Hokies Fall to Liberty With Szefc Absent

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In a midweek tilt against Liberty (14-9), Virginia Tech (10-13) dropped an extra innings battle 4-3 in 10 innings on Tuesday night. The Hokies have now lost six of their last eight games, including two of three last weekend at Boston College.

Virginia Tech entered the game without head coach John Szefc who was dealing with a family issue. Assistant coach Kurt Elbin took over in his place.

“Nothing was different,” Elbin said. “We have to play better defense and pitch. I actually thought we threw the ball really well on the mound. We gave ourselves a chance to win. I told our team after the game and I told them before the game that Liberty defends at a high level. They throw strikes for the most part, so you have to earn everything that we were going to get tonight. We didn’t do anything to deserve the win offensively or defensively.”

The Hokies had their best chance to take the lead in the eighth inning. Tom Stoffel and Luke Horanski got the inning started with back-to-back singles. Sam Fragale tried to advance the runners on a sacrifice bunt, which led to a fielder’s choice putout at third, JD Mundy struck out, and Darion Jacoby grounded out to end the threat.

“That hurt, especially having [Andrew] McDonald back there to finish the game for us. That was a big part of it,” Elbin said. “We didn’t get a sac bunt down, but we have all the confidence in the world for Fragale to do that again. It just didn’t happen there. We also had opportunities before that to drive guys in with runners in scoring position and we just didn’t do it.”

Virginia Tech’s defense was costly, with three errors in the field. Those errors led to two unearned runs, including Liberty’s go-ahead run in the 10th inning.

“The other side of it, we weren’t ready to play defense in the first third,” Elbin said. “We gave up six free bases in those first three innings. Those were big parts of the game as well, it just wasn’t the eighth.”

This was the start of a five-game homestand for the Hokies after playing 18 of the first 23 games away from home.

“That’s the challenge of off days,” Elbin said. “We fly up to Boston and come back and guys have to be better. Guys have to be prepared to play in their home park against an in-state foe that’s pretty good. We just weren’t prepared mentally and that is on the coaches, but we’ll be better for that.”

Now, Virginia Tech has a three-game series with NC State starting on Thursday. The Wolfpack are currently No. 6 in the country and first in the ACC standings with a 7-2 ACC record. NC State is led by outfielder Brett Kinneman who’s hitting .340, leading the nation with 12 home runs and second in the nation with 34 RBIs.

NC State excels in all assets of the game. The Wolfpack are first in the ACC with 42 home runs and a .317 team batting average and second in the ACC with a 2.96 team ERA.

“I don’t think worrying about the opponent is the issue right now, it’s more what we do,” Elbin said. “They’re obviously a quality ball club, one of the better ones in the nation. They pitch, they hit, and they defend. They play all three phases extremely well. The message is we have to play the game against the game. We have to be better about limiting free bases and getting hits with runners in scoring position. That’s baseball and it’s nothing we’re going to be able to attack from an NC State standpoint. It’s about Virginia Tech.”

First pitch is set to take place 4 p.m. on Thursday from English Field at Union Park.

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