Virginia Tech Baseball Walked Off By JMU After Furious Comeback

Henry Cooke and Virginia Tech couldn’t complete a large comeback against JMU on Wednesday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Despite clawing back from a five-run deficit to take an eighth inning lead, Virginia Tech didn’t have enough to finish the job against James Madison on Wednesday afternoon in Harrisonburg.

The Dukes (2-3) squandered a five-run lead before tying the game in the eighth and walking it off in the ninth to defeat the Hokies (2-2) in an 8-7 thriller. Shortstop Coleman Calabrese was the hero for the home team, looping the game-winning hit into right field over the outstretched glove of Tech first baseman Garrett Michel. 

Tech was once again plagued by a rough outing from its starter as true freshman Madden Clement got the nod and was unable to get out of the second inning. The Butler, Pa., native tossed 1 ⅔ innings and only retired four batters, allowing four runs, three hits and two walks without recording a strikeout on 37 pitches. 

That marked the second consecutive Hokies start to end in two innings or less after Griffin Stieg was pulled before recording an out in the third inning on Sunday at Charlotte. In the last two games, Tech’s pitching has given up 25 hits.

The Hokies lineup was good in spurts, highlighted by third baseman Carson DeMartini’s 2-for-4 effort with a homer and four RBI. Left fielder Chris Cannizzaro stayed hot, going 2-for-4, and catcher Henry Cooke was 3-for-3 with a walk.

However, three of Tech’s starters didn’t record a hit — Christian Martin, Sam Tackett and Ben Watson — and the lineup combined for 11 strikeouts. Martin is hitting just .083 to start the season.

JMU plated a pair of runs in each of the first two innings against Clement and Jordan Vera, highlighted by a solo home run for right fielder Brendan O’Donnell and a two-run double from designated hitter Ike Schmidly to quickly make it a 4-0 ballgame. 

Tech’s bullpen was largely solid, but the Dukes’ timely hits — JMU went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position; the Hokies were 4-for-13 in such situations — kept them comfortably in front. Vera gave up a leadoff home run to second baseman Mike Mancini in the fifth and was charged with another run after Calabrese pushed an RBI single through the right side of the Hokies infield off Brady Kirtner to make it 6-1. 

JMU got a terrific start from graduate lefty Donovan Burke, who threw six innings of two-run ball, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out seven Hokies. Those two runs came on a two-out, two-strike RBI single from DeMartini and a solo home run from designated hitter Eddie Micheletti Jr. — his first as a Hokie.

After Burke was pulled heading into the seventh inning, Tech was able to charge back with an inspired comeback. It got a pair of massive two-out hits in the seventh as DeMartini blasted a two-run homer to right before Michel cranked an RBI double down the right field line to cut the deficit to one.

That’s when Matthew Siverling came in for the Hokies, providing a massive lift by retiring the top of the JMU lineup in order.

In the eighth, the Hokies led off with a pair of walks before shortstop Clay Grady tied the game with an RBI single into left. After pinch runner Warren Holzemer advanced to third on a fly ball, DeMartini brought him home on a sac fly — his fourth RBI of the game — to give Tech its first lead of the game at 7-6.

Siverling remained in to pitch the eighth; his first pitch was a hustle double for O’Donnell and his second hit Calabrese. Frostburg State transfer Jacob Stretch entered to relieve him in a jam, which is where JMU’s small ball approach started to shine. The Dukes loaded the bases on what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt from first baseman Jacob Steinberg before third baseman Wyatt Peifer singled home the game-tying run. 

Stretch was able to bounce back, recording the final two outs of the frame with a force out at home and a lineout. With a chance to take the lead in the ninth inning, Jaden Kinsler — who threw the last 1 ⅔ innings of the game without allowing a hit — sat the Hokies down in order, giving the Dukes the opportunity to walk it off.

That they did, as Tech was unable to record an out in the final frame. Stretch issued a leadoff walk to Trimble before Dooley laid down a bunt which was fielded by DeMartini, whose throw to second base was a little too low to be gloved, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. 

Four pitches later, Calabrese won the game with his RBI single off Jacob Exum to score Trimble — the game’s lone unearned run.

The Hokies return to action for their home opener at English Field against Rhode Island (1-2). The three-game series gets started on Friday at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised on ACC Network Extra. 

Box Score: James Madison 8, Virginia Tech 7

6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. It’s real early in the season for sure. Not overly concerned with their hitting. They have some good bats and the strikeouts will subside.

    The concern over pitching, both starting and relief, is legitimate. I’m no authority on baseball recruiting, but it seems VT just isn’t able to bring in the upper-tier pitching that they need to get to the next level. Just have to hope some guys step up.

  2. 11 more Hokie strike outs today.

    15 + 9 + 9 + 11 = 44 whiffs out of 108 outs (4 games @ 27 outs ea.) so far this season.

    40.7% of our batters’ put outs are via strikeouts !!!!

    i’m embarrassed for our players, their hitting coaches and the big money spent on that batting lab.
    (i won’t continue posting this stat line for our future games, so you don’t need to worry about seeing
    similar comments from me going forward. now that you know, you can watch that line for yourself.)

    go Hokies! let’s win.

  3. It is still February and better days are ahead. Pitching needs to get better and probably will.

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