Bullpen Implosion Dooms No. 16 Virginia Tech Baseball Again In Atlanta

Griffin Stieg and the Virginia Tech pitching staff struggled in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. (Virginia Tech athletics)

After taking an early 7-0 lead, No. 16 Virginia Tech baseball relinquished nine runs across the fifth and six innings to drop its rubber match against Georgia Tech 11-7 on Sunday in Atlanta, Ga.

After Hokies (23-10, 11-7 ACC) starter Griffin Stieg was pulled with one out in the fifth inning, the Yellow Jackets (22-12, 7-8) plated six runs off the reliever duo of Brady Kirtner and Matthew Siverling before John Geisler launched the go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning to give GT the lead it never relinquished.

Kirtner entered needing two outs to get out of the frame with Virginia Tech leading 7-0. Instead, he and Siverling combined for just ⅔ of an inning, giving up six runs on four hits and four walks. When Jordan Little took the mound with two on and nobody out in the sixth, his first pitch was sent out of the yard for the game-flipping homer.

It’s the fourth time in the last six ACC games that the Hokies’ first reliever out of the bullpen recorded one out or fewer after Jeremy Neff did so in the second Wake Forest game and David Shoemaker couldn’t record an out on Saturday after recording just one in the first game against Wake.

Stieg had gone 4 ⅓ innings without allowing a run or a walk with seven hits and five strikeouts, but was hooked after giving up back-to-back singles to lead off the fifth despite the seven-run lead. His offense had given him and the Hokies’ bullpen all the cushion they could have asked for, but it still wasn’t enough.

The only member of Virginia Tech’s pen to not give up a hit or a walk was Neff, who only faced one batter, recording the final out of the eighth inning. Every other relief arm gave up at least a hit and a walk, with three of them giving up multiple of each.

Across Saturday and Sunday, the Hokies’ bullpen combined for 11 ⅔ innings, 18 hits and 24 walks, giving up 24 runs. 

While VT was able to go up by a proverbial touchdown after four innings, highlighted by a three-run home run in the first inning from Carson DeMartini and a solo shot in the second from Henry Cooke, that’s where the scoring stopped. In four of the final six frames, the Hokies stranded at least two runners, including two times with the tying or go-ahead run aboard.

On the day, Virginia Tech stranded 12 runners on the basepaths, hitting 1-for-11 with two outs, 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-3 with the bases loaded. Conversely, Georgia Tech batted 4-for-12, 5-for-18 and 1-for-4 in those categories, respectively.

These back-to-back losses for the Hokies were both rather dubious, but for two very different reasons. On Saturday, they walked a team 19 times and were handed the program’s worst loss in almost two seasons. But on Sunday, they blew a massive lead with a series on the line with the potential to bounce back from the previous day’s loss in emphatic fashion.

Between Friday’s offensive explosion, Saturday’s disaster of pitching and offense and Sunday’s blown lead, this series provided the full spectrum of VT baseball more negatives than positives. 

After starting the season with seven consecutive series wins and a perfect 4-0 record in ACC series, Virginia Tech has now dropped back-to-back sets, creating a three-way tie for second place in the Coastal with No. 7 Duke and No. 11 Virginia.

The Hokies will have a chance to break that tie when the Blue Devils (26-10, 11-7) travel to Blacksburg next weekend for a pivotal clash for positioning in the division, but not before Virginia Tech hosts Radford for the second act of a home-and-home on Tuesday after defeating the Highlanders 14-4 on February 27.

Box Score: Georgia Tech 11, No. 16 Virginia Tech 7 

5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. No consistency. No pitching. Against ranked teams this team simply can’t get it done. Now it seems they can’t get it done against unranked teams.

  2. My good fortune – couldn’t attend Friday night’s game. But, I was able to attend Saturday and Sunday’s game. YIkes.

  3. Would appreciate seeing post-game comments or quotes from the coaching staff I articles after a loss – not unit after wins. Coach Szefc was quite willing to comment about GT’s gifting VT so many BBs after the Friday game. I wonder what his comments are after game 2. Or what his rationale was for removing Stieg so quickly in game 3.

    1. I unfortunately wasn’t in Atlanta for this series, so I was unable to conduct any media availability with any players or coaches.

  4. I know “thats baseball” but what are the underlying causes of this recent implosion? GT does not seem all that good, but…

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