Virginia Tech baseball returned home to Blacksburg after a huge series sweep of Pittsburgh last weekend. The Hokies (13-8, 9-6 ACC) were the superior team from start to finish against the Panthers, who were ranked No. 15 at the time.
Following the sweep, Virginia Tech jumped back in the top 25 rankings, finding itself at No. 23 in the latest poll. Now, the Hokies will look to keep the momentum rolling with a three-game home series versus Boston College beginning on Thursday.
“When you win ACC games on the road [like against Pitt], it’s a little bit more rewarding, so to speak. Not that it’s not at home, it’s probably a tick more rewarding when you win a series on the road,” head coach John Szefc said. “Now, the test is moving on from that. The teams who will have the most success in this league will be because they’re able to move on. Hopefully we can do that.”
Integral to the Hokies’ sweep was a clean defensive effort and solid pitching after costly errors and erratic pitching performances cost Virginia Tech the previous two series against Florida State and Clemson. In the three-game sweep, the Hokies committed no errors. It was also an efficient series for the bullpen as just four relievers were used all weekend. The pitching staff combined for just 10 walks in the 27 innings pitched.
“I would say our pitching and defense was pretty solid,” Szefc said. “I keep a pretty close chart in the dugout on how many free bases we give up, and on Saturday we gave up three free bases the whole day. I think that had a big part in the success we had on that day. It wasn’t quite as good on Friday and Sunday, but it was acceptable. We can’t really get away from that. That whole theme will never really change.”
Boston College (12-11, 3-9 ACC) comes to town now in an odd Thursday through Saturday three-game series. After beginning the season with a series win over No. 11 Duke, the Eagles have floundered lately, including a three-game sweep last weekend at home versus Clemson.
Still, Szefc and Co. certainly aren’t taking Boston College easy.
“Mason Pelio, their top arm, was a preseason ACC Pitcher of the Year,” Szefc said. “Numbers wise, he hasn’t really lived up to that this far. He’s a guy who could come out and look like Nolan Ryan tomorrow.
“Mike Gambino does as good a job as any coach in this league. They are the hardest team to play in the ACC usually. That’s just what it is. I’ve been watching it since 2013. That was the last year that any team that I have coached has won a series against them. They’ve got a lot of different weapons, a lot of different ways to beat you. They haven’t played well lately, but it’s coming. I just hope it doesn’t come this weekend.”
The Hokies could still be without some key pieces heading into games with Boston College. Cade Hunter will still miss some time with a broken hamate bone in his right hand. Szefc says he expects to have Hunter back in a month by May 1. In the meantime, Dayne Leonard has filled the void left at catcher.
Meanwhile, Nick Biddison continues to progress and Szefc noted he should be cleared next week. The big question for the series will be the health of ace Chris Gerard. Gerard didn’t travel with the team last weekend due to a pulled groin.
“There’s no indication on Gerard yet,” Szefc said. “He’s going to throw a bullpen today and we’ll see. We’re going to try not to push him. We didn’t push [Anthony] Simonelli. He missed two starts and came back strong last week. As much as you want to bring guys back, you have to realize that a healthy Chris Gerard is pretty good whereas Chris Gerard at 60 percent, where he’s maybe worried about reinjuring it, you can’t put guys out there unless they’re mentally and physically ready to go.”
Either way, the Hokies find themselves in a good position near the top of the ACC Coastal Division standings. Virginia Tech’s 9-6 conference record is just one game behind No. 6 Georgia Tech.
“We feel like we’re in a good place,” Szefc said. “We’re still waiting for some guys to come back from injury, so we could be in a better place, but we could be a lot worse too. Numbers wise, standings wise, I think we’re OK at this stage of the game after five weeks in the ACC.
“Every one of these series is big. It’s important. It’s not like one is much more important than another. You’re playing at home and expecting to win a series at home and have some success.”
First pitch for all three games of the series versus Boston College is scheduled for 1 p.m. from English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park. Streaming is available on ACC Network Extra.