No. 19 Virginia Tech Baseball Run-Rules ETSU In Midweek Win

Christian Martin and Virginia Tech beat ETSU by run rule on Tuesday night in Blacksburg. (Jon Fleming)

No. 19 Virginia Tech run-ruled East Tennessee State on Tuesday afternoon at English Field in a 14-4 win in seven innings, its third consecutive victory and seventh in its last eight games.

The Hokies (15-4, 5-1 ACC) overcame an early 4-0 deficit by scoring 14 unanswered runs. They posted at least two in every inning after the first and the decisive victory over the Buccaneers (14-6) via a run-rule, which was agreed to before the game by both head coaches.

“It was just good to be able to come from behind,” Tech head coach John Szefc said after the win. “We haven’t come from behind a lot lately [by] that much. But as much as we scored 14 straight, we also didn’t give up anything in that span. … That’s a huge part of the game.”

After a slow start which saw the Hokies go down by four while sending out as many pitchers as it had hitters to the plate, the bats roared to life while the mound was held down by three brilliant bullpen outings. Matthew Siverling, Preston Crowl and Madden Clement combined for 5 ⅓ shutout innings, who allowed just one hit while punching out six batters.

“Those guys were all good out of the bullpen,” Szefc said. “From Siverling right on. If you look at their box score, they had one base runner. Those guys didn’t walk a batter. There’s a lot to say for that. Because if you’re gonna come back from any kind of deficit, you have to pitch and play good defense. And that’s what we did after we stumbled out of the gate today.”

While Tech’s batters went down in order in the bottom of the first, each subsequent inning saw at least three Hokies reach base safely as they accumulated 14 hits and worked five walks in just six innings. Seven of the nine starters recorded hits; five had at least two.

Chris Cannizzaro and Gehrig Ebel led the way with 3-for-4 days. Cannizzaro had three doubles and four RBI while Ebel homered for the second consecutive game, giving him two RBI on the day. Ben Watson, Henry Cooke and Clay Grady each knocked two hits, combining for three RBI, and Christian Martin blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the second inning to give the Hokies the lead they’d never relinquish.

“This year has been a little different for me,” Ebel said. “I’ve just let everything loose. So for me, I just go out there and I’m just trying to have fun. I always try to treat it like wiffle ball in the backyard with my dad. … Obviously, I want to play well for my teammates, for the coaches, for myself. But I’m just out here having fun with everybody. It could be my last year, could not be. So I just want to enjoy it while I can.”

David McCann also recorded an RBI single from the designated hitter spot, marking another feather in the cap of Tech’s catching group, which has combined for 14 home runs and 35 RBI in 2024. With Ebel playing first base, the Hokies have rolled out a lineup with all three catchers in the lineup in each of their last three games, which they’ve won by a combined score of 34-10.

“It’s hard to take guys out of the lineup when they’re hitting .400,” Szefc said of the catchers. “Those are a few of our better hitters, so you’re just trying to get them in the lineup somehow or another. As long as they’re doing what they’re doing, it’s gonna be hard to not do that. People would call me pretty stupid, I think, if I didn’t play them, you know what I’m saying? If I don’t play those guys, you’re like, ‘What are you doing? Are you an idiot or something?’”

Ebel, who said he hasn’t played first base since he was 12, has been a solid defender at that spot. He made a highlight, over-the-shoulder catch in foul ground to end the third inning — one of the key moments to swing the momentum in Tech’s favor early in the game.

“I’m still getting used to it, obviously,” Ebel said. “At the end of the day, I want to be in the lineup. I want to hit like. I want to see me, Cooke and McCann in there every day. So, if that’s how it happens, that’s what I want to see. And we’re winning, so whatever keeps us winning is what I want.

“We’ve all earned the right to play every single day. I’m thankful Coach Szefc has put us in the lineup the past three times. We’re all good enough to play, and it’s kind of awesome to see three catchers in the lineup.”

When Clement induced a flyout to end the top of the seventh, the Virginia Tech dugout emptied in celebration as the team notched its first shortened-game victory of the season, which might not be its last; the ACC has a new rule with would end a game with a 10-run margin in the seventh inning and beyond.

The Hokies will look to stay perfect in 2024 series when they take the trip up to Chestnut Hill for a three-game slate against Boston College (11-8, 2-4) this weekend. 

Box Score: No. 19 Virginia Tech 14, ETSU 4 

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