Wild Walkoff Lifts No. 23 Virginia Tech Over No. 7 Duke In 11th Inning

Christian Martin walked things off for Virginia Tech in Saturday’s thriller against Duke. (Virginia Tech athletics)

With two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning and the winning run 90 feet away from home plate, Virginia Tech second baseman Christian Martin knew he had one job: put the ball in play.

While he did just that, it was right to an infield glove at shortstop, setting up a tailor-made 6-3 groundout. But when Martin turned around past the first base bag, he unexpectedly saw the baseball on the turf as David McCann came home to secure a 2-1 win for the No. 23 Hokies (25-11, 12-8 ACC) over No. 7 Duke on Saturday night.

“I hit it, and I knew I hit it right at him,” Martin said. “I hit it hard, so I was happy with the swing, unhappy that the guy was right there. … As I was passing first, I saw the ball on the ground and just started laughing. 

“Sometimes baseball takes things from you, sometimes it gives you things. So it gave me one there.”

That it did.

Blue Devils’ (28-11, 12-8) first baseman Logan Bravo dropped the ball on the throw from short, allowing the winning run to score on an E3 to cap off the second consecutive 11-inning game played between the two squads this weekend at English Field.

The Hokies’ (25-11, 12-8) dugout emptied in raucous euphoria, greeting Martin with a Gatorade bath and ripping off his jersey as the team snapped a three-game ACC losing streak to even up a critical series at home.

“You don’t really anticipate a game between two teams like that to end on an error like that,” Tech head coach John Szefc said. “But you’ve gotta get all three outs in an inning. You do. … That’s what the game is about, man. It’s about getting ahead and throwing strikes, and it’s about getting all three outs in an inning.”

The climactic finish came after six innings of a scoreless pitching duel with the teams deadlocked at one run apiece courtesy of a pair of excellent starts and dominance from each bullpen.

True freshman ace Brett Renfrow made his first Saturday start for the Hokies after being the team’s Friday arm for the first nine weeks of the year. He threw six innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts, providing Tech with the length it desperately needed after throwing eight arms on Friday.

“I just keep the same mentality,” Renfrow said. “I just go out there with everything I have and confidence. And I just attack. I think it didn’t change anything. I just prepared a little bit one day later. So it was just a great experience to get out there on a Saturday.”

Behind Renfrow, the trio of David Shoemaker, Jacob Stretch and Grant Manning combined for five scoreless, no-hit innings with eight strikeouts. After Duke took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning via a Ben Miller RBI double, the Hokies’ bullpen retired 18 of the next 20 Blue Devil batters, with one of their baserunners coming thanks to an intentional walk.

“Probably one of our best-pitched games of the year,” Szefc said. “To give up one run against that lineup in 11 innings — I give a ton of credit to those guys. They were outstanding. Any one of those guys could have been the player of the game. We felt pretty good running Brett out there on Saturday, especially after he got to see their hitters last night. Our guys rose to the occasion. They pitched really well, they battled hard.”

That set the Hokies up with the opportunity to walk things off in the bottom of the 11th. After Gehrig Ebel led off the frame with a walk and McCann was hit by a pitch, a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with two outs as Martin stepped up to the dish.

On the second pitch he saw, he squared up a fastball right into the glove of shortstop Wallace Clark, whose throw to first base was well in time. But Bravo never cleanly caught the ball, bobbling it before it fell harmlessly to the turf, allowing the winning run to come home and score, knotting up the series and giving the Hokies a much-needed boost.

“I think it’s gonna give us a lot of momentum going into tomorrow,” Martin said. “It gives us confidence, we need confidence. We’ve lost some nail-biters recently, which sucks, but we’ve learned from them. And we squeaked it out tonight. It’s gonna give us confidence going forward.”

It felt fitting that a game where Tech just couldn’t finish things off with its bats ended in such a manner. After struggling mightily with situational hitting on Friday, the lineup once again faltered in big moments Saturday, hitting 1-for-17 with runners on base, 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position — including 0-for-2 with the bases loaded — and 2-for-12 with two outs. In the series, Tech’s 7-for-43 (.163), 4-for-33 (.121) and 3-for-24 (.125) in those categories, respectively.

But that last one almost doesn’t matter. Because while it might not have been a hit, it was a two-out miracle that won it in the end for the Hokies.

It’ll be a quick turnaround in the rubber match between Virginia Tech and Duke, which gets started at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday on ACC Network Extra. With another reliable arm getting the ball for the Hokies in Griffin Stieg, it’s a golden opportunity to win a massive series in the ACC Coastal Division standings.

“Tonight’s tonight, tomorrow’s a new game,” Renfrow said. “So we’ll come out there with full confidence, not think about what we did yesterday. We’re just gonna attack everything, pitching-wise and hitting-wise. And we’re gonna be confident as a team. 

“That’s what we do. This is what we’re made for.”

Box Score: No. 23 Virginia Tech 2, No. 7 Duke 2 (11 innings) 

2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. A game like that can inspire a team, get some more momentum – hope it does for the Hokies!

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