Zany. Absurd. Unexpected. And just straight weird.
All could be used to describe Virginia Tech’s (25-23, 8-18 ACC) 15-8 victory over Boston College (25-25, 9-17 ACC) on Sunday night. A combined 407 pitches were thrown by 13 different pitchers utilized in a game that lasted four hours and 16 minutes. It’s a game where Hokies head coach John Szefc just laughs and is relieved to come away with a victory.
“It’s a weird game,” Szefc said. “It’s a funny, funny game.”
Virginia Tech opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with a Tanner Thomas two-RBI triple. Two innings later, Kerry Carpenter blasted his team-leading ninth home run of the year, and Nick Owens broke things open (or so we thought) with a bases clearing three-RBI double in the bottom of the fifth.
At the time, the Hokies led the Eagles 8-1, and starting pitcher Chris Gerard exited the game after firing 5.0 innings while allowing just one run, one hit and striking out four batters.
However, the sixth inning spelled disaster for Virginia Tech. 13 Boston College players came to the plate and the Eagles struck for seven runs to tie the game at eight apiece. In that inning alone, the Hokies required four different pitchers to collect three outs.
Virginia Tech quickly responded to what could have been a staggering blow by putting up two runs in the bottom of the sixth. The rally was started by Michael Fernandez and Nick Holesa, who came into the day batting .107 and .196 respectively.
The Hokies again busted the dam with five runs in the seventh, highlighted by two-RBI hits from Nick Biddison and Kevin Madden.
“It was definitely a battle,” said Madden, who finished 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBIs. “Coach said after the game that we came up with two different points in the game where we were up by seven. That’s pretty hard to do in the game of baseball. It’s a tough win, but hopefully it will get us going.”
Southpaw Ryan Okuda preserved the second seven run lead late, pitching 3.0 scoreless innings while striking out three. For a bullpen that exhibited a multitude of struggles in the sixth by surrendering five walks, Okuda didn’t allow any free passes.
“Okuda came in and stabilized the whole thing,” Szefc said. “You look at a game like that and you have a lot of runs scored, but technically somebody had to stabilize it, and he did. He’s just as much a story as the hitters were in that game, for us at least.”
What makes the game and Virginia Tech’s scoring outburst all that more unbelievable is the fact that the offense had put just six runs across the plate in the past five games combined. This is the same team that scored only three runs the entire series last weekend against Miami.
Boston College’s starter in the game, Mason Pelio, came into the matchup Sunday night having allowed just 33 hits in 58.1 innings pitched. He hadn’t given up more than five hits in a game all season, and the Hokies tagged him for nine hits. It’s all part of the screwy, wacky game that is baseball.
“How can you explain getting that many hits off a guy – look at his numbers,” Szefc said. “It doesn’t make any kind of baseball sense.
“People just don’t get hits off of him. You can’t explain it. That’s why you play the games I guess.”
Perhaps even more impressive is the way the Hokies were able to battle with a severely depleted roster. According to Szefc, there’s only 11 healthy position players. It’s making work with the cards that were dealt because of injuries to Luke Horanski, Carson Taylor, Nick Menken, and Reagan Teegarden. Sunday’s starting lineup consisted of just two players who were on the roster last year.
“I’ve said this all year. When you have a lot of new guys in the lineup, you just get so many ups and downs,” Szefc said. “Especially now in our case not having a few other guys in the lineup because of injuries, we’re as prone to ups and downs probably as any team in America right now… We’re trying to build something for now and for the future.”
After losing the opening game of the series 2-1, the Hokies now have another chance to win their first ACC series since March 17 versus Pittsburgh. Virginia Tech’s postseason hopes could potentially hang in the balance tonight at English Field at Union Park. The Hokies trail the Eagles by one game in the ACC standings for the last spot in the ACC Tournament. Only one ACC series remains following tonight’s game, with Virginia Tech hosting Virginia (27-20, 10-14 ACC) and Boston College hosting Notre Dame (19-26, 12-15).
“[Szefc] just said tomorrow we have a chance to win the series, so that was our goal today, to give us a chance tomorrow,” Madden said. “It could be our season tomorrow, so we’re definitely going to be ready to go.”
Either way, Sunday’s game was just another example of the sport that continually keeps you guessing.
“If you watch the game long enough, you realize a lot of the game doesn’t make sense,” Szefc said.
Note: Tonight’s game is at 7 PM and will be televised on ESPNU. Virginia Tech’s HokieVision department will produce its first linear broadcast of an athletics event as a test case for the pending launch of the ACC Network in late August.