With Perfect Balance, Virginia Tech Baseball Sweeps Ohio Doubleheader

Brett Renfrow and Virginia Tech swept Ohio with ease on Saturday. (Morgan Gay)

Thanks to an immaculate balance of pitching and offense, Virginia Tech effortlessly swept its matinée doubleheader against Ohio with 14-1 and 14-2 victories on Saturday afternoon at English Field.

The Hokies (30-14) received a pair of great starts from Brett Renfrow and Jeremy Neff while their offense consistently put up big innings to easily dispatch a somewhat lifeless Bobcats (14-27) squad with both wins coming via run rule after 6 ½ innings.

“Our guys have been really consistent,” Tech head coach John Szefc said. “In and out of the ACC, I think they’ve been consistent. We had two good starts, two good bullpen performances. Pretty similar games.”

Game 1: Virginia Tech 14, Ohio 1

While Renfrow nearly wound up with a quality start, things were shaky to start.

Against the freshman, Ohio put two runners aboard in each of the first two innings, including doing so with no outs in the top of the first. But Renfrow was able to get out of both jams unscathed, setting up Tech’s first big number in the bottom of the second.

The Hokies’ first four batters of the frame reached safely, highlighted by a Henry Cooke RBI single and an RBI ground-rule double from Eddie Eisert, who made his second consecutive start at designated hitter and clocked in with a solid 2-for-3 day. 

Up 3-0 after a pair of groundouts, Carson DeMartini laced an RBI single to right field before Ben Watson perfectly lined a ball down the first base line that wound up in the corner in right field, resulting in an RBI triple to make it a 5-0 ballgame.

The Hokies’ bats struck again in the fourth, plating six runs with a massive two-out rally. Gehrig Ebel — who also made a highlight sliding grab in foul ground behind the first base bag — led off the frame with a solo home run before six consecutive batters reached with two outs, including two hit by pitches, a pair of walks and an RBI single from Eddie Micheletti to make it 11-0.

“I just like to keep things simple,” Ebel said. “I’ve watched the Tiger Woods documentary in golf, his dad used to always say, ‘Keep it simple, stupid.’ So like, just catch the ball, throw the ball. And if you do that, you’ll be in a good spot.”

Every member of Tech’s starting lineup reached base safely, highlighted by a 3-for-3 outing from Watson, who also walked and drove in a run.

With as big of a cushion as he could’ve asked for, Renfrow cruised for the rest of his outing, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, with the only baserunner being picked off at first base after reaching. He finished the day with five scoreless innings, striking out seven batters while only allowing three hits and two walks, with four of those five baserunners coming in the first two innings.

“He’s been really consistent,” Szefc said. “He’s given us a chance to win. He’s very good, let’s call a spade a spade with that one. He’s not dealing with smoke and mirrors now, you know? But he’s thrown a lot of strikes, he’s walked very few guys. He hasn’t just handed out free bases, which, typically for a young arm, that usually doesn’t happen.”

Matthew Siverling tossed the rest of the game out of the pen, only allowing one run on four hits while the Hokies’ offense plated three insurance runs in the sixth, courtesy of a Christian Martin RBI groundout and a two-run triple from Carson DeMartini, punctuating a run-rule victory.

Virginia Tech first baseman Gehrig Ebel homered twice on Saturday vs. Ohio. (Morgan Gay)

Game 2: Virginia Tech 14, Ohio 2

The Hokies’ formula for success was largely similar in the second act of the doubleheader, plating three runs in each of the first three innings and five more between the fifth and sixth frames to pull away early.

Tech scored three runs before an out in the bottom of the first with an RBI single from Watson and a two-run single from Micheletti. In the second, its three runs were highlighted by a two-run homer from Chris Cannizzaro. And in the third, all three runs came on one swing from Ebel, who hit his second home run of the doubleheader with a no-doubt shot off the roof of the pitching lab behind the left field fence.

“I felt like it just got the right pitches when I needed it,” Ebel said. “I mean, that’s kind of what hitting is. When you get your pitch, you hit it. And I felt like I just saw the ball really well today, got what I wanted to hit. And when I got it, I hit it well.”

Like the first game, the Hokies’ offense seemingly got on base at will, with eight of their nine starters reaching safely. Martin, DeMartini, Watson, Ebel and Clay Grady all recorded multiple hits, with Watson raising his season average to a blazing .420. 

The large lead gave Neff a great deal of protection, allowing him to deliver his longest outing in a Tech uniform. In his third straight weekend start, the Richmond transfer tossed 5 ⅓ innings of two-run ball, giving up six hits and a run while striking out three Bobcats, tying a season-high. He retired eight of the last 10 batters he faced after giving up an RBI double in the top of the third to Gideon Antle — Ohio’s lone scoring play of the game.

“This is something I did at Richmond for four years,” Neff said. “I feel like it’s been more comfortable for me. It’s something I’m used to. And it’s a lot easier to trust my team when they get me the lead early on, like today. … I’m willing to do what I can to help the team.”

Behind Neff, Jacob Exum collected the final five outs in near-perfect fashion, allowing just one baserunner on a two-out single in the top of the seventh before promptly closing out the ballgame.

Tech will go for the sweep with another morning contest on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on ACC Network Extra. Usual Sunday starter Griffin Stieg was pulled after just three pitches in his last outing and is dealing with a lat injury, which might result in another new face in the rotation or a potential bullpen game for the Hokies.

“Coach Szefc says it all the time, ‘We’re playing against ourselves,’” Ebel said. “We did whatever we needed to do to win. We hit that little skid, but I think we’re slowly getting back to playing our game and keeping it simple. Do what we do best, and we’ll be really good.”

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