by sending out senior RHP Anthony Arguelles for a second-straight Friday, where the Miami transfer went a career best 6.1 innings, while setting a personal high in strikeouts with seven.
Despite the impressive numbers, Friday night did not get off to a terrific start for Arguelles - who allowed four home runs in the first three innings, helping the Seminoles get off to a 5-0 start.
It looked like FSU (14-25, 5-16 ACC), who came into the weekend in the basement of the ACC, were well on their way to a victory on Friday night…until the “Hammering Hokies” arrived.
Virginia Tech really began to break through on Jackson Baumeister, who struck out nine Hokie batters in five innings pitched on Friday, in the fourth inning, where the Hokies had scored two runs, loading the bases for third baseman David Bryant in the nine-hole.
With one swing of the bat, Bryant hammered a ball to center field, clearing the bases, and tying the game at five with a triple.
The fourth inning produced just five of the Hokies 24 runs on the night, with Bryant and freshman catcher Brody Donay leading the charge.
The tandem combined for 13 runs batted in at the bottom of the order, as Donay went four-for-six at the dish, driving in seven runs on home runs seven and eight of 2023.
On the other hand, Bryant went wild, hitting for the Hokies' second cycle of 2023, and first since Chris Cannizzaro pulled it off against the Bryant Bulldogs on February 26th.
How did he do it? Well Bryant hit the game-changing triple in the fourth inning, followed by a single in the sixth inning, a three-run home run to right in the seventh, and a two out double in the top of the ninth.
The Hokies' offensive explosion would be enough to pull off a 24-9 comeback victory in which all Tech batters reached base safely at least once
VT followed up the series-opening win with a 4-3 win on Saturday to claim the Hokies first series in Tallahassee since 2010, while also claiming their third conference series victory in the past four.
The only downside to game two would be a hand injury to star center fielder Jack Hurley, who took a pitch off the hand late in the game and would be sidelined the remainder of the weekend. Timetable of the injury TBD as of now.
Saturday’s result was highlighted by a gem from sophomore RHP Drue Hackenberg, who tossed the program's first complete game since March 22, 2019, when now Tampa Bay Rays prospect Ian Seymour did it in 114 pitches.
Hackenberg was excellent on Saturday, finding his way out of jams while allowing only three runs on eleven hits and setting a career high with 12 strikeouts on the way to his fourth win of the season.
The past few weeks have showcased the Drue Hackenberg that Hokie fans had come to know in 2022, as the Preseason All-American has gone 3-0 in his last three outings, struck out 39, and allowed just four runs to ACC opponents Duke, Georgia Tech, and Florida State.
Virginia Tech was quieted on Sunday though, losing 4-3 in LHP Jonah Hurney’s first start and 15th appearance of the season.
The Hawaii native went three innings, allowing three runs on five hits, while punching out three Seminole batters. In relief of Hurney was freshman side-armer Jacob Exum, who picked up the loss despite an impressive 3.1 innings of work in which the six-foot-four freshman allowed just one run.
Fellow freshman Andrew Senlinger was also impressive, throwing the final 1.1 hitless, while striking out three of the four batters he faced.
Shortstop Clay Grady produced two runs, while Carson DeMartini knocked in the third Hokie run.
Following the series, Tech sits at .500 in conference play, and is two games back of the coastal lead despite a dreadful 2-7 start to conference play.
With three series remaining, versus North Carolina next weekend, Clemson May 12-14, and at No. 2 Wake Forest May 18-20, the Hokies are still very much in play for a second straight Coastal title, only time will tell.
More information on the injuries of Griffin Green (elbow) and Jack Hurley (hand) to come from The Tech Lunch Pail as we learn more.