Friday night vs. No. 24 Miami | Hurricanes 8 – Hokies 7
WP: Cooper Hammond (4-0) 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO
LP: Alex Perez (0-1) .1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SO
S: Bryan Garcia (8) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO
For the third straight Friday night, the Hokies fell one run short. Unlike the previous two weeks however, this loss wasn’t due to the offenses inability to produce runs behind starter Brad Markey.
This loss, an 8-7 heartbreaking defeat, was more of the Hokies handing the No. 24 Miami Hurricanes the victory than the Hurricanes coming to English Field and snatching it.
“We were kind of hoping for the last six outs in a 7-2 game,” head coach Pat Mason said. “I mean, that should be an automatic win. I thought we were just sitting back waiting for the outs to happen.
“Whether it was the pitcher or a fielder, just stepping up collecting the outs and walking away with a ‘W’. I think we lost to the uniform tonight, I don’t think we lost to a better team. ”
When Markey exited after another quality start, one that lasted seven innings and saw two Hurricanes runners score, the Hokies held a 4-2 lead.
The lead could’ve been even bigger, though. In the bottom of the sixth, the Hokies had the bases loaded and zero outs, but Tech was unable to get a run in.
“With a team like this you know that a three-run lead isn’t going to do much,” Brendon Hayden said. “You need to bury them. We score one, two that inning it puts us up four or five and the wind is out of their sails. Instead, they get out of the inning and the momentum shifts a little bit.”
In the bottom of the seventh, they tacked on three more runs on a two-run Miguel Ceballos triple and then a Saige Jenco RBI bunt single scoring Ceballos.
Leading 7-2 heading into the top of the 8th, all signs pointed toward the Hokies breaking their three game ACC losing streak and getting the first game of the series against a nationally ranked opponent.
No signs pointed toward what Mason referred to as his team “playing young.”
Freshman reliever Luke Scherzer came in to start the eighth inning with the five-run padding. He struck out the first batter he faced, but then the trouble started.
After a pair of back-to-back singles, junior catcher Mark Zagunis tried picking Willie Abreu off first base. The throw was short and bounced off Abreu, allowing Tyler Palmer to advance to third.
Then Zack Collins, who finished the night 3-for-5, singled to center, but Saige Jenco couldn’t field it cleanly. Palmer scored and Abreu advanced to third on the error. That would be all for Scherzer.
Mason called upon lefty freshman Sean Kennedy from the bullpen. Kennedy walked the bases loaded and then gave up a two-run single. One batter later, Miami’s Brandon Lopez hit a sacrifice fly, scoring the inning’s fourth run and cutting the Tech lead to one.
That lead would be gone one inning later.
Alex Perez, who made his pitching debut as a Hokie on Tuesday night and was an all-state pitcher in high school, started the ninth. He recorded a quick first out, using a 91 MPH fastball to get ahead and then a good curveball to notch the strike out, but couldn’t get another one.
He walked Dale Carey on a full count and then allowed a double to Palmer down the left field line, scoring Carey.
Phil Sciretta came in to try and keep the game tied, but was unable to do so. Willie Abreu reached on a fielding error by Miguel Ceballos at third base, and then Collins singled in the game’s winning run.
When it was all said and done, the Hokies relievers allowed six hits, six runs and saw their defense make three errors behind them. What was a prime opportunity to get the ever-important first game was squandered.
“Errors happen,” Hayden said. “Unfortunately tonight they happened in key situations.”
“That’s just the ups and downs of a club that doesn’t have a whole ton of experience,” Mason said. “We’ve played really well in those situations also. Tonight we didn’t and tomorrow we will. That’s what you get with a lot of new parts and kids in new roles.”
Saturday vs. No. 24 Miami | Hurricanes 4 – Hokies 3
WP: Andrew Suarez (4-1) 7.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
LP: Sean Keselica (2-2) 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO
S: Bryan Garcia (9) 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO
It could have been easy for the Hokies, a young ball club coming off a heartbreaking loss, to fold in Saturday’s contest, especially when they found themselves down 3-0 after the first three Miami half-innings at the plate.
But they didn’t, and neither did starter Sean Keselica, who has experienced limited success previously on the mound this season.
Keselica, despite taking the loss in a 4-3 final, showed grit and toughness, working through adverse conditions, including tremendous wind, which gave fielders fits all afternoon.
