Hokies win series vs. Maryland

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Friday vs. Maryland | Hokies 3 – Maryland 1

WP: Sean Keselica (3-2) 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO
LP: Jake Stinnett (3-5) 8.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO
S: Brad Markey (1) 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO

After three straight one run losses on Friday night, head coach Pat Mason implemented a strategy he said he’d been considering since before the season started. He held off on pitching normal Friday night starter Brad Markey and went with Saturday starter Sean Keselica.

The idea behind the strategy was this: If Keselica, who had pitched well of late, could get the Hokies in a position to win the game in the late innings, Markey would come out of the bullpen and seal the deal, a part of the game that had been incredibly troublesome of late.

It worked to perfection, as the Hokies beat the Terrapins 3-1 and won a Friday night bout for the first time since March 14 against Pittsburgh.

Sean Keselica went a career high 7.1 innings, allowing just one earned run while scattering five Maryland hits.

“His stuff was really good,” Mason said. “He was throwing down in the zone, he was throwing all of his pitches, his confidence was through the roof, he was working quick and he was getting rewarded with strikeouts and great defense behind him. So the culmination of all that, it was all confidence and the game had a good feeling about it.”

Keselica sent opposing hitters back to the dugout six times via strikeout.

With runners on second and third and one out in the fifth inning, Brandon Lowe popped up into shallow left field. Shortstop Ricky Surum raced from his starting spot in the infield toward the left field line, and made a heroic diving catch going away from the plate. The catch allowed the runner on third to tag and score, but saved what could’ve been a big inning.

“That’s a huge catch. That’s an unbelievable catch,” Mason said. “It’s one of the few plays I can remember where a run was given up and somehow we got the momentum in our dugout. It was that ridiculous of a play. It was as good as I’ve ever seen.

Surum’s catch, which was the number two play of SportsCenter’s Top 10, can be seen here.

In the bottom of the fifth, Alex Perez hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Miguel Ceballos, and Saige Jenco scored on a passed ball. In the sixth Keselica tripled in Phil Sciretta, which was one of two extra-base hits for him on the night.

Keselica’s night ended after he was drilled with a comeback line drive in his throwing arm immediately following his 119th pitch.

He left for x-rays after the game, which came back negative.

Without missing a beat, Markey came out of the bullpen and threw 18 pitches to get the final five outs and get Tech in the ACC win column for the first time in seven tries.

“Every win is a big win, no doubt about it,” Mason said. “And to win on Friday night is huge because now we have a chance to win a series tomorrow and that’s a great feeling. We haven’t had that feeling since Pitt. It was big to win a tight ballgame, a Friday night ballgame, to get a performance like we did from Sean. It was huge for a lot of reasons.”

Saturday vs. Maryland | Terrapins 4 – Hokies 2

WP: Mike Shawaryn (6-2) 5.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2BB, 3 SO
LP: Aaron McGarity (0-1) 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
S: Kevin Mooney (6) 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Freshman Aaron McGarity made his second weekend start on Saturday versus Maryland, but received little help from his defense, complicating the task at hand.

“A few big plays that could’ve been made in the early innings that would’ve completely turned this game around,” McGarity said.

The Hokies made three errors in their 4-2 loss to Maryland, and had several more plays that were marked as hits but could’ve and perhaps should’ve been fielded.

“All in all we didn’t protect the baseball,” Mason said. “There were some plays that were borderline, could have been errors, maybe or plays we should make at least. I thought our defense was pathetic today.”

The Hokies were able to piece together 12 hits against three Maryland pitchers, but the biggest difference was Maryland’s stout defense forced the Hokies to do it all themselves.

The Hokies had the bases loaded in the third, seventh and ninth innings, but a trio of groundouts ended those threats and kept the Tech offense at bay.

McGarity’s performance was encouraging moving forward, and Mason thought he pitched “well enough to win.” Mason also added that they would evaluate the rotation throughout the week, but “in all likelihood” the young righty pitched well enough to earn himself another go for a weekend start.

Sunday vs. Maryland | Hokies 6 – Terrapins 3

WP: Jon Woodcock (1-1) 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 SO, 1 BB
LP: Bobby Ruse (0-1) 1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 SO, 2 BB
S: Tanner McIntyre (1) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 SO, 0 BB

Those who have followed Virginia Tech baseball this spring saw a somewhat familiar sight in the early innings of Sunday’s 6-3 win over Maryland.

In the ever-important rubber match between the Hokies and the Terrapins, Tech passed up multiple opportunities to burst out of the gate and take a commanding lead.

