Virginia Tech Baseball’s Postseason Hopes Take Dire Hit In Series Loss To Miami

Virginia Tech led entering the sixth inning but couldn’t hold on against Miami. (Morgan Gay)

Needing a series win in its final home weekend of the season to stay afloat in the postseason conversation, Virginia Tech didn’t have enough to overcome Miami in a 7-5 loss on Saturday night at English Field.

The Hurricanes (23-26, 10-16 ACC) used a five-spot in the sixth inning off of four Tech pitchers to take the lead they wouldn’t relinquish, handing the Hokies (31-17, 13-13) their fifth consecutive ACC series loss to seriously dampen their hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth.

“We didn’t pitch,” Tech head coach John Szefc said of the five-run sixth after the game. “That was the ballgame, pretty much. If you can’t minimize damage in these kinds of games, that’s exactly what happens.”

Things were going well for the Hokies until that point. They gained an early advantage thanks to four runs across the first three innings — all of which came on outs with two RBI groundouts, a sac fly and a double play, which scored a run. 

That lead was backed up well by Jeremy Neff, who tossed arguably his best outing in ACC play since transitioning into a starting role. The lefty threw four innings of two-run ball, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out a season-high seven batters.

“I know I have stuff that can get these guys out,” Neff said. “And today it was a combination of everything that helped me.”

Tech’s advantage could have been greater, but a very strange sequence in the bottom of the fourth threw a wrench in things. Leading 4-2 with the bases loaded and just one out, Christian Martin hit a ball off his foot, which bounced back into the field of play with no indication of a foul ball from the umpiring crew. Miami catcher Jack Scanlon picked it up off the turf and stepped on home plate for a force out, then tagged Martin — who merely remained in the batter’s box thinking that it was a foul ball — for a wild double play.

To the naked eye, it appeared to be a foul ball, and video replay backed that up. However, the play was unreviewable, meaning the ruling stood, causing Szefc and the Hokies’ dugout to be incredulous and incensed, nearly leading to the series’ third ejection after two on Friday.

“If I start talking about the umpires, it’s not going to be good,” Szefc said. “So I don’t have anything. I’m not even gonna go there.”

Still, the Hokies held a two-run advantage. But after entering the sixth with a 4-2 lead, they allowed nine of the first 10 Miami batters to reach safely, leading to the five-spot that was their demise. 

After Scanlon led things off with a solo home run off Grant Manning, Jacob Stretch entered the game and gave up a four-pitch walk, RBI double and intentional walk to load the bases. Behind him, Jordan Little gave up a pair of walks — one of which drove in a run — and a two-run single.

It wasn’t until Matthew Siverling entered after eight consecutive batters reached that Tech got out of the inning as the fifth-year senior struck out back-to-back Hurricane batters looking.

That kicked off what might’ve been the best performance of Siverling’s career as he tossed the final 3 ⅔ innings of the game, retiring the first eight batters he faced and 10 of the 11 he saw — only allowing a leadoff walk in the ninth — while striking out three.

“Just trusted all my pitches,” Siverling said. “I get caught up trying to do a little too much sometimes. Just leaving it, going to work and then just trusting my stuff.”

Siverling’s heroics kept the door open for a Tech comeback, and it cut the deficit to 7-5 on a Sam Tackett RBI groundout and brought the tying or go-ahead run to the plate in three of the final four innings.

But, as has been the case in this ACC skid, the Hokies simply weren’t good enough situationally, hitting 4-for-21 with runners aboard, 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-7 with two outs.

In its last three ACC series, Tech is hitting 27-for-147 (.163) with runners on, 12-for-90 (.133) with RISP, 8-for-81 (.100) with two outs and has left 75 runners left on base.

Those struggles, combined with a plethora of other factors including bullpen issues and pitching injuries, have put the Hokies in a situation where they might now be on the outside looking in as it pertains to the NCAA Tournament picture. This was a series that would’ve kept them afloat had they won it, but a loss certainly hurts their chances. 

It’s still possible to make the tournament with a series win in Charlottesville against No. 10 Virginia and some magic in the ACC Tournament, but the last six weeks of Tech baseball have put it in a position where it might just miss out on postseason play for the second year in a row after being one win away from the College World Series in 2022. 

Miami will go for the sweep in the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ACC Network Extra with left-hander Herick Hernandez (3-6, 6.56 ERA in 59 innings) starting on the mound. The Hokies hope to have usual Sunday starter Griffin Stieg (3-2, 4.79 ERA in 47 innings) back from a lat injury suffered two weeks ago at North Carolina to try and avoid being swept for the second time this season.

“It’s gonna have to be a team effort,” Neff said. “This team can beat anyone. So when we play together, good things usually happen. And I don’t doubt that tomorrow, we’ll get a win.”

Box Score: Miami 7, Virginia Tech 5 

2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Two nights in a row a freak play with the bases loaded and less than 2 outs derailed and deflated the team. Hope for a blowout win on Sunday.

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