Banged Up Virginia Tech Baseball Runs Into Clemson Buzzsaw

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John Szefc and the Hokies had a tough weekend, but rallied to beat VMI. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech baseball headed into the weekend series against No. 15 Clemson on a three-game losing streak after falling in the final two games versus North Carolina and during the mid-week tilt with Liberty.

It was a streak that only got worse with the Hokies getting swept by the Tigers at English Field at Union Park.  Tech is now 17-12 overall, and 4-8 in ACC play.

“That’s the best team we’ve played all year by far,” head coach John Szefc said of Clemson, who improved to 22-7 and 9-3 in the ACC. “That might be an Omaha team right there.”

In the first game of the series, the Tigers led 6-1 after five innings. The Hokies attempted a late comeback in the seventh, but Luke Horanski lined out with the tying runs on base. Clemson’s Carson Spiers notched a scoreless 2.1 innings to pick up his eighth save of the season.

The highlight of the day for Virginia Tech was Nick Biddison’s home-run robbing catch in centerfield in the fourth inning. The video of Biddison’s acrobatic catch went viral on social media, even attracting attention on Cut4, MLB.com’s video platform.

In Game 2, Virginia Tech came out flat and was outplayed from start to finish. Clemson racked up 13 hits and won 14-1.

The Hokies concluded the series with a hard-fought 12-9 loss to the Tigers. Despite trailing 6-0 after the first, Tech scratched and clawed all the way back to trail 7-6 after the fifth. Szefc gathered the entire team outside the dugout in the middle of the fourth to ignite a charge in the team.

“The only point I was making was that it’s a five-run game and it’s early,” Szefc said. “It’s not like we’re down six or eight in the ninth. We had a lot of game to play here.”

The score remained 7-6 until a disastrous seventh inning for Virginia Tech. With the bases loaded and one out, closer Zach Brzykcy entered the game. He induced a ground ball back to the mound, fired home for the out, but Biddison’s throw as catcher sailed up the line and into the right field corner. All three runs rounded the bases to make the score 12-6 at that point.

The play didn’t come without controversy, as Clemson’s Bo Majkowski appeared to run well inside the baseline, not giving Biddison a lane to throw to first.

“It’s not a reviewable call,” Szefc said. “It’s a judgment call. The runner was to the left side of the line. The umpire admitted that twice, and he still didn’t call interference. You can take it from there.”

The Hokies tacked on two in the eighth and one in the ninth to make the final score 12-9. It was the 6-run first inning and the five-run seventh that ultimately doomed Tech.

“It was probably the best Game 3 we’ve played outside of two God-awful innings,” Szefc said. “It’s difficult to win any baseball game when you give up 12 runs. We gave up 11 runs in two innings and that’s why we lost. Anytime you get a poor start, you’re most likely going to lose. That’s what happened.”

A bright spot in the loss for Virginia Tech was the performance of Nic Enright in long relief. The redshirt junior fired 5.2 innings, allowing four runs (three in the seventh), and striking out six batters.

“It was probably one of the best [outings] that I’ve seen [from him],” Szefc said. “I told him that, since I’ve been here. He was outstanding. He gave us a chance to come back in the game. He just kind of ran out of gas here. We didn’t really help out much after him. He was great.”

While the weekend didn’t turn out as expected, Virginia Tech righted the ship and snapped the skid with a 13-1 victory on Tuesday over VMI. Freshmen Kevin Madden and Biddison each homered in the game. However, the real story was Dalton Harum’s three home-run performance.

Harum was the first Tech player to crush three dingers in a game since Raheim Cooper in 2017. The junior has been on a tear recently with nine hits over the past four games. His batting average has jumped from .103 to .286 over that span.

“We’ve been waiting for him to come,” Szefc said. “He did a really good job of giving us added offense.”

Virginia Tech will travel south to face Wake Forest this weekend to continue a string of nine of the next 10 games on the road. The Demon Deacons are 16-14 on the year with a 5-7 record in ACC play. Wake Forest was most recently swept by Louisville on the road.

First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen on ACC Network Extra.

Injury Report

Virginia Tech was hit hard by the injury bug prior to the Clemson series. Four regulars in the lineup missed the entire or most of the Clemson series and the VMI game.

Nick Menken suffered a spleen injury while attempting a diving catch the previous weekend against UNC. Regan Teegarden is currently moving around with a walking boot and scooter. Carson Taylor is out with a possible concussion after getting struck with a backswing as catcher in Game 1 against Clemson. Chris Gerard missed his start versus Clemson with a lower body injury.

“It’s hard,” Szefc said. “You take Gerard out. Gerard didn’t pitch the whole weekend. He’s our No. 2 starter. Taylor is our No. 3 hitter. Teegarden plays all over the place. Menken was getting close to getting back in the lineup. You take four guys out, and not to knock our other guys who have done a valiant job of replacing, but I don’t know too many teams who are going to be able to survive losing four guys in seven days. That’s the way it goes. Everybody is dealing with something.”

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