Virginia Tech’s 2021 baseball season has officially come to an end. The Hokies went 0-2 at the ACC Tournament last week, and when the field of 64 was announced for the NCAA tournament on Memorial Day, Tech did not make the chopping block.
It was expected after Virginia Tech finished the season with eight consecutive losses. The Hokies finished the season 27-25, it’s first official winning season since 2013, but they lost 15 of the last 17 in the ACC. The Hokies faithful was left in disbelief after John Szefc’s squad appeared destined for a resurgent season when it was all alone atop the ACC Coastal standings in early April.
“Just really frustrating. Tough way to end the season,” Szefc said.
“When I start every season, I’m not thinking, ‘Man, I hope we have a winning record.’ That’s pretty poor in general. When you look at a lot of the ups and downs we’ve had, some of the injuries we’ve been through, the schedule we played, I take some solace in walking away from the year with where the numbers are. Obviously the plan is that they continue to improve as we keep working with things here.”
For Virginia Tech, it was really the offense that sputtered down the stretch. Over those final eight games of the season that the Hokies lost, they averaged just 1.6 runs per game. They scored just two runs in the two games in the ACC tournament. In the college game with metal bats where offense largely rules the day, those types of numbers will never get it done.
“There’s a lot of information out there, a lot of video,” Szefc said. “There’s just a lot more scouting report stuff, and the opposing arms we faced have really done a good job of executing plans, and our guys haven’t made many adjustments. That’s why you see what the outcomes have been.”
The grind of the ACC season slowly but surely wore down the young Hokie lineup. In fact, seven of the eight normal position player starters were freshman or sophomores. It’s a young unit that can use the growing pains from this past year to learn from it going into next season.
“[This group has] helped us put another foot forward,” Szefc said. “I know it probably doesn’t seem that way to a lot of people because it ended so poorly. As I step back and take a look at the whole thing, this group of guys really helped us move it forward. I can’t exactly say or measure it right now. I will in the days to come.
“It’s really been a very up and down season for us, but in general, down the road a couple years when we have it in a better place, I think we’ll look to this season and look to it as being one in which strides were made… Strides were definitely made in the right direction. My hope is these guys can walk away from the season feeling positive about things even with the way it ended.”
Going forward, the MLB Draft will likely determine the outlook for the team. Tanner Thomas, Jaison Heard, and Peyton Alford are all officially gone, having used up their eligibility, but other question marks remain. Anthony Simonelli will get drafted and sign by all likely outcomes. Chris Gerard is 21, so he will be eligible to be drafted, and it remains to be seen what his stock will be after an injury-filled 2021 season.
The Hokies have two freshman studs coming in next year: Mason Albright and Tyler Dean. The question will be whether or not they sign an MLB contract right out of high school. Here’s the brief write up on each from Perfect Game.
Albright: “Great body control and unreal deception throughout his outing at the PG National. Up to 94 and held velocity and command throughout, SL/CU play well off the FB.”
Dean: “Athletic delivery with a quick shoulder, consistently into the mid 90’s all summer with a slider that has developed into a swing and miss offering.”
Once the MLB Draft on July 11-13 comes around, Virginia Tech will have a much better idea of what it’s team will look like in 2022.
“We have got to upgrade in certain areas, and we already have a plan to do that,” Szefc said. “The Major League draft in July will dictate where that whole thing goes. We have a lot of work to do between now and then to get a better feel as to who will be here and who will not.
“They’re steps that you take along the way. As a coach you hope you can bypass some of those steps, and we weren’t able to do it this year. I can tell you that from a plan perspective, that’s what the plan is. Ultimately, you want to represent the university at an NCAA regional and that’s obviously what our next step will be.”