Hokies Baseball Slugs, Shoves Its Way To Rhode Island Sweep

Griffin Stieg and the Hokies swept Rhode Island at home on Sunday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

It’s never easy to sweep any opponent in college baseball. But it helps to have a red-hot lineup and a trio of strong outings from starting pitching.

With that recipe for success, Virginia Tech put together its most comprehensive performance of its young season on Sunday afternoon at English Field, winning 14-2 to notch a series sweep of Rhode Island.

“To have [a sweep] happen, you really have to get a good start on Sunday,” Hokies head coach John Szefc said.

Tech (5-2) got just that from sophomore Griffin Stieg, who put together the best outing of his career. After a rough first outing last Sunday in Charlotte in which he only recorded six outs, the McLean, Va., native flipped the script with five scoreless innings, only yielding two hits and a walk while striking out a career-high seven batters.

“I think I set the tone really well,” Stieg said. “That’s what we talked about a lot. My fastball and my slider were working really well. My slider wasn’t working last weekend against Charlotte. So I kind of made that a focus this week and bounced back from that.”

The Hokies outscored the Rams (1-5) by 32 runs, 39-7, over the weekend. They received three great outings from each of their starting pitchers: Brett Renfrow, Wyatt Parliament and Stieg, who combined to give up just five runs with 18 strikeouts. With the rotation being perhaps the biggest question mark coming into the season, those three have provided no shortage of optimism through two weekends in 2024.

“I think we could be one of the best staffs in the ACC, honestly,” Stieg said. “We have so many different looks every day. I think even in our bullpen, it’s just different every single time. Teams really struggle with it. You saw that last week against Charlotte on Friday and Saturday.”

Tech and URI were scoreless heading into the bottom of the third before the home team’s bats came to life with continued two-out offense. With Rams starter Connor Grotyohann one strike away from getting through his third clean inning, he plunked Christian Martin, who was tripled home on the very next pitch by Carson DeMartini. And after a Chris Cannizzaro walk, Garrett Michel muscled his second opposite-field home run in as many days to break the game open at 4-0.

Garrett Michel hit a 3-RBI homer in the third to bust the game open for the Hokies. (Virginia Tech athletics)

“We weren’t really able to get them offensively right away,” Szefc said. “But Stieg was so good that it gave our hitters a little bit of time to kind of wait the guy out.”

Two frames later, the Hokies put up a nine-spot on six hits in the bottom of the fifth to extend the lead to 13-0. Tech nickel-and-dimed its way to those nine runs with five singles and an RBI groundout; only three of those were earned as URI committed two errors and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch.

“Typically, the three ingredients in a big inning are a walk, a hit by pitch or an error,” Szefc said.
“We had that in both of the big innings.”

By that point, the rest of the game was merely a formality. The Hokies subbed out their entire lineup and allowed two freshmen to close things out on the mound: Madden Clement and Preston Crowl, who combined for two perfect innings and a pair of strikeouts to lock up the sweep.

Tech is back in action for another road in-state midweek clash on Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET when it takes a short trip down I-81 to take on Radford (2-4). It remains to be seen who will get the nod on the mound with a short turnaround, but a strong start has been the winning formula so far in 2024.

“It’s always about good starting pitching,” Szefc said. “I know that sounds like a cliche and it’s boring, but we had three good starts this weekend. In all of our five wins, we had good starts. The two losses we have, we didn’t have good starts. That’s usually where it stems from.”

Box Score: Virginia Tech 14, Rhode Island 2

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