Virginia Tech’s fall baseball season ended in exciting fashion in Game Three of the Fall World Series.
Andrew Webb drove in the game-winning run, scoring Mikey Fernandez with a line drive to right field to give Team Orange the 4-3 victory. Nick Owens tied the game on previous at bat, keeping the rally going with a two-out RBI single.
“It’s always great to come through in the clutch especially with two outs in the bottom of the last inning,” Webb said. “I’m just glad I could come through when needed for Team Orange.”
The third game was the closest game of the series after Game One went Team Maroon’s way by the score of 11-3 and Team Orange won Game Two, 13-2. Game Three allowed coach John Szefc the chance to see how his players performed in pressure-packed situations, if the games were only scrimmages.
“You want to see a competitive game, and that was a competitive game for sure,” Szefc said. “The tough thing is when you’re watching it, someone is ultimately going to feel really good coming out of here and somebody is going to feel bad. There’s really no way to avoid it. I think in general it’s a good way to end the fall. You just want to have a competitive game and have no injuries. That’s the best way I can put it.”
Freshmen Ryan Okuda and Ian Seymour started on the mound for Team Orange and Team Maroon, respectively. Both pitchers attacked the strike zone early and kept hitters off balance by mixing up fastballs with their off-speed pitches. Those two combined for five strikeouts in four innings of work, walking none and giving up zero runs.
“The pitchers in general did a really good job of minimizing the damage,” Szefc said. “There were no three run innings, which is a big part of winning college baseball games. Those two guys [Okuda and Seymour] were outstanding. Okuda was 7-for-7 getting ahead of hitters. We’re constantly preaching that. Ian was 5-for-6. The first two innings of this game took about 16 minutes to play.”
This time in the fall was a valuable opportunity for the newcomers to see how they needed to adjust to the collegiate level. Okuda learned how different it was to be a pitcher in high school versus a pitcher in college.
“The biggest thing is there’s a whole different style to college pitching than there is to high school pitching,” Okuda said. “In high school, you can kind of get away with stuff just because of the talent you’re facing. In college, everybody is good, all the hitters are great, so you’re really not going to get by anyone easily. They work the counts, so it’s kind of been kind of tough to transition into, but I think I’m doing all right.”
For the guys who have been there a while, much of the fall is spent directing traffic and helping these younger guys make the jump to a college program. Senior Sam Fragale is one of the more experienced players on the roster and has enjoyed the role of showing the younger guys the ropes.
“It’s awesome,” Fragale said. “We have a lot of new guys as you can tell just by the roster. A lot of them are transitioning real well. I know for me personally, I think they’re all doing a better job transitioning than I did coming from high school. Just being able to teach them how things are and the culture, I think it’s going real well.”
Szefc will now be tasked with analyzing the progress that the players have made over the fall and see what role they can play further down the road. With team activities for the fall now ending, Szefc said he was more intrigued to see where the players stand after Christmas. That’ll be the true test to see where the team stands.
“We’ve made some really big strides” Fragale stands. “We still have some work to do, but I think we’re really starting to mesh and come together.”