Virginia Tech Baseball Wins Double Header Against Kent State

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Virginia Tech
Chris Gerard had a great game on the mound on Sunday. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

After a layoff of 347 days, baseball has returned to Blacksburg. Virginia Tech (2-0) came ready to play, sweeping the Sunday doubleheader against Kent State from English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park.

The Hokies rode a combination of solid pitching and defense in the first game. Despite tallying just three hits, Virginia Tech used timely at bats to win 3-1. Meanwhile, the Hokies’ bats came alive in the second game and the pitching continued to stifle the Golden Flash hitters en route to a 9-2 final score.

“Just a good day for our group in general,” head coach John Szefc said. “A lot of guys contributed to the two wins. We played 18 innings and did not commit an error. That’s a pretty good thing right there. 

“I thought guys did a pretty good job for not playing against someone else in a pretty long time. A couple of our guys said to me that it felt a lot different facing other pitchers than our pitchers. I think that’s one thing you have to remember is that you have a lot of guys that have been playing against the same guys since August… Our pitchers did a really good job. We gave up three runs in two games.”

Starting Pitching

Chris Gerard and Anthony Simonelli entered the 2021 campaign expecting to anchor the rotation, and they did exactly that on Sunday.

“It’s awesome being Simo’s counterpart,” Gerard said. “We do a lot of stuff together, so for me to have success and then see him have success is a pretty awesome thing to see.”

In game one, Gerard picked up right where he left off in 2020. The southpaw lasted 6.0 innings, allowing just four hits, one run, and one walk along with seven strikeouts.

“He just threw a lot of strikes,” Szefc said. “That’s his MO. He was around the zone.”

This past offseason, Gerard added to his repertoire. It was on full display Sunday afternoon.

“The biggest focus for me in the offseason was my curveball,” Gerard said. “Just making it a better pitch. I changed the grip from a normal grip to a spike and started throwing it differently. It’s worked out pretty well for me.”

Simonelli packed a punch starting the second game of the doubleheader. He consistently sat 92-94 mph with his fastball, topping 95. The right-hander tossed 5.1 innings, giving up three hits, one earned run, no walks, and four strikeouts. 

The number that stands out the most from Simonelli’s outing is the no walks. The junior’s control got the best of him at times last year when he walked 13 batters in 21.1 innings pitched. That wasn’t the case on Sunday as he was sharp from the outset.

Tanner Schobel’s Debut

True freshman Tanner Schobel made the most of his Virginia Tech debut. With the score tied 1-1 in the fifth inning of the first game, Schobel stepped to the plate. He jumped on the 1-0 fastball and ripped a double down the left field line to drive in Cade Swisher all the way from first. It gave the Hokies a lead that they would never surrender.

Later in the second game with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, Schobel again came through with a clutch hit. He lined the two-strike offering back up the middle to bring in two runs and make it a 3-0 Hokies’ advantage.

“It feels like a game seven kind of thing in your first game,” Schobel said. “You don’t want to mess up. You don’t want to do anything stupid, so I was really nervous. I thought I hid it well for the most part. After I got my first hit and made my first play, it was really like every other game again.”

News and Notes

  • In game one, Matthew Siverling followed Gerard with two shutout innings of relief. In the ninth, Henry Weycker recorded one out and Jaison Heard closed it out for the save.
  • Third baseman Kevin Madden picked up two of the three hits for Virginia Tech in game one. He also added an RBI.
  • Gavin Cross smacked Virginia Tech’s first homer of the season in the second inning of the second game. His dinger to right field traveled 377 feet with an exit velocity of 105 mph. He finished game two 2-for-4 at the dish with three RBIs.

  • Freshman Jack Hurley was another player with a successful debut. He batted leadoff in the second game and went 2-for-4 from the plate.
  • Kent State threatened with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning of the second game. The Citadel transfer Shane Connolly entered at that point and struck out back-to-back hitters to get out of the jam. Connolly picked up the save, tossing 2.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
  • “What Connolly did was pretty good in the seventh by hanging a zero,” Szefc said. “He came in with the bases loaded facing their three-four (hitters) and got out of that with nothing. That was the ballgame right there.”
  • Virginia Tech returns to action on Tuesday for a mid-week tilt at home versus Radford. The Highlanders went 2-1 in their weekend series against Ohio.
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