Late Surge Propels No. 13 Hokies Baseball Past Pitt For Eighth Straight Win

Henry Cooke and the Hokies won their eighth straight game on Thursday vs. Pitt. (Virginia Tech athletics)

No. 13 Virginia Tech scored three runs in the seventh inning to take a late lead and received a massive lift from its bullpen to secure a 5-3 win over Pitt on Thursday evening at English Field.

After an offensive dry spell in the middle innings, the Hokies (20-4, 9-1 ACC) rallied for a trio of unearned runs in the seventh, then retired six of the last seven Panthers (11-12, 1-9) batters to lock up their eighth consecutive win — the longest such streak in the league.

“I just think our guys have been consistent,” Tech head coach John Szefc said after the game. “I was talking about that before the game: if you’re gonna be good, your consistency has got to be really good as far as how you prepare and guys being ready when they come in the game. They’ve done that.”

It was a slow start for the Hokies thanks to a sensational game from Pitt’s Ryan Andrade, who tossed a career-high six innings and gave up just two runs on five hits with no walks. He, along with the rest of Pitt’s arms, didn’t walk a single batter.

The aforementioned two runs came on a Henry Cooke home run to straightaway center field in the fourth inning, giving the catcher six on the year. In his last 10 games as Tech’s everyday starting catcher, he’s hitting 18-for-38 (.474) with four home runs and 10 RBI. He also delivered a key throw out to second base from behind the dish in the top of the seventh inning, flashing the arm that makes him the best throwing catcher that Szefc has ever coached, as he has repeatedly said this season.

“He’s one of our best players,” Szefc said. “Offensively, defensively. I think he will be a very high pick next year when he’s draft eligible. That is a pro prospect as far as how he catches and throws, and if he’s slugging and hitting for power like that, driving in runs. There’s good catchers in the country, and there’s a lot of good catches in our league. But I think as time goes on, he’ll emerge as one of the better catchers, one of the top 10 catchers in the country.”

As such, Tech trailed until the bottom of the seventh, but things never got out of reach courtesy of another great outing from freshman ace Brett Renfrow. The Manassas, Va., native threw 6 ⅓ innings, giving up three runs on two hits — a solo homer and a two-run double — and two walks with five strikeouts. He had stretches of nine and seven consecutive batters retired.

Entering the bottom of the seventh, nine Hokies had been retired in a row by Andrade until an error on a dropped third strike and poor throw to first by Pitt catcher Jayden Melendez put Ben Watson on first base. Tech was able to take advantage of the miscue; after a single from David McCann, Clay Grady ripped a 109-mph RBI single through the left side of the infield to tie the game at three runs apiece.

Two batters later, Carson DeMartini roped an RBI double down the right field line to give the Hokies the lead; an errant throw to second base allowed both runners to score and put Tech up 5-3.

“It’s hard to get us out 27 times,” DeMartini said. “That’s the bottom line. [Hitting coach Kurt] Elbin says it all the time, Szefc says it all the time. It’s really tough to get us out that many times. So at some point, somebody’s going to crack, and somebody in our lineup is gonna pop one.”

David Shoemaker was awfully good for the Hokies against Pitt. (Virginia Tech athletics)

With a lead in hand, the Hokies turned to arguably their two most reliable bullpen arms to seal the deal. David Shoemaker relieved Renfrow — a combination that has paid dividends this season — and delivered 2 ⅓ scoreless innings, allowing just a walk and a hit with a strikeout. With one out in the ninth, he was pulled on a 1-2 count for Brady Kirtner, who quickly recorded the game’s final pair of outs with ease.

“I think the combination of me coming off of Brett, they’re just totally different looks,” Shoemaker said. “And Brady coming in after me, or like last week, me coming in after Brady. We’re all just completely different pitchers. I think that’s why it works so well, especially Fridays, getting to open the series pretty well.”

The win marked a personal milestone for Szefc, who reached 100 career ACC wins, spanning his time with Tech (74 wins) and his previous stop, Maryland (26 between 2013-14).

“We’ve just had a lot of really good players over the years,” Szefc said. “Quite honestly, as I look back at it, working at Maryland and working at this place, there’s a lot of really good teams in this league that have a lot of really deep tradition. And we’ve just tried to build that. … That’s a lot of games. I didn’t know that. Doing it in this league is a cool thing.”

On Friday, the Hokies will try to extend their winning streak to nine and move to 7-0 in series in 2024 with Wyatt Parliament starting on the mound. But despite the early accolades, they remain focused on taking things one game at a time, never getting too caught up in the moment.

“Coach Szefc never gets too excited,” Shoemaker said. “No one’s mentioned being ranked. I didn’t know we were on a winning streak. Every day, whether it’s a midweek or it’s a big ACC game, it’s the same thing. These guys want to beat you, and you have to bring your best. It’s a very simple and easy mindset, and I think we’ve come in and played as well as we can, not trying to do too much.

“And that’s been the reason why we’re having so much success recently.”

Box Score: No. 13 Virginia Tech 5, Pitt 3 

5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. We need to get a better picture of Shoemaker. He looks like he’s either in a stop smoking ad, or he just sucked on a lemon.

  2. Raza, your writing is just EXCELLENT in my opinion! You capture the game(s).

    Go Hokies!!

    1. I totally agree. Virginia Tech doing an excellent job developing these young people to become excellent journalists and broadcasters.Go Hokies!!

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