Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics (Pre-COVID)
The Virginia Tech Baseball Team has not been fooling around this April as they sweep Wake Forest this weekend down in Winston-Salem.
The Hokies came into the weekend with winning their two previous series against ACC competition, the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Boston College Eagles. On top of that, they have had a 6-1 record during that stretch to propel them to the top of the ACC Coastal Division.
What the Hokies have lacked in most of their previous matchups has been the ability to jump out to big leads and work from ahead rather than behind on the scoreboard. That wasn’t the case on Friday, as they compiled three quick runs in the second inning.
Tanner Schobel got things started on the offensive side putting a ball in play that Demon Deacons’ shortstop Michael Turconi couldn’t handle well enough to get the freshman out at first base. Turconi’s throwing error allowed TJ Rumfield to score home, tallying the game’s first run.
Later in the frame, back-to-back RBI base hits from Dayne Leonard and Cade Swisher gave the Hokies a nice 3-0 advantage out of the gate. Leonard’s double brought home Schobel from second, while Swisher’s single was strong enough to get Leonard across the plate.
Wake Forest got their chance to crack onto the scoreboard thanks to a Chris Lanzilli RBI single in the third inning to score Turconi, making it only a two-run game.
After a couple of quiet innings, the Hokies extended their lead in the sixth inning off another throwing error from the Demon Deacons’ defense. Leonard connected on a pitch and sent the ball to right field. That’s when Lanzilli committed a throwing error which opened the door for Schobel and Kevin Madden to come around and score, they did just that and gave the Hokies their largest lead of the game.
After a lucky break by the Hokies in the top half of the sixth, the Demon Deacons made it a ball game in the bottom half of the frame.
With the bases loaded, Turconi approached the batter’s box to start the Wake Forest comeback. He got the scoring going, just not the way he thought he would as Jaison Heard hit him with a pitch which allowed Brendan Tisman to score home from third for the Demon Deacons.
Next up to bat was Brock Wilken and he continued the Wake Forest carousel on the bases with an RBI single into center field to bring home Pierce Bennett and make it a two-run game.
The Demon Deacons weren’t done carving into the Hokies’ lead yet as Bobby Seymour put enough barrel on the ball to pop it up to left field, giving Lucas Costello the opportunity to tag up from third and score, bringing the game's score within one.
As the game was entering its final three innings, the Hokies demonstrated the importance of working with the lead rather than against it. The Hokies’ home run leader, Gavin Cross, recorded the game’s only long ball in the seventh inning to give the visitors a 6-4 lead.
In the eighth inning, Leonard was a part of another Wake Forest throwing error. After hitting the ball into play, the Demon Deacons’ catcher Shane Muntz attempted to get Leonard out at first, but his throw was off target. That resulted in the Hokies taking advantage of the miscue and bringing home Carson Jones and Madden to bring the score to its final result, 8-4.
Heard had his second victory of the season with his two innings pitched in relief by only allowing one hit. His efforts were deserving as he got the Hokies out of a difficult sixth inning.
After getting a great deal of their runs from the poor Wake Forest defense in the series’ first game, the Hokies’ bats took responsibility for the majority of the runs in the second game.
The Demon Deacons jumped onto the scoreboard early with a Wilken RBI double to bring home Turconi in the game’s first frame.
The Hokies were once again facing a slow start failing to register any runs in the first three innings, but the worries dissolved as the game went into the middle frames.
In the fourth inning, Nick Biddison made his appearance onto the box score for the first time this series with a solo shot to left field, knotting the score up at one apiece.
What came for the Hokies in the fifth inning was one of their most successful frames of the season, where they registered seven runs to take a 8-1 advantage over Wake Forest.
As the bases got loaded for the Hokies, Swisher pushed Virginia Tech ahead with a RBI single into right field to bring Schobel across the plate.
In the very next at-bat, Jack Hurley had a similar opportunity as Swisher had with the bases loaded, and he cashed in as well with a RBI double into right field to score Tanner Thomas and Leonard. It initially did not look like Swisher was going to make it home, but a throwing error by the Demon Deacons’ Lanzilli allowed the Hokies’ designated hitter to score from first base.
Virginia Tech still had some fireworks left in the tank to cap off the inning as Rumfield blasted a home run out to right field to bring himself and Hurley home. Afterwards, Madden had a home run of his own to make it a 8-1 lead.
The Hokies’ offense stayed dialed in heading into the sixth inning as Thomas was able to score home from third on a wild pitch from Cole McNamee, making it a 9-1 score.
Just like how the fifth inning ended for the Hokies, the sixth inning was capped off by a couple of home run shots. The first one being a two-run bomb by Hurley to bring home Leonard and himself. Later in the frame, Cross made it back-to-back days with a home run with a solo shot to right field, making it a 12-1 landslide.
After allowing 12 unanswered runs, the Demon Deacons finally got the offense geared up with Tinsman having a home run of his own to left field, scoring Adam Cecere and himself. Later on in the inning, Costello registered a RBI single in his only hit of the day, scoring Bennett to cut their deficit to eight.
As the narrative was already set in from the Hokies’ bats, Madden made sure the message was delivered in the eighth inning with a grand slam shot to left center field, that brought Hurley, Cross, and Rumfield across the plate as well, bringing the game to its final score of 16-4.
