Virginia Tech Baseball Closes Out Regular Season Against No. 18 Virginia In Charlottesville

Virginia Tech baseball
Virginia Tech took two out of three games from Virginia last season, scoring 29 runs in the process. The Hokies will need those bats against the Hoos this weekend in Charlottesville. (Jon Fleming)

In need of some wins to bolster its NCAA Tournament résumé, Virginia Tech heads up to Charlottesville for the Commonwealth Clash against No. 18 Virginia to close out the 2024 regular season.

The Hokies (32-17, 14-13 ACC) have seen some recent success against their in-state rivals, winning each of the last two series against ranked Cavaliers (37-14, 15-12) squads, though UVa leads the all-time series, 108-92-4.

Despite the slip-ups against Tech, Virginia has been the class of the ACC in the last decade or so, reaching Omaha four times — including last season in a 50-win campaign — and winning a national championship in 2015. And in their 21st season under head coach Brian O’Connor, it’s right back to that caliber.

After being picked to finish atop the Coastal Division (88 points) in the preseason, the Cavaliers sit at second, the highest they can finish with No. 7 North Carolina being five games ahead, while being ranked at No. 13 in the NCAA RPI. They’re projected to host in the NCAA Tournament, clocking in as the No. 11 overall seed in D1Baseball’s latest outlook. 

The biggest reason for that is their electric offense, which has been the best overall in the ACC and one of the top units in the country in 2024. The Cavaliers are in the top five in several key categories in league play, including ranking first in average (.310), second in slugging percentage (.528), second in on-base percentage (.402), first in runs (308), first in hits (308), first in doubles (67), fifth in home runs (47) and third in steals (26). Across the entire season, they rank top-10 nationally in each of the first six categories.

As such, UVa has no shortage of talent all over the field. A number of ACC superstars fill out the lineup from top to bottom, highlighted by graduate transfer catcher Jacob Ference, who has emerged as one of the league’s top hitters in his first season at the Division-I level. 

A year removed from winning a D-III national championship with Salisbury, Ference boasts the fourth best OPS in the ACC at 1.266, ranking 15th in home runs (15) and sixth in triples (3) while driving home 37 runs. In conference games, he’s slugging .828, sitting behind only Wake Forest star first baseman and potential No. 1 overall pick Nick Kurtz.

Elsewhere in the infield, some usual suspects keep things locked down. At shortstop, program legend Griff O’Ferrall — UVa’s leader in hits of any three-year player — is having another fantastic year, ranking third in the league in hits (77) and tenth in doubles (16). At first base, freshman phenom Henry Ford has been a hitting machine with a 1.111 OPS, 16 home runs and 59 RBI, all of which are top-15 in the ACC. And catcher Ethan Anderson has complemented Ference nicely with a .922 OPS while clocking 18 doubles — good for fifth in the league.

Harrison Didawick
Harrison Didawick (Virginia Athletics Media Relations)

But perhaps Virginia’s biggest bat resides in left field with sophomore Harrison Didawick, who has raked 19 home runs and 60 RBI this season, both of which rank seventh in the league. He’s also been a threat on the basepaths, stealing 12 bases. 

However, 2024 has been a tale of two sides for the Cavaliers, as their pitching hasn’t been up to par. The rotation has seen some shifts, and although they’ve found a core in recent weeks that has provided some solid results, they’re still middle of the pack in the ACC, ranking eighth in ERA (6.91) and ninth in opposing average (.296) in league play.

One consistent has been sophomore Evan Blanco holding down Fridays, starting all 13 weekends and largely dominating in those outings. The lefty ranks 10th in the ACC in ERA at 4.21 and ninth in strikeouts with 74 while walking just 19 batters. In his first full season as a starter, the former No. 2 overall prospect in Massachusetts hasn’t disappointed.

In the back end of the season, the rotation has been filled out by a pair of graduate transfers in Joe Savino and Owen Coady, both of whom have missed time this year due to injury. 

Savino, who came over from Elon, made his season debut in early April and has emerged as a weekend starter with a miniscule 1.38 ERA, albeit in 13 innings. Coady, a former All-Ivy lefty at Penn, has seen much more action, throwing 32 ⅓ innings with a solid ERA of 4.73, but has seen some control struggles with 29 strikeouts to 21 walks.

So, if Virginia Tech wants to beat their rivals for a third consecutive time and give them a massive lift in the NCAA Tournament conversation — they currently sit at No. 55 in the RPI and missed a great opportunity to better their numbers with Tuesday’s matchup with James Madison being canceled due to rain — they’ll need to take advantage of that mismatch. They’ve hit well against poor pitching — and even good pitching at times, like against Duke — this season, and this is one of their easier matchups on paper in the back half of the schedule.

That’s easier said than done, especially when Tech might be missing outfielder Chris Cannizzaro, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Saturday’s loss to Miami and is day-to-day, per head coach John Szefc. And although the team hoped to have first baseman Garrett Michel back by now, it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll actually return this season.

Of course, the rivalry speaks for itself. It’s anyone’s game in the Commonwealth Clash, and that should make for three terrific ballgames at Davenport Field this weekend.

“When you go to Virginia, you can throw all the numbers out the window,” Szefc said on Sunday. “You’ve got Virginia guys playing against Virginia guys. That’s a bloodbath out there. So you just go there and put your gloves on and get ready to go.” 

Times and Streaming/TV Designations

  • Thursday, May 16: 6 p.m. ET on ACC Network Extra
  • Friday, May 17: 6 p.m. ET on ACC Network Extra
  • Saturday, May 18: 5 p.m. ET on ACC Network 

Projected Pitching Matchups (Virginia Tech vs. Virginia)

  • Thursday: RHP Brett Renfrow (6-2, 3.88 ERA in 69 ⅔ innings) vs. LHP Evan Blanco (5-3, 4.21 ERA in 66 ⅓ innings)
  • Friday: LHP Jeremy Neff (1-1, 7.18 ERA in 27 ⅔ innings) vs. RHP Joe Savino (1-1, 1.38 ERA in 13 innings)
  • Saturday: RHP Griffin Stieg (3-2, 4.86 ERA in 50 innings) vs. LHP Owen Coady (1-1, 4.73 ERA in 32 ⅓ innings)

Audio: Series Preview on TSL Today

3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I was told that Saturday’s game was moved to 5 pm due to UVA’s graduation being at the end of week?

    1. Hokiesports.com schedule calendar has 5:00; so you are correct.

      Might be rained out or rescheduled though in looking at the weather forecast.

      1. Thanks. I’ll correct that, plus the days on the pitching matchups (which are incorrectly listed as Friday-Sunday instead of Thursday-Saturday).

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