Joe Mantiply arrived at Virginia Tech as a freshman who had been drafted in the 48th round by the New York Mets. He has steadily developed over his entire career, and he now stands as one of the top pitchers in the ACC. He’s also earned the complete trust of his teammates.
“I’ve never been more confident behind a pitcher than I’ve been with Joe Mantiply,” shortstop Chad Pinder said. “I’ve been playing with him since I was 16. I have 100% confidence in him on the mound. He’s such a great competitor. You know he’s going to compete for us, and you know he’s not going to go out there and lay down.”
Outfielder Andrew Rash agrees with Pinder’s assessment.
“I’d put Joe in any situation possible,” Rash said. “The kid is unbelievable as far as pressure situations and things like that. Having him pitch game one tomorrow is awesome. It relieves a lot of pressure from the other guys because we know he’s going to give us six or seven strong innings.”
Tech head coach Pete Hughes has been relying on Mantiply since he first arrived on campus, and his numbers have steadily gotten better throughout his career.
2010: 22 games, 7 starts, 4-1, 5.62 ERA
2011: 14 games, 14 starts, 5-8, 4.36 ERA
2012: 13 games, 13 starts, 5-6, 3.54 ERA
2013: 14 games, 12 starts, 6-0, 2.92 ERA
The early part of this season was scary for Mantiply, a 6-4 lefty from Tunstall High School outside Danville, VA. He experienced some forearm tightness and missed a couple of starts. The news could have been much worse for the senior, who was a 28th round pick of the Phillies last June.
“The first game of the season, it got a little stiff,” Mantiply said on Thursday. “It was more uncomfortable than anything. I told Coach Mason that we needed to go talk to the doctors. They X-rayed it and told me to shut it down for three weeks. I was really down when that came out. The first thing you think as a pitcher, anything in that area…I wanted to think the worst case scenario just to prepare myself for bad news. When it came out that it was just tightness, it was such a relief.”
It was a relief for his teammates as well, because the Hokies wouldn’t be where they are today without Mantiply’s pitching. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a game since an April 13 outing against North Carolina, the #1 national seed. In the month of May, he has pitched 24 innings and allowed a total of four earned runs.
However, according the pitching game coordinator and associate head coach Patrick Mason, it’s not his numbers that make Joe Mantiply important.
“Joe is the leader of our team,” Mason said. “Statistically, yeah, he has good numbers. But who he is and how he competes is what makes you feel comfortable with him on the mound.”
As a reward for his leadership – as well as his numbers, of course – Mantiply will get the ball in Tech’s first game of the NCAA Regionals against UConn.
“It’s huge,” Mantiply said. “To be the guy who gets us going in the Regional, it’s unbelievable for me.”
It won’t be Mantiply’s first experience pitching in NCAA Regionals. He picked up the win in an elimination game against The Citadel in the Columbia Regional back in 2010. That experience taught him that it’s very important to win your first game if you want to advance to the Super Regionals. He also knows it’s on him to make it happen.
“We lost that first game to The Citadel in Columbia, and I think that really hurt our pitching for the rest of the weekend. If we come out tomorrow and win this game…it’s huge on me to have a big day and conserve our pen for the rest of the weekend.”
It’s certainly a big moment for Virginia Tech baseball to host NCAA Regionals, but with that #1 seed comes a lot of pressure to win. That doesn’t matter to Mantiply, who has faced every situation a pitcher can face, both as a starter and as a reliever.
“I just go out and do my thing. I can handle many situations. I’m ready for this.”