“I definitely got better, that’s one thing I’ll take away from the game,” Keselica said. “I got more confidence. My three pitches were working today as the innings went on. I felt a lot better.”
He lasted 6.1 innings, by far his longest start of the year. He struck out one and scattered six hits. He allowed four runs on the afternoon, including the eventual winning run that was charged to him after he was pulled, but two of them were earned.
“I saw a big jump last week where he was just confidently throwing strikes, and then this week he was confidently executing all his pitches,” Mason said. “The game was slow for him today. He pitches like that the rest of the year and we got ourselves a really good number two pitcher.”
Trailing 4-1 after 7.5 innings, the Hokies looked to use their final six outs to stage a rally and even the series.
Mark Zagunis was walked with one out, and his protection in the lineup, Brendon Hayden, made the Canes pay. On a 1-2 pitch, Hayden turned on one and pulled it over the 375 mark in right field. The long ball, which cut the Miami lead to 4-3, was the tall lefty’s sixth home run of the year, five more than anyone else on the team. It also gave him the ACC lead for RBIs with 31.
After blanking the Hurricanes in the ninth, the Hokies had one last chance to even things up.
Kyle Wernicki hit a fly ball to left to lead off the ninth, but a nasty combination of wind and sun got the best of the Miami left field, centerfield and shortstop trio. The ball fell in and Wernicki, the game’s trying run, stood on first.
After being sacrificed over to second for the inning’s first out, the Hokies were unable to come up with that clutch hit that would’ve evened things up.
The Hokies comeback fell one hit short, but Mason was pleased with the way his ball club bounced back from the tough loss the day before.
“I thought they responded well,” he said. “We got challenged early. I thought Sean did a heck of a job damage controlling each of those first three innings with a little bit of tough luck behind him. He did great. Our guys battled, fought. We got the tying run on second in the ninth, I’m really happy with how we responded.”
Sunday vs. No. 24 Miami | Hurricanes 9 – Hokies 2
WP: Bryan Radziewski (2-2) 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB 7 SO
LP: Jon Woodcock (0-1) 2.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 SO
For the third straight game, the Hokies played the Hurricanes close (for 8 innings). But close doesn’t cut it in the ACC.
Jon Woodcock made his third start for Tech on Sunday, and although he worked a scoreless first inning for the first time this year, his start was a disappointment.
Granted a two run lead in the first inning thanks to a Phil Sciretta two-RBI single, the redshirt sophomore worked quickly through the first two Miami batters of the second. But before getting the next out, Woodcock walked a batter, gave up two singles and threw the ball into the outfield on a failed pickoff attempt.
The Hurricanes cut the lead to one. The next inning they took the lead, scoring three and chasing Woodcock after just 2.2 innings of work.
With the Hokies trailing 4-2 after 2.5 innings, the Hokies went scoreless in the bottom of the third, the first of 11 straight scoreless half innings between the two ACC squads. Aaron McGarity, who came in for Woodcock, worked 3.1 innings of scoreless ball and allowed just one hit.
After the game head coach Pat Mason hinted toward McGarity, who has looked very strong at times this season, getting the start next Sunday.
The scoreless inning streak was broken with a bang in the top of the ninth. The Hurricanes sent 10 batters to the plate in their last half inning, and used three hits and defensive error to score five runs and bust the game wide open.
The Hokies went down in order in the home half of the ninth and dropped the series finale 9-2. The Sunday loss makes it six straight conference games in which the Hokies have dropped.
The Hokies play twice this week: Tuesday away at VCU and Wednesday home vs. Longwood. They’ll have a chance to break their winless ACC streak on Friday against Maryland.
1. Florida State (26-5-0, 13-2-0)
2.Clemson (20-10-0, 9-4-0)
3.Wake Forest (22-12-0, 10-5-0)
4.Maryland (19-10-0, 6-8-0)
5.NC State (18-12-0, 4-10-0)
6.Boston College (10-20-0, 2-13-0)
7.Notre Dame (10-20-0, 1-14-0)
1.Virginia (27-5-0, 12-3-0)
2. Miami (21-12-0, 11-4-0)
3.Georgia Tech (19-13-0, 8-7-0)
4.Pitt (16-15-0, 8-7-0)
5.North Carolina (18-13-0, 7-8-0)
6.Duke (17-16-0, 7-8-0)
7.Virginia Tech (14-15-1, 5-10-0)