After leaving the bases loaded in the third, seventh and ninth innings of Saturday’s 4-2 loss, Tech’s absence of that one clutch hit reappeared in English Field on Sunday. Phil Sciretta and Saige Jenco grounded into a double play in the first and the fourth innings respectively, each ending a bases loaded, one out opportunity.

In the second inning, Kyle Wernicki was able to score on a wild pitch to give the Hokies a 1-0 lead, but Alex Perez grounded out with two outs and stranded two men in scoring position.

Despite the 24 men left on base Saturday and Sunday night, head coach Pat Mason said there was no dropping of heads in the dugout.

“We could be that way, but (we’re) not. We just keep plugging away,” Mason said. “That’s kind of the makeup of our team, we tend to not get too high, but the positive of that is we don’t get too low either. We’re very even keel. It’s aggravating, and there is a sense of frustration, but it’s not the ‘here we go again’ type, we’re just even keel.”

That level-headedness paid off late in the game for the Hokies, when they finally found success and were able to break through against the Maryland pitching staff.

Sean Keselica notched his fourth hit of the weekend, a single to left field to start off the seventh. Keselica, who drives the ball the other way more frequently than he pulls it to right, says he doesn’t consciously look to hit the ball the other way, rather that it naturally works that way.

“That’s kind of always where my power zone has been since freshman year,” Keselica said. “I’m just seeing the ball a lot easier, a lot better, and feeling comfortable at the plate.”

Ricky Surum doubled after Keselica was advanced to second via sacrifice bunt and Ryan Rufts singled to center, tying the Terrapins at three.

The Hokies broke that tie the very next inning, finally getting the monkey off the back and getting clutch hits with the bases loaded.

Mark Zagunis singled to center, Brendon Hayden walked, and Keselica was intentionally walked after a sacrifice bunt to load the bases with one out. Maryland opted to go to the bullpen for Jared Price, who didn’t last long.

Price hit Kyle Wernicki, allowed back-to-back RBI singles to Surum and Tufts, Tech’s eight and nine hitters.

“I think (the difference is) we just keep putting ourselves in that position, keep getting those opportunities, guys on base in scoring position and having that opportunity,” Keselica said.

Tufts, who started at third base for the first time since April 2, went 4-for-4 at the dish and had 2 RBI.

“Coach said I was going to get the start today so I was excited,” Tufts said. “I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Wernciki, Surum and Tufts, who made up the bottom third of Tech’s order Sunday, had seven hits, scored two runs and had five RBIs.

“That’s huge for a lot of reasons. One, it flips the order quicker so now we’re getting to the bullpen, our guys are seeing more pitches, they’re getting more at bats and that just obviously increase your likelihood of scoring,” Mason said. “And two, it’s big because of the instant reward of having guys on base and those opportunities.”

Brad Markey started for the Hokies and tossed 6.1 innings of three run ball. Jon Woodcock, who for the second straight game looked sharp, relieved him, throwing 1.2 innings and letting up one hit.

In the ninth leading 6-3, Surum committed an error at shortstop and Woodcock walked a batter to put two runners on and no outs. Mason went to his senior reliever Tanner McIntyre.

McIntyre quickly got an infield fly for the inning’s first out. He then induced what could’ve been a tailor-made double play to second base, but Surum’s attempt at the double play sailed high of Keselica at first, allowing one run to score and leaving a runner on first base with two outs.

“It was 6-3, I knew there were two guys on,” McIntyre said. “Every run counts, but I knew when that last guy scored it didn’t count and the guy on first base didn’t count when we had two outs as long as I was getting the guy on the plate.”

The next batter flew out to left field, ending the game and securing the series for Tech.

“It’s really big,” Mason said. “We’re going to battle with Maryland. We hold that tiebreaker, which is huge. We hold that tiebreaker with Pitt. The more tiebreakers we hold, obviously it means the more wins we have, but it also just increases our odds and likelihood of getting to the tournament.

“This is the same record we had last year at this time, and that’s something I plan on talking to the guys about,” Mason said. “I think we started 7-11 last year in the ACC, that’s what we are right now. It shows that through all our ups and downs were in the exact same position we were last year. We got another home series next weekend will be a very pivotal series for us.”

Atlantic Division

1: FSU, 14-4, 27-8
2: Wake Forest, 12-7, 23-15
3: Clemson, 10-7, 21-14
4: Maryland, 7-10, 21-13
5: NC State, 6-12, 20-15
6: Notre Dame, 3-15, 14-21
7: Boston College, 3-15, 11-24

Coastal Division

1: Virginia, 14-4, 30-6
2: Miami, 14-4, 25-12
3: Georgia Tech, 10-8, 23-14
4: UNC, 9-9, 21-15
5: Duke, 9-9, 20-17
6: Pitt, 8-10, 16-19
7: VT, 7-11, 16-17-1

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