Although a rain delay set back the start of Tuesday’s game at English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park, Virginia Tech (1-2) captured its first win of the season with a 10-3 victory in the home opener over East Tennessee State University (3-1).
The Hokies were coming off an 0-2 start to the season on a trip to Conway, South Carolina, dropping back-to-back 7-5 decisions to San Diego State and UNCG. Chris Gerard was stellar in the opener, allowing no runs over 5.1 innings pitched. However, the bullpen couldn’t hold onto a 4-0 lead in the late innings. Two costly errors also allowed three unearned runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
Against UNCG, Anthony Simonelli made his first start with the Hokies, allowing two runs over 5.0 innings pitched. Freshman catcher Cade Hunter went 3-for-4 at the dish with a home run and three RBIs, but it wasn’t enough in a losing effort after the Spartans struck for four runs in the seventh.
The last game of the weekend was cancelled versus Coastal Carolina due to rain. It allowed staff ace Ian Seymour to start Tuesday’s opener.
“I was a little upset on Sunday for sure,” said Seymour after the 10-3 triumph over ETSU. “I was really fired up today. I hadn’t thrown in a long time. I didn’t get a chance to throw in the fall either, so I was jacked up. I was excited.”
Seymour was his usual self, tossing 3.0 innings and allowing just one run and no walks along with six strikeouts. The junior earned the win for a 1-0 start to the season.
“The biggest thing for me was that he didn’t walk anybody,” head coach John Szefc said. “He got after hitters. We wanted to try to keep him around 45 [pitches]. He threw 40, which is good. We wanted to get him work, but not extend him too much because we want to bring him back on Sunday on four days.”
Paramount in the Hokies’ victory was an explosion for nine runs in the second inning. It was capped off with one swing from Kevin Madden, who deposited the pitch beyond the left field fence for a three-run home run.
“We had runners on first and third, so I was thinking about piling it on a little bit,” Madden said. “I got a good fastball middle-in and my hips adjusted well. I just got out in front of one, so it was good.”
Virginia Tech has now won its last five home openers. The Hokies are also 28-3 in home games in the month of February.
Along the way pitching coach Ryan Fecteau used seven different pitchers (Seymour, Peyton Alford, Jaison Heard, Matthew Siverling, Zach Brzykcy, Stephen Resuccio, and Peter Sekllaris) in Virginia Tech’s win. They combined for 13 strikeouts and just one walk after 11 walks in the first two games.
“You kind of hope your first home game will go that way,” Szefc said. “They’re good. That’s not a bad team. It really isn’t. We just had a big inning to give us a little breathing room. Our guys pitched well. We didn’t walk a guy until the ninth. I’m telling you, when we give up that few free bases and we struck out 13 guys, what are you going to say? That’s the way you want to draw it up.”
Every position player received game action on Tuesday. It was all part of the plan for Szefc to get several guys involved who weren’t used as often over the weekend.
“We’re just trying to get a lot of guys some run right now to see who matches up against who,” Szefc said. “You got a ton of contributions.”
Now, the Hokies will head to Lafayette this weekend for a three-game series against Louisiana. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 1-3 so far this season with another game on Wednesday before the series with the Hokies.
Szefc was an assistant recruiting coordinator at Louisiana from 2003-2008 and knows the distinct advantage that the Ragin’ Cajuns hold in their home ballpark.
“If we’re going to be a postseason team, you want to bring your guys into that atmosphere,” Szefc said. “They’re good. They’re even better at home. Tough for us playing on the road, which is good to get us out of any comfort zone. It’s a long trip. You’re losing an hour in time, so you’re sticking your guys up against the wall again early in the season, which I think is good in preparation for the ACC.”
First pitch on Friday night is set for 7 p.m. with Gerard as the projected starter. Simonelli and Seymour are projected to start Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
“We’re just excited to get going,” Seymour said of the upcoming series. “Got the first one out of the way and now we’re ready.”