Friday night vs. Notre Dame | Fighting Irish 2 – Hokies 1
WP: Sean Fitzgerald (3-1) 9 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO
LP: Brad Markey (2-3) 8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO
Brad Markey, Tech’s ace, delivered eight strong innings on Friday night, allowing only two runs while striking out six. However, the senior righty received little run support from his supporting cast and the Hokies dropped the series opener to the Fighting Irish 2-1.
Notre Dame, which earned its first conference win as an ACC member Friday night, broke a scoreless tie in the 5th, taking advantage of back-to-back one-out singles. Eight-hitter Kyle Richardson singled Lane Richards to third, and Richards scored when Conor Biggio, the team’s leadoff hitting designated hitter, grounded out.
The Irish pushed another across one inning later, taking advantage of Markey’s only wild pitch of the night.
The Hokies tried to mount a late comeback, but fell short when the heart of the order failed to produce in the top of the 9th inning.
Freshman centerfielder Saige Jenco doubled off of Irish starter Sean Fitzgerald to lead off the final frame and scored when Alex Perez, the very next batter, singled him home. With a runner on first base and no outs, red-hot Mark Zagunis, Brendon Hayden and Sean Keselica went down in order.
Markey (2-3) threw a complete game against the Irish, just as he did last year when the two teams met in Cary, N.C. In both games, the Hokies failed to produce despite being put in a good position to win by Markey.
Saturday vs. Notre Dame | Hokies 8 – Fighting Irish 3
WP: Sean Keselica (2-0) 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO
LP: Nick McCarty (0-5) 1.1 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO
Saturday, the Hokies came back determined to give their starter more run support. Early offensive outbreaks led by Mark Zagunis put the Hokies ahead early, and the eight runs they scored over the first two innings would prove all they would need.
After Saige Jenco and Alex Perez both reached safely to start the game, Zagunis, Tech’s three hitter, wasted no time getting the Hokies on the board. The preseason All-American plated both on a double.
The very next inning, with the Hokies leading 4-0, Zagunis came through again, scoring Ryan Tufts to extend the lead. An RBI single, double and sacrifice fly later, the Hokies had pushed eight runs across and given starter Sean Keselica a hearty lead to work with.
After starting the season 8-for-48 (.166) including a 0-for-16 streak, Zagunis is 16-for-36 (.444).
Perhaps the biggest positive takeaway from the day was the fact that coach Pat Mason received another solid performance from his bullpen. After Keselica, who was 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of RBI’s, finished his five innings on the mound, Mason handed the ball to his bullpen. After 6.1 strong innings of relief during the week against Rutgers, Tanner McIntyre, Sean Kennedy and Luke Scherzer picked up right where the bullpen left off.
The trio allowed just two hits over their four innings, keeping the Irish bats at bay. They tallied five strikeouts and walked one.
Scherzer came in for the final out to get Kennedy, who surrendered two hits and walked a batter in the ninth, out of the jam.
Sunday vs. Notre Dame | Hokies 5 – Fighting Irish 4 (12 innings)
WP: Luke Scherzer (2-1) 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO
LP: Michael Hearne (1-2) 8.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO
S: Sean Kennedy (2) 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
In all games really, but in conference games in particular when wins are at a premium, there is no time to worry about the prettiness of the runs you score and games you win.
So, with runners on the corners and two outs in the top of the 12th inning of a game tied at four, the Hokies were more than happy to capitalize on the mental errors of their competitors. When Tom Stoffel grounded to Cavan Biggio at second base, rather than taking the force at the base to his right or his left, he opted to try and tag Sean Keselica, who was advancing from first to second.
Biggio lost the ball as Keselica slid into second, and Mark Zagunis, who was at third when the adventure began, scored what proved to be the winning run.
The run came as a result of Notre Dame’s second error of the inning and third of the game.
Redshirt sophomore Jon Woodcock made his first start for the Hokies, and lasted 5.1 innings. All four Irish runs were attributed to him, but only one of them was earned.
Once again, Tech’s bullpen was stellar. Aaron McGarity, the first arm in on relief, struggled slightly and allowed an inherited runner to score, which gave Notre Dame a 4-3 lead, but after that it was shutdown pitching from the bullpen.
Phil Sciretta, Luke Scherzer and Sean Kennedy each allowed one hit in their combined five innings of work, but kept the Irish scoreless and provided the offense a chance to win the game.
After Sunday, the Tech bullpen has pitched 18.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Scherzer, a freshman, has been particularly good this year. Save a rough outing against UMass Lowell, he has allowed six hits and one earned run in 11.2 innings of work.
The win improves the Hokies record to 12-9-1 (5-4 ACC) and notches the second consecutive ACC series win of the season. The Irish dropped to 8-14 overall, and 1-8 in the ACC.
The Hokies return to action Tuesday night to take on in-state, out-of-conference Liberty University. The road game is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Lynchburg and is slotted for ESPN3.
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