Baseball Team Improving Under Pete Hughes

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The Virginia Tech baseball team had a big weekend, taking two of three games
on the road at #4 Florida State. The Hokies have steadily improved under the
guidance of Pete Hughes, and the program is on an upward trend, appearing in the
Baseball America Top 25 this week at #25.

Virginia Tech had not won a baseball game in Tallahassee since 1989, and they
had lost 24 of their previous 25 games against the Noles. Tech beat FSU 10-5 on
Friday and 8-7 on Saturday before falling 9-6 on Sunday. The series win puts the
Hokies at 20-10 overall, with a 6-6 mark in the ACC, and it appears Pete Hughes
has the best team of his tenure in Blacksburg thus far.

Hughes took over a program that lacked the talent and facilities to compete
in the ACC. Since his arrival, he has improved Tech’s talent level through
recruiting, and the Hokies’ new 8,000 square foot indoor hitting and pitching
facility is attractive to recruits. It’s tough to play baseball in Blacksburg
during the winter months, and that new facility will mean a lot to the program.

The Hokies struggled in the first two seasons of the Pete Hughes era , as
they just didn’t have the overall talent level needed to succeed in the ACC. In
2007, Tech went 23-31, with a 7-23 record in the ACC. 2008 wasn’t any better, as
the Hokies finished with a mark of 23-32 and 6-24 in conference play.

In 2009, things started to turn around. Tech finished with a winning record
for the first time under Hughes, finishing the season 32-21. They also improved
in conference play, going 12-17.

Tech is on pace to do even better in 2010, and to make the ACC Tournament for
the first time since the league expanded to 12 programs. They have a big
three-game series this weekend against Miami in Blacksburg, and it will be a
good chance for fans to watch the team play.

In case you decide to go, here’s a quick primer on Virginia Tech’s top

Austin Wates, #21, OF/1B, 6-1, 179, Jr.

Wates is perhaps Virginia Tech’s best player. He has played the outfield
positions, and he also sees time at first base. Wates is second in the ACC with
a .431 batting average, second with an on base percentage of .519, and sixth
with a slugging percentage of .688. He is one of the top offensive players in
the ACC.

Pete Hughes called Wates the most athletic player he has ever recruited. He
has the speed and range to be a center fielder at the professional level, but
he’ll have to improve his overall defense to do so. He was named the ACC Player
of the Week on Monday.

Wates is eligible for the draft this year, and thanks to his hitting skills
and his speed, some scouts think he could potentially sneak into the late first

Steve Domecus, #26, C/LF, 6-3, 210, r-Sr.

Steve Domecus is Virginia Tech’s best power hitter. He has hit seven home
runs on the season with 25 RBI’s to go along with a .339 batting average.
Domecus splits time between left field and catcher. He is one of Tech’s best and
most experienced players. He was selected in the 38th round of the 2008 MLB
Draft by the Chicago White Sox.

Domecus homered three times in Tech’s most recent series against Florida
State, and led a Hokie offensive attack that dominated a very good Seminole
pitching staff.

Buddy Sosnoskie, #7, LF/DH, 6-1, 182, r-So.

Buddy Sosnoskie is used primarily as a left fielder and designated hitter. He
is one of Tech’s top hitters, batting .375 with five home runs and 22 RBI’s.
Sosnoskie has exceeded expectations this year and developed into one of Tech’s
most consistent players.

The left hander is 11th in the ACC in batting average and 10th in slugging
percentage. He has helped the Hokies become the #4 hitting team in the ACC.

Ronnie Shaban, #29, IF/P, 6-0, 196, So.

Shaban is one of Tech’s most versatile players. He can play any infield
position, and he can also provide work out of the bullpen. Shaban is hitting
.360 with four home runs and 29 RBI’s, with a slugging percentage of .568.

On the mound, Shaban has appeared in six games in relief work and has an ERA
of 2.84. Opponents are hitting just .200 against him.

Sean Ryan, #3, CF, 5-8, 176, r-Sr.

Sean Ryan is Tech’s reliable center fielder and best defensive outfielder. He
has made just two errors in 162 career games for the Hokies and has a .993
career fielding percentage.

Ryan is also in the middle of his best year at the plate. He is hitting .333
with 13 RBI’s. He has started all 30 games this year for the Hokies.

Tim Smalling, #8, SS, 6-3, 207, r-Jr.

A transfer from Arkansas, Tim Smalling was a welcome addition to the Virginia
Tech lineup this season. Pete Hughes expected Smalling to contribute a lot
defensively, but his offense has been especially solid. He is hitting .418 with
four home runs and 25 RBI’s.

Smalling missed nine games with a shoulder injury, otherwise those numbers
would be better. He provides good power from the shortstop position.

Jesse Hahn, #22, SP, 6-5, 201, Jr.

Jesse Hahn has always had talent. A gifted right hander whose fastball can
touch 100mph, Hahn struggled through his first two seasons, but finally learned
how to pitch in the Cape Cod League in the offseason.

His improvement is showing on the mound for the Hokies this season. He is 4-2
with a 2.23 ERA, and he even managed to pitch four innings against Wake Forest
recently despite battling kidney stones.

Hahn has a lot of ability, but he’s just learning how to pitch rather than
throw. He could be a first round draft pick this June.

Hokie cashing in on his promise
– The Roanoke Times, 4/5/10

Justin Wright, #24, SP, 5-9, 174, Jr.

Wright has been Virginia Tech’s most consistent pitcher during his career. He
has a 15-5 career record with a 4.03 ERA in 25 career starts. He’s not blessed
with the physical ability of a guy like Jesse Hahn, but he’s a good college

Last week Wright was named ACC Pitcher of the Week, and he followed that up
with a 10 strikeout performance in the win against Florida State on Friday. He
threw 124 pitches against the Noles, 75 of which were strikes. Yesterday, he was
named ACC Pitcher of the Week for the second week in a row.

Matthew Price, #14, SP, 6-2, 173, So.

Price is a young pitcher with good talent and ability. He was drafted in the
36th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves, but chose to attend
Virginia Tech instead. He is 4-1 with a 4.26 ERA so far this season.

If Jesse Hahn elects to play professional baseball next season, Price will
have an even greater role in the Tech rotation.

Ben Rowen, #28, RP, 6-3, 190, Sr.

Ben Rowen is Tech’s top pitcher out of the bullpen, appearing in 19 games
this season. He has been dominant, posting a 1-0 record with a 0.78 ERA. Rowen
has struck out 34 batters with his submarine style delivery, and opponents are
hitting just .173 against him.

Hokies Ranked by Baseball America, But Tough Stretch Looms

The Hammerin’ Hokies broke into the Top 25 on Monday. Tech is ranked #25 by Baseball
. It’s the first time since March of 1992 that Baseball America has
ranked the Hokies.

The Hokies have a big opportunity with their next three series in ACC play.
Tech hosts #14 Miami for a three-game set this weekend. The following weekend
they will play three games at #4 Virginia, and a week later they will travel to
Atlanta to take #2 Georgia Tech for three more tough games.

That’s as tough a stretch as you’ll get in College Baseball. Fortunately,
Tech follows that up with two home series against Boston College and Duke,
before closing the season with a three-game set at North Carolina. That stretch
will not be nearly as difficult.

Eight out of 12 teams qualify for the ACC Tournament. The top two teams in
each division get a spot, and then the next four teams with the best record,
regardless of division, will also be included. This year’s tournament will be
held in Greensboro from May 26 through May 30, and the Hokies are hoping to take
part for the first time since the ACC expanded to 12 teams.

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