Virginia Tech baseball has brought the hype to Blacksburg. For the second weekend in a row, the Hokies won two of three to win an ACC series.
This weekend from English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park, Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-2 ACC) defeated then No. 25 North Carolina (7-3, 3-3 ACC) 10-6 and 6-4 on Friday and Saturday, respectively, before falling 9-6 on Sunday. This was the first time in 16 tries that the Hokies have taken a series from the Tar Heels.
“Taking two out of three from Miami on the road, taking two out of three from these guys at home, is something certainly to be happy with and proud of,” head coach John Szefc said. “I think we put ourselves in a good position after the first two weekends.
“The fact that we’re sitting here 4-2 in the ACC. I know we’ve still got 30 games to go, which is a long way to go, but I’ll take it. I’ll take where we are.”
Virginia Tech has now moved to No. 18 in D1Baseball.com’s Top 25. Baseball America ranked the Hokies No. 12 in the country.
In game one of the series against North Carolina, the offensive fireworks were on full display. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 6-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning. From there, the bats came alive.
In the bottom of the fifth, Tanner Schobel’s two-out, two-RBI triple tied the game. Two pitches later, Cade Hunter connected on a no doubter to deep right field. His reaction told the whole story.
That bat flip though 👀
Hunter gives us the lead with his third homer of the year
B5 – (🦃 8, 🐏 6) pic.twitter.com/wrwKUccJnl
— Virginia Tech Baseball (@HokiesBaseball) March 5, 2021
Jack Hurley’s first home run of the season and a Kevin Madden RBI single in the sixth inning brought the game to its final score of 10-6. Even more impressive was Virginia Tech’s pitching staff in the game. 21 of the 27 outs by the Hokies’ pitchers were recorded via a strikeout. Peyton Alford had 10 strikeouts as the starter while Jaison Heard and Shane Connolly punched out five batters apiece in relief.
In Saturday’s matchup, Virginia Tech again found itself down 1-0 and 2-1 early. Madden’s two-RBI double gave the Hokies a 3-2 advantage. Hurley brought in two runs with a single in the sixth to extend Virginia Tech’s lead to 6-3.
From there, the bullpen took over. JUCO transfer Graham Firoved made his presence known in a big way. The right-hander struck out six batters in his two innings of work, while Matthew Siverling closed the deal with two scoreless innings of his own. The Hokies struck out 15 Tar Heels in the game, fanning 36 batters over a two-game stretch.
“The biggest takeaway as a group is that at least for now, we’ve established ourselves as a legitimate contender,” Szefc said. “People are going to have their hands full when they play us, regardless of where and when. I think that’s probably my biggest takeaway. I’d like to think that our guys come out of this weekend believing that they can have an awful lot of success, which they have.”
Saturday’s victory marked the fourth time this season that Virginia Tech trailed before coming back to win.
“I think they have pretty strong wills,” Szefc said. “They don’t give in very easily, clearly.”
The chance for a sweep on Sunday went by the wayside, largely due to sloppy defense and pitching. In the 9-6 defeat, Virginia Tech committed three errors and issued eight walks on the mound. Still, the Hokies tallied 14 strikeouts, bringing it to an all-time Virginia Tech ACC record of 50 strikeouts in the series.
It was also the first time that in a little less than a year that the general public could watch from inside English Field. Prior to the series, Virginia Tech announced that 1,000 fans would be allowed in attendance. It was a raucous environment all weekend as a result.
“The crowd always has our back,” Hurley said. “This whole weekend you could tell they made a huge impact on us rallying and coming from behind. It was awesome playing in front of that many people.”
“The people that were at the ballgame were great,” Szefc added. “They kind of provided us with energy. It’s by far the best crowds I have seen since working here in parts of four seasons. I know our guys appreciate it, our coaching staff appreciates it. It made it feel like a baseball place, really.”
Virginia Tech’s offense was powered by the true freshmen tandem of Hurley and Schobel the entire weekend. Hurley finished the series 5-for-13 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Meanwhile, Schobel went 4-for-10 with two home runs and four RBIs.
“When you have guys like that coming in as true freshmen and getting the job done without even blinking an eye, it’s pretty impressive,” TJ Rumfield said, who went 4-for-11 from the plate this weekend. “I know where I was from a true freshman standpoint. To see guys come out here and be ready for it, and they’ve stepped up so far.”
“I’m happy with where I’m at now, but I’m not satisfied,” Hurley said.
Virginia Tech plays a two-game home series on Tuesday and Wednesday against VCU before welcoming Florida State to town on Friday.