Hokies earn split in Baton Rouge

Jacob Emert, TechSideline.com, on February 23, 2014
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Friday night at #8 LSU | Tigers 9 – Hokies 0
WP: Aaron Nola (2-0) 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 SO
LP: Brad Markey (1-1) 2.1 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO

Tech’s first game of the LSU Tournament, a 9-0 loss to No. 8 LSU, did not go as Pat Mason or the team had hoped. The first-year head coach likely will have to wait until March 7, when the Hokies go to Clemson, to get his first win against a ranked team.

Much like the Hokies’ opening game of the season, a 6-2 loss to The Citadel, Tech found itself behind early and was never able to respond.

Starter Brad Markey was only charged with one earned run on the night, but lasted only 2.1 innings after getting tagged for six hits and seven runs. After a scoreless first frame, LSU’s stacked lineup, which averages 7.2 runs per game thus far in 2014, made use of a leadoff error by Tech shortstop Matt Dauby. Markey was able to retire two of the next three hitters, but an Andrew Stevenson single followed by a three-run Sean McMullen home run put the Hokies behind by four.

A big problem for the Hokies on Friday night was their inability to prevent LSU’s leadoff hitter from getting on base. The Tigers scored all nine of their runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and got their leadoff man on in each of them. In the third, two errors made Markey’s job significantly harder, and after back-to-back singles sending three Tigers across the plate, his day was done.

Sean Kennedy was able to work out of the third, but surrendered two in the fourth as the LSU lead grew to nine. Tech was able to slow the Tigers’ bats down after the fifth, helped in large part to an improvement in defense, but the inability to get people on base squashed whatever hopes they had of a comeback.

Facing LSU’s ace, Aaron Nola, who is widely regarded as a top arm in college baseball (2013 First Team All-American, 2013 SEC Pitcher of the Year), the Hokies weren’t able to muster a hit. He was pulled after seven innings, after the game was well in hand. Nola struck out eight while walking one and having one Tech batter, Mark Zagunis, reach by error.

Tom Stoffel, pinch-hitting in the eighth, was able to get Tech its first of two hits on the night, but the Hokies were unable to convert it into a run.

After not committing an error in its first two games, Tech’s lackluster defense coupled with the stellar performance by Nola made the Tigers far too much for the Hokies to handle on Friday night.

Saturday vs. Texas Southern | Hokies 8 – Tigers 2
WP: Kit Scheetz (1-0) 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO
LP: Felix Gomez (0-1) 4 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO

Following a trend that has developed early in the 2014 Tech campaign, the Hokies responded well to the previous day’s loss and returned to the win column. The Hokies went up against the overmatched Texas Southern Tigers on Saturday and won 8-2 to even their record at 2-2.

This time, it was the Hokies who didn’t wait long to put up a crooked number on the scoreboard. The Hokies sent runners across the plate twice in the first and four times in the second, to build an early 6-0 lead. Tech’s first three batters reached safely in the first, the third being second baseman Alex Perez, who doubled in leadoff man Saige Jenco, and a Zagunis sacrifice fly scored Stoffel.

Jenco and Zagunis were in the middle of the action again in the second, as Jenco had a two-RBI single and Zagunis had a two-RBI double. Zagunis, Tech’s catcher and its biggest bat, was 2-for-3 with four RBIs in the cleanup spot.

Redshirt freshman Kit Scheetz started on the hill for the Hokies and allowed two runs, both in the second, in his five innings of work. It was Scheetz’s first start for Tech after he had made a relief appearance in Tech’s season-opening game. The Midlothian native threw 75 percent of his 76 pitches for strikes as he struck out five and walked two.

Tech added one run in the fifth (Mark Zagunis RBI single) and another in the ninth (Kyle Wernicki scored on an error) to build the lead to its ultimate six.

Though the disparity in the level of competition between Friday night and Saturday was massive, Tech’s ability to bounce back is a good sign moving forward.

Sunday vs. Toledo | rained out

The Hokies return to action Tuesday against Radford at English Field. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

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