Coming into 2022, coaches around the ACC and country viewed this season as another rebuilding year in the John Szefc era for Virginia Tech.
Its pitching – after losing four starters to the MLB Draft last July – was unproven. The Hokies brought in a few mid-major transfer bats and started a true, but relatively unknown, freshman on the mound in Drue Hackenberg, who emerged as one of the best in the conference.
All of that culminated into arguably the best regular season (41-12) and conference record (19-9) in program history, as well as the program’s first Coastal Division championship. That was enough for the NCAA to reward Virginia Tech with the No. 4 overall seed in the 2022 NCAA Baseball Tournament on Monday afternoon.
It’s just the second time in school history that Blacksburg has hosted a regional in the tournament – the first came in Pete Hughes’s final season in 2013. Overall, it’s the 10th NCAA Regional in program history. However, the Hokies have yet to make a Super Regional.
That could change this spring after the Hokies drew favorable matchups in Gonzaga (No. 2 region seed), Columbia (No. 3) and Wright State (No. 4).
It’s a three-day, double-elimination-style regional that will take place at English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park on Duck Pond Drive. Gonzaga and Columbia will open play on Friday, June 3 at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Virginia Tech and Wright State will follow later that evening with a 7 p.m. first pitch on the ACC Network.
Tickets will be made available on Tuesday, May 31. Click here for more information.
The Hokies don’t have recent history with Gonzaga or Columbia, playing the two last in 1995 and 2010, respectively.
Wright State, however, played in Blacksburg earlier this season in Tech’s final non-conference series in early March. The Raiders ran away with the Friday game in an 11-5 win in which Griffin Green yielded six runs in two innings. But Virginia Tech stormed back with wins on Saturday (9-3) and Sunday (17-1) to take the series.
Ryan Okuda, who has since been moved out of the weekend rotation, gave Tech five innings of two-run (one earned) ball in game two. Drue Hackenberg’s first true test came on Sunday and he lived up to the task – as well as setting up his success to run away with the ACC’s regular season ERA title (2.44). He shoved for seven innings, allowing five hits and a run in his final inning. The freshman struck out six en route to the 16-run victory.
The Sunday win moved the Hokies to 9-1 on the year. The next week, Virginia Tech was swept on the road at Georgia Tech – the Hokies were walked off twice – and dropped a third one-run conference game to Pitt on March 18.
Sitting at 0-4 in the ACC, they didn’t panic. Their confidence remained high and never squandered. They were 2-19 in their last 21 ACC games dating back to last season. But they knew they were talented. They had learned to lose, because all of a sudden, a switch flipped.
The second Pitt game? Virginia Tech won handedly, 22-6, its first ACC victory of the year. Since, it has ripped off 18 wins over its last 23 ACC games and 29 overall wins in its last 35 games.
2022 marks the first appearance in the NCAA Tournament for Virginia Tech since 2013, when Tech was eliminated by Oklahoma in the regional final. It’s Szefc’s first appearance in the tournament since he took Maryland to a regional in 2017 – he also did it in 2014 and 2015 when the Terps were in the ACC.
If the Hokies advance, they’ll host the winner of the Gainesville Regional in Blacksburg. No. 13 Florida, Oklahoma, Liberty and Central Michigan are the four teams in that bracket.