The ebbs and flows of baseball have a way of bewildering the mind and making no sense sometimes. On paper, you could look and see that Virginia Tech won the series this weekend against Boston College, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Here’s where the zany side of America’s pastime comes into play. The Hokies took two of three from the Eagles and only led for one inning the entire series.
“Winning a series is really difficult in this league,” head coach John Szefc said. “This is the seventh straight [Saturday or] Sunday that we’ve had a chance to win the series or have already won the series. In that respect, you have to be really pleased with the group in general. Now that we’ve reached the halfway point in the ACC, the staff feels really good about where we are.”
After losing game one to Boston College 7-3, Virginia Tech rebounded and won the final two games of the series, 6-5 and 4-3 respectively. With the wins and Georgia Tech losing two of three to Virginia, the Hokies moved into a first-place tie with the Yellow Jackets in the ACC Coastal Division with an 11-7 conference record.
“I think we’re playing pretty good,” Szefc said. “Are we playing lights out, like ‘Oh my God!’ I don’t think so. Not yet, which is good. I’d like to think we haven’t reached a peak so to speak.
“I’ve been coaching in the ACC for parts of eight years now, it’s only the second time I’ve won a series against Boston College. The last time was 2013. You do the math there. They’re good.”
Following the opening loss, Virginia Tech found itself trailing Boston College 5-0 in the seventh inning of the second game. RBI singles from Dayne Leonard and Lucas Donlon in the seventh and Kevin Madden in the eighth brought the score to 5-3 going into the ninth.
In the ninth, the Hokies loaded the bases and TJ Rumfield made it a one-run game with a sacrifice fly to left field. After a Tanner Thomas walk, Kevin Madden came to the plate and connected on a seeing-eye single through the right side to bring home two runs for the walk-off hit.
😤 𝐁𝐀𝐋𝐋 𝐆𝐀𝐌𝐄 😤
— Virginia Tech Baseball (@HokiesBaseball) April 2, 2021
“What I had heard going into my at bat was ‘Away, away, away. He only throws fastballs,’” Madden said. “I hit it, and I was focused more on being safe at first because I didn’t know if he was going to make a play on it at second. I saw it squeeze through. I turn around and I just saw a mob running at me. I just started running.”
Madden finished the game 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Integral in the win was the work of seldom-used reliever Griffin Green to keep Boston College at five runs when he entered in the seventh inning. The freshman tossed 2.2 innings, allowing one hit, no runs, no walks, and four strikeouts to earn the win in just his third appearance this season.
“I think what you’ve seen this weekend is that our group is winning in different ways with different people,” Szefc said. “I was talking to my father last night, and he didn’t even know who Griffin Green was. We really haven’t used him a whole lot because he’s one of those freshmen that didn’t have a senior year in high school to pitch.”
The Hokies could have easily been in for a letdown spot in the rubber match of the series following such an emotional come-from-behind victory on Friday, and that appeared to be the case through the first half of the game.
Heading into the sixth inning, Virginia Tech had fallen behind 3-0 to the Eagles. The Hokies couldn’t get a run across the board, only tagging Boston College’s Alex Stiegler for four hits in the first five innings. Then, the hammer came into effect.
Tanner Schobel led off the inning with a hit by pitch before Gavin Cross brought out the boomstick for a two-run home run the opposite way over the left-center wall. One pitch later, Rumfield connected on a deep blast to the same part of the park. In two pitches, the Hokies went from down three to tied.
GAVIN CROSS 💪😤
B6 – (🦃 2, 🦅 3) pic.twitter.com/aywEBAcOc4
— Virginia Tech Baseball (@HokiesBaseball) April 3, 2021
We are tied in the sixth inning
B6 – (🦃 3, 🦅 3) pic.twitter.com/OrfzOz1QxN
— Virginia Tech Baseball (@HokiesBaseball) April 3, 2021
“Me and [assistant coach Tyler] Hanson were talking,” Cross said. “He just said, ‘Try to see it deep. Go left-center gap.’ Swung through a first pitch change up, got to two strikes, and was just honestly trying to hit a line drive over the shortstop. He hung a breaking ball and I hit it pretty good. TJ hit the first pitch after me. Me and TJ try to be as aggressive as we can. He got a hold of one, too.”
“Our big guys did what you like to think they can do,” Szefc added. “Cross and Rumfield took the game over a little bit there.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Virginia Tech started a rally largely behind the ability of Madden to impact the game without his bat. He drew a four-pitch walk and promptly stole second and took third base on a wild pitch. With the infield in, Tanner Thomas bounced a ground ball to the second baseman. Madden got a spectacular jump and just beat the throw home by a hair for what ended up being the game-winning run.
More than anything, it encapsulated the type of player Madden has become for the Hokies as one of the older guys on the team in his third season now. He’s become a leader who Szefc and Co. can count on to make winning plays.
“It’s a young group, but he probably has more experience than anyone in the group,” Szefc said of Madden who finished the series 7-for-12 at the plate. “Kevin played as good this weekend as I’ve seen him play in his whole career… He has given us a lot of stability over there, and that’s what you hope to get from one of your older players.”
“I’ve been in the program for a couple years. I’ve gained an opportunity to lead by example,” Madden said. “I get pretty excited when things are going well. Sometimes we really go. It’s been fun. If I’m playing well and talking a little bit, maybe that helps.”
Virginia Tech’s bullpen exerted its force in game three. Starter Shane Connolly lasted just four innings, giving up the three runs on eight hits. Jaison Heard came on in relief and fired three scoreless innings of no-hit ball.
Matthew Siverling followed Heard and cruised in the eighth before getting into some trouble in the ninth. With runners on first and second and two outs, pitching coach Ryan Fecteau made the call to the pen to bring in Graham Firoved for the righty-righty matchup. It was a power-on-power battle as Firoved came in throwing 94 mph cheddar against Luke Gold, Boston College’s cleanup hitter and the ACC’s third-leading home run hitter. Firoved’s fastball won the day as he got Gold to pop into foul territory for the final out.
“You saw the real Graham Firoved right there,” Szefc said. “That’s why the guy is here. That’s what he’s supposed to do. He chewed up Gold pretty good, and that’s a good hitter right there, too.”
When Virginia Tech lost two series in a row to Florida State and Clemson in the middle of March, there were some questions whether the fast start in the beginning of the season would slowly fade from memory. Now, the Hokies have won five of the last six in conference, and they look as legitimate as ever in the ACC.
“We came from behind and won both games similar to how we were coming from behind earlier in the season,” Szefc said. “It brings our guys back to where it was in the beginning of March where we had to win games that way and we did. That maybe reemphasizes to them that they can win in different ways.”