Virginia Tech Baseball Sweeps UNC Asheville, No Contest Against ETSU

Virginia Tech Baseball Sweeps UNC Asheville, No Contest Against ETSU
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics

Andy Loce | @Andy_Loce15

TLP: Writer
Feb 24, 2022

Don’t let the chilly air of the New River Valley distract you from the fact that Virginia Tech Baseball is back, and the new season is off to a hot start with a three-game sweep over UNC Asheville this past weekend.

The offense took notice on the opening weekend, as they registered a .393 batting average that was led by outfielders Nick Biddison and Jack Hurley, who each went 5-12 over the weekend.

Biddison, who dealt with a nagging shoulder injury in 2021, started the series off with back-to-back multi-hit games while Hurley closed out the weekend with a perfect 3-3 afternoon on Sunday.

The third member of the outfield, Gavin Cross, had a productive start to the weekend as he ripped a triple into right field in his first at-bat to go 2-3 on the day; but was sidelined for the remainder of the series after suffering a wrist injury when sliding into third base, per Chris Hirons of Tech Sideline.

Despite the slight concern of Cross' injury moving forward, there were still some special moments at English Field over the three-games series.

No moment stood bigger than Carson DeMartini’s first collegiate at-bat in the second inning of Friday’s season opener. On his first ever pitch, the Virginia Beach native drilled the ball straight over dead-center to whip out the hammer for the first time on the year.

The freshman wasn’t done just yet on the weekend as he delivered another big shot on Saturday, a three-run blast in the sixth inning, to give the Hokies a comfortable edge over the Bulldogs. Then on Sunday, DeMartini recorded his first multi-hit game with a 2-4 outing.

Along with the third baseman’s big weekend; Tanner Schobel, Eduardo Malinowski, and Conor Hartigan each collected four hits in three appearances over the weekend.

While not being on the lineup for the series finale, catcher Cade Hunter had an incredible start to the season with a 4-4 outing in the season opener on Friday. In the performance, the sophomore knocked two solo home runs in back-to-back at-bats in addition to his two doubles to give himself a game-high five RBIs.

The Mount Laurel, N.J. native finished five of seven on the weekend for an unofficial team-best .714 batting average.

In a dominant offensive showing where the Hokies reached double digits on two separate occasions, that wasn’t expected to be the main focus of what the Hokies and their fans were intrigued to see on the opening weekend.

After losing their entire weekend rotation to the MLB Draft, the pitching department was presented with an opportunity to display what they could bring to Blacksburg.

That meant that manager John Szefc had to turn to some new arms for the 2022 season, and he tested out three pitchers who tossed five innings in each one of their outings.

Sophomore right-hander Griffin Green got the nod to get the season underway on the hill, while senior left-hander Ryan Okuda was given the ball on Saturday before freshman right-hander Drue Hackenberg closed out the series.

Green, whose longest stretch on the hill in 2021 was 2.2 innings, looked comfortable in his first collegiate start while allowing two hits against the 15 batters he faced. Despite hitting one UNC Asheville batter, the Chelmsford, Mass. native notched five strikeouts to secure the win.

The best performance on the rubber this weekend came from the most experienced pitcher on the staff in Okuda. Now in his fifth season at Tech, the Gibsonia, Pa. native made a case that he is the man this season with a weekend-best eight punchouts, while allowing only one hit to start the season, 1-0.

Lastly with Hackenberg, one of the top additions to the roster in 2022, the Miller School graduate allowed only a single hit in his first collegiate appearance to go along with his four strikeouts. The Lehighton, Pa. native would say that’s a pretty good way to start his time in Blacksburg with it ending as the first victory of his career.

After each starter got a lengthy opportunity on the mound, the bullpen got involved in the action with 11 relievers making their season debuts over the weekend.

Jonah Hurney, Kiernan Higgins, and Henry Weycker were the only pitchers who got multiple innings of work during the series, but the overall performance from the pitching staff was impressive as the Hokies produced a 2.67 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP.

As the weekend came to an end, the Hokies had a quick turnaround for a mid-week matchup against ETSU on Tuesday afternoon.

But, after 3.5 innings of play, the rain rolled into Blacksburg and the game was put into a 100-minute delay before the umpires called off the game. Since the contest did not reach the five innings of play, the game was ruled as a no contest and the make-up date has yet to be determined.

Now, the Hokies will have to wait a little longer to extend their hot start as they host Fordham University for a three-game series which is slated to begin on Friday at 2 p.m.. It will be followed by a Saturday contest at 2 p.m. before the weekend comes to an end on Sunday at 1 p.m.

All of these games will be broadcasted on the ACC Network Extra.