Baseball Opens Season with Four Big Wins

, TechSideline.com, on February 18, 2013
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The Hammerin’ Hokies got off to a hot start over the weekend, sweeping two teams who made the NCAA Tournament last season in Wilmington, NC.  Tech is off to a 4-0 start, and they have an early #10 RPI ranking.  Baseball America released their top 25 on Monday, and the Hokies checked in at #24.

Virginia Tech beat Kent State 10-9 on Friday, and again 8-1 early on Saturday.  The Golden Flashes made the College World Series last season.  Late Saturday, Tech beat UNC-Wilmington 9-0, and knocked them off again 7-2 on Sunday.  UNC-Wilmington also made the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

It was thought coming into the season that hitting would be the major strength, while pitching would be the big question mark.  Through four games against good competition, the hitting has held up, while the pitching has been a pleasant surprise.

At the plate, the Hokies are hitting .303 as a team with five homers and a .479 slugging percentage.  On the mound, Tech has a team ERA of 2.31, and opponents are hitting just .221 against the Hokie pitching staff.  I don’t think anyone would have dreamed that those pitching numbers would be so good after the first four games against solid competition.

Hokies Hitting Well, as Expected

Let’s take a look at some of the individual performances so far, starting in the batter’s box:+

C Mark Zegunis: Zegunis is a sophomore who was a Freshman All-American last season while hitting .344.  Through four games in 2012, he is hitting .500, he’s drawn two walks and he has four RBIs.  He has an on-base percentage of .600.

2B Matt Dauby: Dauby is a freshman from Indiana, and he’s hitting .438 out of the 8-spot in the lineup through four games.  Obviously such production from the bottom of the lineup means a lot to the team’s success.  He needs to improve his glove after committing three errors in four games.

3B Chad Pinder: Tech’s returning junior starter at the hot corner is hitting .357 with two homers and nine RBI’s through four games.

RF Gary Schneider: The r-junior is a transfer from Maryland, where he was a very good hitter for the Terps.  He’s hitting .357 with a homer and a triple for the Hokies.

LF Tyler Horan: Horan smacked 15 homers for the Hokies last season.  Though he went homerless over the weekend, he still hit .316 with three RBI’s.

The Hokies faced solid competition over the weekend, so I expect the hitting numbers for some of these players to go up.

Hokie Pitching Staff Steps Up

I would not have thought the Hokies would come out of the weekend’s event with a 2.31 ERA.  Ironically, they got a bad game from their most reliable starter, and some outstanding starts by three unproven guys.

RHP Brad Markey: The junior originally played at Georgia Tech, and then was a 35th round draft pick of the Mets out of Santa Fe College in 2012.  He started on Saturday against Kent State, going seven innings, allowing one earned run on eight hits and one walk, while striking out five.

RHP Tanner McIntyre: After serving as Tech’s best pitcher out of the bullpen a year ago (7-0 with a 2.32 ERA in 20 appearances), McIntyre could serve as the #3 starter this year.  Despite his size (5-9, 171), the senior went six innings against UNC-Wilmington on Sunday, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks, while striking out eight batters.

RHP Devin Burke: Burke is a r-junior who transferred from Duke.  He got the Saturday start against UNC-Wilmington.  He went six innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out six batters.  He did not allow a run.

That’s outstanding production from starters #2-4.  Pete Hughes will have to decide who will serve as his #2 and #3 starters in ACC play.  My guess is that Markey will be #2, while McIntyre and Burke will battle to be #3.  It would perhaps be ideal for Burke to earn the #3 spot, which would allow McIntyre to reprise his role as an ace out of the bullpen.

No matter who turns out to win the rotation jobs, those three guys combined to go 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and a WHIP of 0.89.  If you are allowing fewer than one walk/hit per inning, then you are going to win a lot of baseball games.  Overall, that’s a very encouraging start for that group.

On the other hand, senior starter Joe Mantiply was roughed up in his start on Friday, allowing four earned runs and nine hits over four innings against Kent State.  Mantiply went 5-6 with a 3.53 ERA last season and was picked in the 28th round by Phillies, so we can probably expect him to come around.

Coming Up …

If you don’t mind chilly February Blacksburg weather, the Hokies will play five home games between this Friday and next Tuesday.

Friday, Feb. 22: Temple, 3pm
Saturday, Feb. 23: Holy Cross, 3:30pm
Saturday, Feb. 23: Temple, 6pm
Sunday, Feb. 24: Holy Cross: 2:30pm
Tuesday, Feb. 26: Radford, 3pm

That’s not difficult competition, and the Hokies get all those teams at home.  Tech has a chance to get off to an outstanding start.

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