Using an offensive explosion and a dominant performance on the mound by Nick Anderson, Virginia Tech (13-9, 3-3 ACC) defeated Florida State (14-7, 3-3 ACC) on Sunday afternoon 17-0 to take two out of three games from the No. 1 Seminoles.
After losing game one of the series by a score of 9-2, the Hokies responded with a gutsy 13-12 victory on Saturday. Tech was trailing 10-2 early in the 4th inning before it scored 11 straight runs to capture the lead. Connor Coward was instrumental in the victory, tossing four scoreless innings out of the bullpen to pick up the win and improve to 4-0 on the year with a 1.32 earned run average.
“I think it was probably the fifth inning yesterday,” said head coach Pat Mason when talking about the turning point in the series. “The bottom of the fifth and we got that hit that we were sort of lacking a little bit. Our hitters were much more relaxed. Connor getting those zeros as well. I don’t think there was much difference other than we got that hit, and then the confidence of our hitters gave a collective, ‘good, we got a couple runs there. Let’s just keep going.’ I don’t think mindset wise we were more prepared this weekend than last weekend or anything like that. We just executed a little better and that built and steamrolled the confidence. Today, I don’t expect we’re going to score 17 runs every Sunday, but it’s fun when we do.”
On Sunday, it was Nick Anderson who shined on the mound, tossing eight scoreless innings and striking out five batters while stifling the powerful Seminoles’ offense all game long.
“We knew they were really patient as a whole, so I was just trying to attack the zone, especially early,” said Anderson. “That would open up a lot of my off-speed pitches later in the game.”
“Typical Nick really,” said Mason. “He throws strikes in the bottom half of the zone. Coach called a great game. He can call any pitch at any count at any time. [Nick] pounded the zone with strikes with all of his options. From there on out, it’s just up to their offense to try to do some damage which is really tough to do if all you’re getting is pitches low in the zone. That’s really what he’s done for the whole season. Obviously, we’ll take it one week at a time, but if he can keep doing that, that’s going to bode well for us.”
Anderson lowered his earned run average from 2.35 to 1.74 and he now holds a 4-1 record on the year. For Anderson, the change up has been his go-to pitch, as he has effectively used it in counts where hitters are expecting fastballs.
“It’s a big pitch for me because I don’t throw hard enough to overpower guys necessarily, so the change up really does a good job of keeping everyone off balance,” said Anderson.
Through five innings, we were locked in a pitcher’s duel as Anderson and Florida State’s Drew Parrish kept the opposing offenses at bay. The Hokies were able to muster one run behind a Tom Stoffel RBI single in the third inning, and held that 1-0 lead into the sixth.
Then, all chaos ensued. Tech had an offensive outburst, scoring 10 runs in the sixth inning. It all started with a Garrett Hudson bloop single that fell just inside the right field line to score two runs. Sam Fragale capped off the inning with a towering shot over the left field fence, his ninth home run of the year. Fragale finished the afternoon 2-6 from the plate with three RBI’s.
“Sundays are big for us,” said Fragale. “It’s either a chance to win a weekend, salvage a weekend, or avoid getting swept or sweep, so that’s a big mentality where it’s come ready to go on Sunday. Our offense did what we’re expected to do. Put up big numbers, have big innings. It was nice that we finally unloaded and strung a bunch together today.”
Virginia Tech put up 30 runs over the past two games behind the hot bats. In fact, the Hokies have now scored 10+ runs in six games this season.
“We just did a great job in the beginning putting quality at bats together, and getting guys on and moving runners,” said Fragale. “We just strung a bunch of hits together, got to the bullpen, and that’s always our plan to try to get to the bullpen, kind of wear their arms down. It’s great when you’re able to do that.”
Tech’s two wins over No. 1 Florida State was the first time they have beaten a No. 1 ranked team since they swept UVA in 2015. Now the Hokies will be looking to keep the momentum rolling with a Tuesday matchup with William & Mary before traveling to Pittsburgh for a three-game weekend series.
“It’s huge and I talked to our guys about it,” said Mason. “We had an opportunity two years ago to build off a weekend like this against UVA, and we gave away that Tuesday game. We talked about having an opportunity now to redo things. We walk away from this weekend with a big weekend against a quality opponent that is going to be big for us when it comes to the selection time. We need to take care of business Tuesday though, or else we give that all back. We give all that momentum back. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. Whit [Babcock] always talks about momentum and we’ve heard him say that a lot. Really the number one thing with keeping that momentum is not shooting yourself in the foot. We’ll see Tuesday night how they respond.”
The Hokies answered the call this weekend. Now it will all be about the response to the schedule that lies ahead.