The hits just keep coming for Virginia Tech baseball, and we’re not talking about base hits. Following a sweep at the hands of No. 8 Notre Dame, the Hokies have now lost 13 of their last 15 ACC games, including five consecutive series in conference play.
They finished the regular season 27-23 with a 16-20 record in conference. It’s a disastrous finish to the regular season for a team that was once 19-9 (14-7 ACC) following a three-game sweep at Wake Forest on April 11.
In particular, it’s the Hokies’ bats that have gone silent recently. Over the last five games, Virginia Tech has scored just five runs in 45 innings. In fact, in the last two games against Notre Dame, the Hokies were 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position.
It’s a far cry from the explosive offense that we saw from Virginia Tech in the first half of the season. This was an offense that hit 10 home runs in the three-game set versus the Demon Deacons.
However, it appeared the entire team couldn’t string any hits together in conference play over those final five ACC series. Tech scored zero, one or two runs in eight of those 15 conference games down the stretch.
What makes it all that more frustrating is that Virginia Tech’s starting rotation was stellar most of the season.
Peyton Alford struck out a team-high 91 batters in 65.0 innings pitched, good for seventh in the ACC. Anthony Simonelli limited opposing hitters to a .179 batting average, the top mark in the ACC. While he missed a decent chunk of the season, Chris Gerard finished with a 3.02 ERA, a figure that would have been fourth in the ACC if he qualified. Shane Connelly, who started six games when injuries popped up, struck out 77 batters on the year, which was good for 11th in the ACC and the most of anyone in conference with fewer than 12 starts.
In terms of All-ACC selections, Gavin Cross was the only Hokie to be represented. He earned All-ACC First Team and All-Freshman Team honors after concluding the season with 70 hits (No. 1 in ACC), a .357 batting average, 11 home runs and 35 RBIs.
Last week before getting swept by the Fighting Irish, the Hokies were just on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament. D1 Baseball had Virginia Tech listed second in its “First Five Out” category while Baseball America had the Hokies listed first in the “Next Four Out category.”
Now, Virginia Tech will likely have to win the ACC Tournament or make a run to the championship. The ACC Tournament is slated to begin today in Charlotte. The full schedule can be found below.
HERE WE GO ⚾️🏆
Our bracket is set for this week's #ACCBASE Championship!
— ACC Baseball (@ACCBaseball) May 23, 2021
The Hokies find themselves in a pool with Notre Dame and Virginia. All three teams will play against each other and the team with the best record will advance. If there is a tie, the higher overall seed will advance.
It boils down to the Hokies needing to go 2-0 to advance to the semifinals. Head coach John Szefc rested Gerard last Sunday against the Fighting Irish, knowing this would be the scenario. The southpaw will be on the mound for Virginia Tech this afternoon against UVA (3pm) after firing 8.0 innings of one-run ball with 10 strikeouts in his last start. Meanwhile, Simonelli was pulled after just 83 pitches against Notre Game this past weekend, so he will be ready to go on Wednesday in a rematch with the Fighting Irish (3pm).
Regional Sports Networks from across the conference footprint and across the nation will carry all 12 games from Tuesday through Friday. Saturday’s semifinal games will be carried by the ACC Network, and Sunday’s noon championship game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. All games will also be available on the ACC Network Extra.