The 2015 ACC Baseball Tournament in Durham is just over a month out. The Hokies — who missed out on the gathering of the ACC’s best last year after making a somewhat surprising run to the finals in 2013 — are currently slated for one of the 10 spots, but just barely.
If the season ended today, Tech would be the tournament’s No. 10 seed, needing every bit of its tiebreaker over Virginia to slip into the competition. However, with four ACC weekends remaining, if Tech continues to play the way it has of late, the show might go on without the Hokies.
Tech got off to a hot start in conference play, aided by the UVA sweep, winning four of their first six conference contests. Since then, play hasn’t been sharp. The Hokies won one game in each of the next three series (Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech) and dropped all three against the Hurricanes in Miami.
From 4-2, the Hokies have plummeted to 7-11 in conference play, but they have some of the biggest series ahead of them. After a three-game set in Blacksburg against No. 22 North Carolina this weekend, Tech plays Duke, Boston College and Pittsburgh — the three teams beneath the Hokies in the standings.
Keselica Moved to Sunday
For the first time this season, the Hokies won’t have Sean Keselica making the start on Friday night. The lefty ace was pulled after two innings against Miami last Friday night. Pat Mason says he’ll start Keselica on Sunday, but there are concerns of arm fatigue setting in.
He was having a career year before his start against Miami, earning wins in four of his first five decisions with a sub-two ERA. Kit Scheetz and Jon Woodcock are slated to start Friday and Saturday
It will be a tough series for the Hokies, however. Tech has lost the last 22 contests against UNC, and 30 of the previous 31. Tech’s last win came on March 24, 2007, a day after former UNC standout and current Tech pitching coach Rob Woodard tossed seven innings and earned the win in a 15-4 contest.
Woodard is the winningest pitcher in UNC history with a record of 35-4.
The Big Three
Alex Perez, Erik Payne and Brendon Hayden — three seniors in the heart of Tech’s order — are doing much of the heavy lifting for the offense this season. Collectively, the three are hitting .330 and have tallied 50 percent of the 184 Tech RBIs this season.
Perez, starter of 208 consecutive games, has already set new season highs in runs, hits, triples, home runs and total bases and is batting .360, 110 points higher than his previous best.
Wednesday, the Hokies beat Eastern Tennessee State 6-5 and Perez had all six RBIs, the most in a game since Chad Pinder had six in the 2013 ACC tournament. A two-out, two-RBI triple in the ninth inning put the Hokies ahead, and Perez is tied for second-most triples in a season (7) for the Hokies.
He is in the middle of a 16-game hitting streak. The longest in Tech history is 32 games (Tim Buheller, 1985).
Erik Payne has gone hitless in three of the last four games, but is still batting .333 in April. Payne, who is hitting .329 on the year and is second on the team in runs, hits and doubles, had a 16-game hitting streak of his own earlier this season. That, along with a 35-game reached safely streak, ended last Friday in Miami.
6-foot-6 lefty Brendon Hayden remains a model of consistency for the Hokies offense and is on pace to match or surpass his 2014 numbers in most offensive categories. 53 at-bats shy of last year’s 199, Hayden has matched last year’s seven home runs and is three doubles shy of his career-high 16. His strikeout numbers are significantly down from a year ago — he’d have to strike out in roughly 30 percent of his at-bats to match last year’s total.
ACC Stats & Rankings
Team offense: .263 batting average (11th)
Team pitching: 5.55 ERA (13th)
Team fielding: .964 fielding percentage (9th)
Batting average – Perez, .360, 9th
Slugging percentage – Perez, .562, 9th
Runs – Perez, 41, t-3rd
Hits – Perez & Payne, 51, t-4th
RBI – Hayden, 33, t-10th
Doubles – Hayden, 13, t-4th
Triples – Perez, 7, 1st
Home Runs – Hayden 7, t-7th
Total Bases – Hayden, 77, t-8th
HBP – Caples, 10, t-4th
Sac Bunts – Surum, 7, t-2nd; Mogg, 6, 7th
Sac Flies – Perez, Payne, Hayden, 3, t-5th