For the third consecutive weekend, Virginia Tech baseball battled an ACC foe, only to win one of the three games. After winning the opening game of the series, Virginia Tech lost back-to-back games during the Saturday double header to Coastal Division-leading Georgia Tech.
On Thursday night, the Hokies (24-18, 7-14) played arguably their best overall team game of the season in the 3-2 win. Tanner Thomas’s go-ahead two-run home run in the sixth inning was the decisive blow for Virginia Tech.
“That’s as big a knock as we’ve had all year to go from 2-1 to 3-2,” head coach John Szefc said.
— TSL Baseball (@TSL__Baseball) April 19, 2019
With the wind blowing out to left field, the lefty Thomas went to the opposite field and snuck the ball inside the foul pole for his second dinger of the season.
“Going through the scouting report we were told that we were going to be pounded on the outside part of the plate,” Thomas said. “The whole game I was just sitting that way, and the wind going that way helps a lot. I was sitting the other way for sure.
“I saw it, and with the wind cutting across from right center, I was hoping it wouldn’t be pushed foul. Luckily, it stayed in, and I couldn’t have asked for more right there.”
Starter Ian Seymour had an uncharacteristic outing that was marked by a lack of control, allowing four walks over just 4.1 innings. He was relieved by Connor Yoder in a bases loaded jam, who allowed just one of those inherited runners to score, while striking out two to close the frame.
The rest of the way the bullpen held strong and Yoder, Jaison Heard, Peyton Alford, and Jack Dellinger combined for one hit on 4.2 scoreless innings. It was a welcome sight for the coaching staff after seeing the bullpen roughed up at times last weekend against Duke.
“I though Fecteau did a great job of managing those guys and matching them,” John Szefc said. “They still have to come in and make the pitches, which they did, so give them credit. I think [Fecteau’s] plan to get Ian out of there when he did, and Connor, even though Connor walked in a guy, the staff did a very good job of minimizing the damage that inning.”
In particular, Dellinger’s performance inspired a ton of confidence for the 6-foot-6 right-hander after allowing three runs in three innings last weekend against Duke.
“I’ve been in a bit of a tough skid right now, so it feels good to get out there and do that,” Dellinger said. “I know all my guys have confidence in me, but it’s me who has to have confidence in me. It’s helps to have everybody have that energy when I’m out there.”
Dellinger relieved Alford in the eighth and fired a clean ninth inning for his first save of the season. He struck out two batters over the 1.2 innings, and his fastball had some serious run inside on right-handed batters. It was an adjustment that Fecteau worked with Dellinger on earlier in the week.
“We got on the game mound with the Trackman up on the scoreboard, and we kind of figured out how the ball spins and tilts and all of that,” Dellinger said. “We just kind of engineered that, and obviously it worked, so I’m going to stick with it.”
“He’s touching 95, so that’s some big-time stuff right there,” Szefc said. “He came in and did a great job for us when we needed it.”
There was also a number of key defensive plays for the Hokies throughout the course of the night. In the top of the sixth, the Yellow Jackets threatened with runners on first and third and the top of the lineup coming to bat. Instead, Nick Biddison made a diving catch on Luke Waddell’s shallow blooper into center field. Biddison then fired home and Carson Taylor applied the tag to convert the double play and limit Georgia Tech from extended its lead at the time.
— TSL Baseball (@TSL__Baseball) April 19, 2019
“A lot of little things,” Szefc said. “To beat a team like that, you have to do some little things well.”
After Friday’s game was cancelled due to rain, the Hokies stepped onto the field on Saturday needing to win just one of the two games being played to win the series. However, Georgia Tech prevailed 7-5 and 4-3 to take the series.
In the first game, Virginia Tech faltered defensively, committing three errors and allowing five unearned runs, including three in the fifth inning. Eight different pitchers also issued eight free passes in a game that was a far cry from Szefc’s formula of good pitching and clean defense. Following the win on Thursday, Szefc was asked what it was going to take in the next two games to win the series or come away with a sweep.
“You can’t get away from the fact that we played clean defense and didn’t make an error,” Szefc said. “We played good defense behind all those arms we threw. Again, to win in this league that’s the stuff you have to do.
“The key is to not give up a three-run inning. That’s such a key to it.”
The Hokies pretty much did the exact opposite of everything mentioned there during the first game of the doubleheader. In the second game, Virginia Tech didn’t garner its first hit until the eighth inning when Tanner Thomas led off with a double. Trailing 4-1 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Hokies made things interesting when Kevin Madden led off with a single. The Yellow Jackets proceeded to walk the next three batters, and Virginia Tech stood found itself trailing 4-2 with the bases loaded and no outs.
However, the Hokies couldn’t find the clutch hit. Nick Holesa and Jack Owens both popped up in the infield. Georgia Tech walked in another run to make it 4-3, but August Haymaker lined out to right to end the game.
“They battled back, you just can’t have two guys pop up there,” Szefc said. “It’s pretty unacceptable. That’s the way it’s been going.”
Virginia Tech picked up two wins during the middle of the week with a 10-9 victory over VMI and an 8-6 win over Radford. It’s a busy week for the Hokies, as they will now travel to No. 22 Miami (28-14, 11-10 ACC) for the series that is set to begin on Friday at 7 p.m. The Hurricanes most recently dropped two of three to No. 8 Louisville.
NOTE: Freshman Carson Taylor exited the second game of the double header versus Georgia Tech when he was hit by a pitch on the hand in the third inning. Taylor didn’t appear in either of the mid-week games, but Szefc confirmed that x-rays were negative.