Virginia Tech entered the bottom of the ninth against Boston College down one run, but in Brendon Hayden’s mind the game was already over.
“I knew who we had coming up,” said Hayden, one of six graduating seniors honored before Sunday’s 2-1 victory on Senior Day. “I knew we weren’t going to lose.”
Senior Alex Perez drew a five-pitch walk to start off the final half-inning and Hayden took over from there.
The 6-foot-6 Wisconsin native blasted a fastball off the scoreboard in right field, completing the sweep of Boston College and capping off senior day in the most storybook way possible.
“I don’t think (there is a more special moment),” said Hayden. “Especially being our day, as seniors, we got a great outing from a freshman and we knew now we needed to take it to the next level. And who we had up, it was perfect for the job.”
The walk-off win was the fifth of the year and the eighth under second-year head coach Pat Mason. Perez, Hayden, Erik Payne and Sean Keselica — four seniors and the first four would-be batters of the inning — have been the final batter in six of them.
“It was worth the stress of the first eight innings to have it end like that,” said Mason.
For the second-straight Sunday, the Hokies received a brilliant start from left-hander Packy Naughton.
Naughton, a freshman, was perfect before letting up a two-out single in the sixth inning that extended a consecutive out streak dating to last weekend at 22, the longest for the Hokies this season.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” said Naughton, who carries a heavy Boston accent. “When he got the hit it made me more mad and made me want to get them out even more.”
Naughton got out of the sixth unharmed, but Boston College’s Jake Palomaki led off the seventh with a single and broke the tie, scoring on a one-out, Blake Butera double to right.
The Eagles managed five hits off Naughton before he was pulled with two-outs in the ninth. He walked one and struck out four.
“That was the best changeup he’s thrown all year,” Mason said. “He threw it repeatedly and he didn’t miss spots with it. His breaking ball was as sharp as I’ve seen all year, so to have both off-speed pitches the best they’ve been all year and throwing them for strikes, that just makes his fastball that much better.”
Naughton was pulled in a 1-1 count with two outs in the top of the ninth after a wild pitch advanced Butera to second. Aaron McGarity threw three pitches and earned the easiest win in his two seasons at Tech.
Countering Naughton was Jesse Adams, who lost his bid for a perfect game in the second frame but was just as good in the duel.
Adams scattered five hits in his 6.2 innings — Hayden singled and doubled off of him — but the Hokies, like the Eagles, never managed to occupy more than one base at any point all afternoon.
Geoffrey Murphy tossed four perfect outs in relief for Boston College before handing the reigns to Justin Dunn. Dunn is the Eagles’ hardest thrower and team-leader in saves (5), but couldn’t manage an out in the ninth.
The home run was Hayden’s 14th game-winning RBI of the year and his second walk-off win this season.
“I’d say this is the biggest, for sure,” Hayden said. “UVA was fun, but it was a walk. Nothing beats a home run.”
The Hokies, following the lead of their veteran core, extended their longest winning streak of the season to six games and improved their ACC record to 12-14.
“They’re just unbelievable leaders,” Naughton said. “Every day they are always making sure you are busting your butt and making sure you’re doing as well as you can. They always try to push you just a little bit farther to get you better each and every day.”
Virginia Tech (25-24) will host West Virginia on Tuesday night. They will end their ACC slate with a three-game series at Pitt beginning May 14.