Pat Mason admitted that Virginia Tech’s situation is not perfect.
Perfect, or Plan A, would be if the Hokies already locked up a spot in next week’s ACC Baseball Tournament.
“It’s plan B,” said the second-year head coach. “It’s not plan C, it’s not plan D. It’s plan B. Plan B is controlling our own destiny. We’re not in a perfect position, but we’re in a better position than others.”
The Hokies have been on hiatus since last Tuesday — when they extended their season-best winning streak to seven games with a bashing of West Virginia — but spent the weekend watching as the ACC picture became less muddled.
With Tech’s final series starting Thursday night, what lies ahead is finally clear-ish. A series win in Pittsburgh, and the Hokies – currently in ninth place – lock up a spot in Durham.
“You definitely don’t want to rely on other teams to win or lose to get to where you want to go,” senior captain Alex Perez said. “We’re in a good spot right now. If we take care of business, we’re in the tournament no matter what happens.”
If they can’t win the series, though, they still have a strong chance of making the tournament. One Tech win in Pittsburgh and the Hokies are in so long as Duke beats Wake Forest at least once.
But that’s plan C.
Even with the long break coming right as Tech was playing its best all year, the days away from constant competition were welcomed.
“I think we needed some rest,” said sophomore Saige Jenco, who tied a school and ACC record with two triples last time out. “It’s good to get that going into the last stretch, needing a couple wins. Get your body feeling right, and pitchers throwing bullpens and all that. I think it will benefit us having this break.”
And when Thursday night does finally roll around, there are no concerns of a slow start among the players or coaches.
“They know what’s on the line,” said Mason. “That’s why you wake up at 5 a.m. to go lift in the offseason and practice like fools and all the preparation that goes into it. I don’t expect that we’ll need a pep rally to get our focus and energy and emotions in the right place.”
If all goes right for Tech, the best-case scenario is more than just a tournament berth.
In the 10-team format, the last four seeds to earn a spot play a single elimination game before pool play. If the Hokies get enough help from around the league, they could move up as high as fifth in the standings.
While the probability of Tech finishing fifth isn’t high considering how many dominoes must fall in order, the weekend’s matchups work out nicely.
In Pitt, the Hokies play one of three teams already eliminated from the tournament. As for N.C. State, Clemson, North Carolina and Georgia Tech — the teams ahead of them that they need to lose for this all to work out — they play some of the league’s top teams.
Exemption from the play-in game is the icing, though. A tournament berth is the cake.
And, considering the Hokies finished tied for last place in 2014 at 9-21 in conference, it’s a tasty one.
“I don’t know if this is literally possible,” said Mason, “but if you get better the next year every single year then you’re going to have a pretty good program moving forward. It helps us recruiting, too, and I think if we earn the right to compete in the ACC tournament, I think we have a team that not many people want to play.”
In 2013, the only time the Hokies have made the postseason since 2010, they finished the regular season 15-14, the same record they’d have with a sweep this weekend. That team was sixth in the conference and made a run to the finals before eventually losing to North Carolina.
Get in, the head coach says, and see what happens.
“We got some good arms, we have a good middle of the order, sometimes we play good defense and sometimes we don’t,” said Mason. “Sometimes we have a good bullpen and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we score a lot of runs and sometimes we don’t. But, we find a way to make every single game close and in a lot of different ways.
“That’s a dangerous team with the leadership we have. I’d like to see them earn a right to compete in the ACC tournament and see how far we can go.”