Clement Delivers Career Outing, Virginia Tech Baseball Handles North Carolina A&T

Madden Clement was terrific on the mound for Virginia Tech in his fourth straight midweek start. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Behind a career-best outing from starter Madden Clement, Virginia Tech baseball won its eighth midweek game in a row with an 11-0 victory over North Carolina A&T on Wednesday night at English Field.

The Hokies’ (28-14) freshman from Butler, Pa., tossed 5 ⅓ scoreless innings, retiring 16 of the 18 batters he faced while striking out seven Aggies (21-23) batters. Meanwhile, Tech’s offense took advantage of several NC A&T miscues in the field to get out to an early lead and not look back en route to its second shutout of the season.

“I thought tonight was his best outing because he pitched,” Hokies head coach John Szefc said of Clement after the game. “It wasn’t just fastball, fastball, fastball. It was breakers, changeups. He was pitching. He needs to take that next step and pitch. When I say ‘pitch’ … he’s got to be able to locate fastballs for strikes, offspeed stuff for strikes, and he’s able to do that. And that’s why he went as long as he did. He probably could have kept going.”

Clement — who has emerged as the Hokies’ go-to midweek arm, having started each of the previous four — retired 14 batters in a row from the first through sixth innings and set new career-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts as he continues to nestle into his role nicely in his rookie season.

“I just got a lot of early outs and that was really helpful,” Clement said. “I mean, I have a great defense behind me so it’s easy to trust them. I got the curveball down in the zone. … Once I got that down, I just cruised from there. Once you get in that groove, you just stop thinking and everything’s just working. And then once you can stop thinking, you just throw it.”

The freshman was aided by six runs from his offense in the second and third innings, none of which were earned thanks to a flurry of errors from the Aggies defense. The early blitz was punctuated by a five-spot in the third as an error on third baseman Isaiah Monge — who sailed a routine throw home that allowed a run to score — set up a pentad of unearned runs, highlighted by an Eddie Micheletti two-run double and a Clay Grady two-run single in consecutive at bats.

Ben Watson and Virginia Tech jumped out to an early lead and cruised Wednesday against North Carolina A&T. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Tech eventually plated a pair of earned runs as Eddie Eisert roped a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth. It was just the fourth hit this season in 25 at-bats for the senior utility man.

“I’ve had kind of spotty at-bats this year, which can be a little bit tougher,” Eisert said. “But I think I’ve gotten to the point where when I go out there, I’m just trying to help the team in any way I can. And today, that felt pretty good.”

A pair of homers later in the ballgame punctuated things offensively for the Hokies as Ben Watson left the yard for the second game in a row in the sixth and freshman Nick Locurto crushed the only pitch he saw 401 feet over the left field fence for his first career home run in the eighth.

“It’s pretty awesome to see,” Eisert said. “We’re with them all the time, working all the time, so you see the work that they put in for it. It’s really fun to watch them perform and get their opportunity and do something with it.”

The combination of Clement, Preston Crowl, Jacob Stretch and Andrew Sentlinger pitched Tech’s second shutout of the season — its first since Opening Day at Charlotte — courtesy of not allowing a single free base in the ballgame.

“We actually had the best stat you’ll ever see in a baseball game tonight: we didn’t give up one free base the whole game,” Szefc said. “If you play clean baseball, I don’t care who you’re playing, you’re gonna walk somebody, you’re gonna have an error, you’re gonna have a passed ball, wild pitch. Nothing. I’ve never seen a college baseball game with zero free bases.”

Tech’s non-conference stint rolls on this weekend for a three-game set against Ohio (14-25) in Blacksburg, featuring a matinée doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. ET on ACC Network Extra.

“We’re playing what I would call strategic games,” Szefc said. “We’re just trying to finish out our non-conference schedule, get guys work. You’re trying to keep guys sharp during this time. … We’re not a finished product, obviously. We’re kind of getting to that point. You want to start playing your best baseball in the month of May into June, if you can. Playing a clean game tonight is a good start, that’s for sure.”

Box Score: Virginia Tech 11, North Carolina A&T 0 

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