Early Liberty Surge Snaps Virginia Tech Baseball’s Midweek Win Streak

Chris Cannizzaro homered three times but it wasn’t enough for Virginia Tech in the midweek loss to Liberty. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Despite going down 4-0 before taking any cuts at the plate, Liberty exploded for 12 unanswered runs across the first four innings to down Virginia Tech 13-8 in a near four-hour marathon on Wednesday night at Worthington Field in Lynchburg.

The Flames (22-26) scored one in the first, five in the second, three in the third and three more in the fourth to jump out to a massive lead which they didn’t relinquish, snapping the Hokies’ (31-15) eight-game winning streak in midweek contests.

Tech had the hot hand early with a two-out rally in the top of the first, plating four runs on two walks from Chris Cannizzaro and Clay Grady, a trio of hits — from Ben Watson, Eddie Micheletti and Henry Cooke — and a perfectly-executed double steal from Cooke and Clay Grady. 

But from that point forward, it was all Liberty, courtesy of some clutch situational hitting of its own and a plethora of struggles from the Hokies’ arms and defense.

After scoring a run in the bottom of the first, the Flames scored eight unearned runs across the second and third as Tech began each frame with errors. In the second, it was a fielding error on Christian Martin, which led to a five-spot with each of those runs coming with two outs, punctuated by a three-run no-doubt homer from Aidan Sweatt.

That knocked out the Hokies’ midweek starter Madden Clement, who followed up his career-best outing against North Carolina A&T with a rough performance, giving up five runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk, only collecting five outs from 11 batters faced.

Liberty scored quickly in the third as Brian McClellin poked an RBI single through the left side of the infield after a throwing error by new Tech pitcher Matthew Siverling on a bunt back to the mound. Later in the frame, facing another Hokies arm in Andrew Sentlinger two outs, Sweatt struck again with an RBI single of his own. 

After Preston Crowl entered with the bases loaded, he walked the first batter he faced on four pitches to plate another run, making it a 9-4 ballgame. Despite getting out of that jam, his fourth pitch of the following inning was hit high and deep to center field by John Simmons, and after Cannizzaro misplayed the ball and kicked it into right field, Simmons was able to sprint around the bases for an inside-the-park home run to bring Liberty to double digits.

Searching for any arm to provide length, Hokies coach John Szefc opted to use Brady Kirtner, who wound up loading the bases and giving up a two-out, two-strike, two-run double to Brayden Horton to put Tech behind 12-4. In total, Kirtner tossed 33 pitches in the fourth inning; the Hokies threw 125 as a team, and only 69 hit the strike zone.

Things calmed down from there in large part thanks to Carson Ohl, who threw his best outing in a Hokie uniform. In his four innings of work, the Grand Canyon transfer retired 12 of the 14 batters he saw, including the first six he faced, allowing just one run on two hits — one of which being a towering two-out solo home run from Todd Hudson in the bottom of the eighth — with four strikeouts.

In that time, Tech put up a few extra runs courtesy of back-to-back-to-back home runs from Cannizzaro in the fifth, seventh and ninth innings — bringing his season total to 12. On the day, he was 3-for-4 with a walk and four RBI on a pair of solo shots and a 434-foot, two-run tank. 

Two of those longballs came with two outs, which was a theme across the board in the ballgame — eight of Tech’s 11 hits were two-out knocks; Liberty was 7-for-15 in such situations.

But that was far too little, far too late. The earlier pair of errors and poor pitching setting up several crooked numbers put the Hokies too far behind the eight-ball to recover.

Tech will turn the page to its penultimate series of the season and final home stand as it welcomes Miami (21-25, 8-16 ACC) to Blacksburg for a three-game set. With the Hokies having already clinched their spot in the 2024 ACC Championship, they’ll be fighting for tournament seeding while the Hurricanes vie for their ticket to Charlotte.

Box Score: Liberty 13, Virginia Tech 8 

3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. We’re not going to last very long in any of the tournaments with this sketchy pitching (and defense)

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