No. 5 Virginia On Deck For Series With Virginia Tech Baseball

Gehrig Ebel and Virginia Tech have a large challenge on their hands starting Friday night with Virginia. (Jon Fleming)

Even after losing its first three ACC series, Virginia Tech can turn its season around this weekend against No. 5 Virginia in the latest edition of the Commonwealth Clash. The Hokies (15-9, 2-7 ACC) recently lost a series at Pitt but had an exciting victory over a solid VMI team in Lexington on Wednesday.

Virginia (23-2, 7-2), though, is one of the best teams in the country and was the last remaining undefeated squad in the nation. The Cavaliers have series victories over North Carolina, NC State and Florida State — they swept the Seminoles in Charlottesville last weekend. And most recently, UVa won a mid-week matchup against Old Dominion at home on Wednesday.

Below are the broadcast designations and times:

Friday, March 31: 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Saturday, April 1: 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
Sunday, April 2: 1 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra

Projected starting pitching matchups:

Friday: Drue Hackenberg (5.13 ERA in 33 ⅓ innings) vs. Brian Edgington (1.95 ERA in 32 ⅓ innings)
Saturday: Griffin Green (6.33 ERA in 27 innings) vs. Connelly Early (1.59 ERA in 28 ⅓ innings)
Sunday: Anthony Arguelles (5.18 ERA in 24 ⅓ innings) vs. Jack O’Connor (2.59 ERA in 31 ⅓ innings)

The Hokies, even though they’ve lost seven of their nine conference games, have dropped four of their last five by three runs or fewer. All four times, Tech had held a lead in the later innings. Part of that can be chalked up to bad execution, while it can also be blamed on the fact that the Hokies aren’t healthy — especially the back-end of the bullpen.

Christian Worley and Henry Weycker are both working through injuries and have not pitched since the Friday Miami game on March 17, which Tech head coach John Szefc confirmed in his pregame radio hit to Jake Lyman on Wednesday. Kiernan Higgins, too, is also dealing with an injury and hasn’t thrown since starting against VMI at home on March 22.

“We’re hoping to get those guys back,” Szefc said on Wednesday. “It puts us at a disadvantage.”

Virginia, meanwhile, has had little problem with health — it has seven relievers that have thrown at least eight innings with an ERA under 4.00. The Cavaliers are led by Jake Berry (1.29 ERA in 21 innings and three saves) and Jay Woolfolk (1.23 ERA in 14 ⅔ innings and two saves) out of the bullpen. 

For the lineup, UVa leads the conference in batting average (.334) and it’ll manufacture runs more than it hits the baseball out of the ballpark; it’s 10th in the conference in long balls.

Kyle Teel (.449 average, five homers) and Jake Gelof (.357, eight homers) have, once again, emerged as two of the best hitters in the nation. The pair has combined to drive in 62 of the Cavaliers’ 240 runs. First baseman Ethan Anderson (.371) and center fielder Ethan O’Donnell (.367) are hitting in the high .300s.

For the Hokies, they’re hitting .313, which is good for third in the conference. They’ve also hit 50 homers, which trails the league lead by one (Wake Forest, North Carolina and Miami are tied at 51).

Clay Grady should be back in the lineup this weekend after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning last Sunday, subsequently leaving two pitches later. 

Jack Hurley has led the Hokies offensively for the past week after hitting four home runs in his past four games. He homered twice last Friday against Pitt and then two more – including the second of three-straight homers Tech hit in the ninth inning – against VMI on Wednesday. He’s raised his average to .308 and has base hits in each of his last seven games.

Virginia Tech seeks its second consecutive season series win over UVa after taking the Friday and Sunday games in Charlottesville last season. The series begins on Friday with first pitch at 8 p.m. ET on the ACC Network.

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