Anthony Simonelli got his third victory of the season to keep his perfect record as a starter this season intact. His 6.1 innings pitched was absolutely dominant by giving up only two earned runs and one hit on the afternoon.
With the Hokies winning their third-straight ACC series, they had to make sure to bring the right attitude to the series’ most competitive game.
It was another successful start for the Hokies in the opening frame of the inning, picking up where the bats let off, a solo home run by Nick Biddison to right field to make it a 1-0 advantage.
Later on in the first inning, Cross showed his true athleticism while scoring home from third on a groundout to the pitcher. It was a heads-up play from the Hokies center fielder, who noticed that as the Demon Deacons’ Rhett Lowder was focused on getting the out at first base. He hit the jets towards home plate and beat out the throw home from Wake Forest’s first baseman Seymour.
For Wake Forest, they learned from yesterday not to sit around and allow the Hokies to step all over them and responded immediately in the first inning with a lead-off home run from Costello, to cut the Hokies lead in half, 2-1. They eventually knotted it up at two apiece in the second inning with a McNamee RBI single to right field to score Lanzilli.
Virginia Tech returned to their old reliable approach in the fourth inning as Schobel added his name to the list with a home run on the weekend. His was a three-run home run to left center field to also score Rumfield and Madden, making it a 5-2 ball game.
Wake Forest found a way to bounce back somewhat with Muntz’s solo shot to left field in the bottom half of the fourth inning, making it only a two-run advantage for the Hokies.
The constant back-and-forth inning was seen as well in the fifth inning as the Hokies added three more runs to their score. With the bases loaded, Rumfield knocked a 2 RBI single into right field to bring Thomas and Hurley home to extend their lead up to four runs.
As Cross made his way over from first to third on that Rumfield, Madden made sure to send him home with a sacrifice flyout to right field, making it an 8-3 lead for the Hokies.
Once again, the Demon Deacons made sure the Hokies did not get too far away from them as Seymour cashed in with a two-run home run in the bottom half of the fifth inning bringing himself and Wilken home to make it a three-run game.
Heading into the sixth inning, Thomas sought to put the game out of reach with a two-run shot to right field bringing Swisher home as well to give the Hokies a five-run lead.
At this point, it seemed like the Demon Deacons were not going to be able to bring themselves within striking distance of the Hokies, but they continued to chip away at the deficit in the sixth inning. Turconi made it three straight innings of Wake Forest scoring with a RBI single to bring home Bennett, but the Hokies still held a four-run lead.
Heading into the seventh inning, Wake Forest was able to take advantage of a scoreless frame by the Hokies with a Seymour solo shot to center field, making it only a three-run deficit for the Demon Deacons.
What better way is there to end a series than an exhilarating ninth inning and that’s exactly what we got in Winston-Salem.
It got as close as one run as Wilken gave the Demon Deacons another home run, this one being a two-run shot to left field to score Turconi and himself, making it 10-9 on the scoreboard.
At this moment, head coach John Szefc made a gutsy call and decided to pull his reliable closer Shane Connolly for Graham Firoved instead.
The move paid off for Virginia Tech as Firoved pitched a perfect ninth inning to close out the game and give the Hokies a 10-9 victory, sweeping the series and giving themselves a six-game win streak.
Despite being pulled in the game’s final inning, Connolly recorded his first win of the season by pitching 3.1 innings and allowing four earned runs and five hits.
After a successful series against Wake Forest, the Hokies had a trip to Lynchburg, VA to take on Liberty University in a mid-week matchup.
After a slow start into the game, the Flames were able to crack onto the scoreboard in the third inning with a Logan Mathieu solo home run to make it a 1-0 lead.
Liberty was able to extend their lead into the fourth inning thanks to a Garrett Wilkerson RBI single to score Cam Locklear from third base to give the Flames a 2-0 advantage.
Heading into the fifth inning, the Flames produced the best inning of the games as they added five runs into their lead.
It started with a Will Wagner RBI double into left field to score Aaron Anderson, which was quickly followed up by Trey McDrye, who reached base successfully due to a fielding error by Jones which allowed Will Wagner to score home to add onto the lead.
Jake Wilson continued the scoring for the Flames with a RBI single to left field which gave Locklear to score home to make it five unanswered runs for the Flames.
The offensive surge continued for the Flames thanks to a Mathieu 2 RBI double into left field to score McDrye and Wilson to give the Liberty a dominating 7-0 lead.
The Hokies formulated some offense in the seventh inning thanks to Thomas who recorded a hit into left field to score Cross home while the bases were loaded. Later on into the frame, Swisher put himself into a fielder’s choice and despite getting Thomas out at second base, his efforts were able to get Rumfield home and make it a five-run deficit for the visitors.
Liberty made sure to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth inning with a Wagner RBI single to score Gray Betts to bring the game to its final score of 8-2.
Dylan Cumming picked up his first victory of the season for Liberty after an impressive six innings pitched while only allowing two earned runs and five hits. The loss was given to Ryan Okuda, who was handed his second defeat of the season to bring his record to 2-2. His stint came to an end after 3.1 innings pitched while allowing only one earned run and three hits.
Up next for the Hokies is a three-game home series against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at English Field starting on Friday. Currently, the Hokies sit on top of the ACC Coastal Division with a 14-7 conference record. Overall, the Hokies sit at a 19-10 record as they look to continue their dominance over their ACC opponents this weekend.