Once No. 7 Virginia Tech head coach John Szefc takes the baseball on the pitcher’s mound from Griffin Green on Fridays and Drue Hackenberg on Saturdays, there’s almost no late-inning drama, no bullpen collapses and no questioning if the two gave their team the best chance to win.
That’s what typically happens almost every weekend, no matter where Tech is. It occured on the road at Notre Dame and at North Carolina. And it happened again at English Field against NC State and Miami in recent weeks.
The two teamed up once again to power the Hokies to a sixth-straight ACC series victory at Boston College this weekend. A 2-0 win on Friday, a 6-1 victory at Fenway Park in the 10th annual ALS Awareness Game on Saturday, and Tech’s first ACC sweep of 2022 with a 6-4 victory on Sunday.
With the sweep, Virginia Tech moved to 28-9 on the season and 12-7 in the ACC, good for second place in the league. No. 18 Notre Dame and No. 16 Louisville sit a half-game behind Tech.
Green pitched in his home state of Massachusetts on Friday for the first time since starting Game 1 of the Cape Cod League championship series over the summer. He grew up a short 45-minute drive from BC’s campus. With about 40 family members and friends in attendance, he turned in another spectacular Friday start, a common theme for the 21-year-old this year.
The sophomore right-hander scattered seven hits and two walks in 6 ⅔ shutout innings, striking out seven hitters in the Hokies’ fifth-straight series-opening win – all of those guided by Green’s dominating presence on the mound.
Offensively, it was a quiet game for an offense that entered the weekend scoring nearly 10 runs per game. The Eagles’ starter, Joe Mancini, matched Green pitch-for-pitch for the first six innings. He carried a no-hitter with an out into the sixth inning before Carson DeMartini singled to break up the no-no.
Then, Gavin Cross and Tanner Schobel led off the seventh with back-to-back solo home runs for the third time this season. That’s where the final score stood when Szefc took the baseball from Green with two outs in the seventh and Graham Firoved recorded his first save of the season after working the final seven outs.
On Saturday, Tech had a little more breathing room in its five-run win at Fenway Park, though Boston College got on the board first in the first inning when Parker Landwehr singled a run home with two outs off of Hackenberg.
But from there, Hackenberg settled in. He stranded five base runners across his final six innings. In the end, the true freshman yielded six hits and two walks on one run. He struck out seven on 104 pitches (73 strikes) before handing the baseball over to Kiernan Higgins for the final six outs – four of which came via the strikeout.
On offense, Tech trailed until Cross smoked a ground-rule double that scored Lucas Donlon in the third inning to tie the game at one. Through the first 15 innings of the weekend series, Tech had only scored three runs — very uncharacteristic of its lineup.
That was until Jack Hurley broke the tie with a two-run homer in the sixth off of BC starter Henry Leake, who was dealing up to that point. Then Cross added an insurance run in the seventh inning for his second RBI of the day, 4-1. Finally, Schobel’s ninth-inning sacrifice fly and Hurley’s RBI single put the game out of reach as Higgins’s mid-90’s fastball mowed down the final three hitters in the bottom half.
It’s no secret that the Hokies have had trouble finding a consistent Sunday starter since the ACC season began in early March. They seemed to have discovered one, though, after Jordan Geber threw three two-run innings in a loss to Miami on April 17 and worked through another quality start on Sunday.
In his 4 ⅓ innings, he yielded two runs (one unearned), four hits and a walk. He struck out five as Szefc has seemed to have struck gold with a true Sunday starter. He’s longed to find one all season, trying out Ryan Okuda and Henry Weycker in the role, but neither have stuck.
After his April 17 start against Miami, Szefc said that he had been grooming Geber to be a starter after landing him as a grad transfer from Mount St. Mary’s, where he started 29 games in four years. But he suffered a concussion in a car accident on his way back to Blacksburg during winter break in between the fall and spring semester, which bumped him to the bullpen to begin the year.
For now, it seems as if Virginia Tech has a formidable Sunday starter. He’ll likely get another chance next Sunday as Virginia Tech travels to Charlottesville to play No. 11 Virginia for a three-game weekend series.
But before that, the Hokies will host James Madison in a mid-week matchup on Wednesday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. on ACC Network Extra. Back on March 15, Tech lost 5-2 to the Dukes in Harrisonburg.
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Jordan Geber is getting a little better with each start. Would have liked to have seen him left in a little longer to try and get a win but 4 1/3 innings and 1 earned run is pretty strong.
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