Virginia Tech Baseball Hosts Miami For Final Home Series In 2024

Brett Renfrow and Virginia Tech have a chance to get right this weekend vs. Miami. (Morgan Gay)

Looking to bolster its NCAA Tournament résumé, Virginia Tech baseball welcomes Miami to Blacksburg for its final home series of the season — and penultimate ACC series — this weekend at English Field.

The Hokies (31-15, 13-11 ACC) and Hurricanes (21-26, 8-16) have played each other on the diamond since their first seasons in the ACC in 2005. Miami’s dominated the all-time series, 42-12, including a sweep last season in Coral Gables. The Canes have a proud program which went to the NCAA Tournament 44 consecutive times from 1973-2016 and has hosted a regional in back-to-back years.

However, this year has been different. In its first season under head coach J.D. Arteaga, Miami currently is second-to-last in the Coastal Division after being picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll (56 votes) and could get eliminated from postseason contention if Boston College and Louisville punch their tickets to the ACC Championship. After winning their first two league series of the season against Virginia and North Carolina, the Hurricanes have lost their last six ACC series in a row.

A big reason for those struggles has been an uncharacteristically anemic offense. In league play, Miami ranks bottom six in the ACC in nearly every key offensive category, including average (.270), slugging (.438), on-base percentage (.361), runs scored (146), hits (218) and walks (93).

That’s not to say there aren’t bright spots. Freshman phenom third baseman Daniel Cuvet leads the way as one of the best, most well-rounded bats in the league, slashing .356/.423/.696 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI. After choosing to go to Miami after being selected in the 17th round of the 2023 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Pirates, the Fort Lauderdale native ranks 10th in the ACC in slugging, 12th in OPS, fourth in homers and eighth in RBI.

But no one else on the team posts an OPS over 1.000. Sophomore first baseman Jason Torres and junior second baseman Dorian Gonzalez Jr. provide some pop on the infield. Torres is slugging .529 with eight home runs and 32 RBI and Gonzalez has put up an .875 OPS with 16 doubles, six home runs and 43 RBI.

The Canes’ pitching staff has also seen some struggles, ranking bottom five in league play in ERA (6.88), opposing average (.306) and strikeouts (188), but they have issued the fifth-fewest walks (94) and given up the least home runs (29) in the ACC.

The rotation is headlined by one of the best aces in the conference in junior right-hander Gage Ziehl, who boasts a 3.62 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 82 innings this season. He has tossed the most innings (56 ⅓) with the third-lowest ERA (3.04) of any arms in conference play, highlighted by a dominant complete game on March 28 in a 3-2 win over Clemson where he had 15 strikeouts. It was one of just three complete games this season in the ACC, and the first of two performances with that many punchouts — the other came a week later when Chase Burns mowed down the Hokies on a frigid Friday night in Blacksburg.

Gage Ziehl leads Miami’s pitching rotation into Blacksburg on Friday. (Miami athletics)

The remainder of the rotation has been solid, but not nearly as bright. Junior southpaw Rafe Schlesinger gets the ball on Saturdays and has been decent with a 5.68 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 65 innings. Fellow lefty Herick Hernandez — a transfer from Miami-Dade — has held things down on Sundays, but has struggled some in his first year at the Power Five level with a 6.56 ERA, though he has fanned 76 batters.

The subpar numbers indicate that, on paper, this is Tech’s best chance to snap its four-series losing streak in ACC play. Each of the last four teams the Hokies lost to will almost certainly be in the NCAA Tournament, with three of those teams — Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina — being projected to host regionals. And even with the recent struggles, VT is still a projected No. 3 seed in the tournament. This is a series that it realistically should win and would help it stay afloat in the postseason conversation.

But like any ACC series, it won’t be easy. The Hokies continue to deal with injuries in their pitching staff as Griffin Stieg’s status is in question after being pulled after throwing three pitches against North Carolina and not playing last weekend against Ohio. Head coach John Szefc said last week that he hoped to have Stieg (lat) and Wyatt Parliament (shoulder) back by this series, which would provide a massive lift to Tech’s rotation and bullpen. 

If Stieg can’t go, Sunday’s start could go to Grant Manning — who started the series finale against the Bobcats — Jacob Exum or Jacob Stretch. Any of the more consistent members of the Hokies pen are options, too.

Tech’s lineup might receive a big boost of its own as Szefc mentioned a possible return for star first baseman Garrett Michel, who suffered a broken wrist on March 1 against Stony Brook and was previously declared out for the season. In nine games this year, the sophomore slashed .400/.475/1.091 with four home runs and 12 RBI. That was before ACC play, but there’s no denying the impact that he could have if he was to reenter the lineup.

Regardless of who’s in and who’s out, with festivities such as Senior Day and the Johnny Oates Award being given out this weekend, it should be a fun few days at the ballpark. And one way or another, a losing skid in ACC play will be snapped.

Times and Streaming/TV Designations:

Friday, May 10: 7 p.m. ET on ACC Network Extra
Saturday, May 11: 7 p.m. ET on ACC Network 
Sunday, May 12: 1 p.m. ET on ACC Network Extra

Projected Pitching Matchups (Miami vs. Virginia Tech):

Friday: RHP Gage Ziehl (3-3, 3.62 ERA in 82 innings) vs. LHP Jeremy Neff (1-1, 7.61 ERA in 38 innings)

Saturday: LHP Rafe Schlesinger (3-4, 5.68 ERA in 65 innings) vs. RHP Brett Renfrow (6-2, 3.50 ERA in 64 ⅓ innings)

Sunday: LHP Herick Hernandez (3-6, 6.56 ERA in 59 innings) vs. RHP Griffin Stieg (3-2, 4.79 ERA in 47 innings)

2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Just like softball team, not expecting much. Injuries to pitching staff make expectations even less. Bats not doing much against better pitching either.

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