No. 3 Baseball wins two of four

By Christian Bockhop & Nishant Prasadh

Contributing Writer / Assistant Sports Editor

The baseball team scored an impressive pair of wins over Virginia Tech to defeat the Hokies 2-1 in last weekend’s series in Blacksburg. The Jackets won the first game 10-9 and the third game 18-8, but Virginia Tech surprised them with a 9-5 upset in the second game to snap Tech’s twelve-game winning streak.

Despite losing the streak, the Jackets earned an important road series victory in conference play. However, they could not build on the momentum from Sunday’s win, and on Tuesday they committed several mistakes in falling 10-1 against Georgia State at Russ Chandler Stadium.

Against Virginia Tech, junior first baseman Tony Plagman started off game one with an RBI single in the top of the first. The Hokies responded over the next two innings to take an early 2-1 lead, and over the next five innings they increased their lead to 8-2, with Virginia Tech pitcher Rhett Ballard keeping the Jackets to six hits until he was pulled after pitching seven innings.

It was after Ballard left that Tech’s offense began to pick up, with senior catcher Jason Haniger and freshman third baseman Matt Skole picking up RBI singles to make it a four point game. The Hokies responded in the bottom of the inning, though, to bring the score to 9-4.

In the top of the ninth, the Jackets’ offense heated up even more. Sophomore shortstop Derek Dietrich drove in one runner, and Plagman doubled down the left field line to bring in two more runs. With the score 9-7, the Hokies changed pitchers, but new reliever Jesse Hahn promptly walked senior right fielder Luke Murton on four pitches. With two runners on base, Skole stepped up to the plate, and with the count at three balls and one strike, Skole drilled a pitch over the center field wall to put the Jackets ahead 10-9.

Freshman Mark Pope nailed down his fifth save in the bottom of the inning, and Tech escaped with a victory. Tech recovered from a season-high four errors to win, even though the Hokies capitalized on each one. Sophomore starter Deck McGuire had his first rough outing of the season, surrendering six runs over five innings to increase his ERA to 1.87, but the offense bailed him out.

Although the first game was a success for Tech, the Jackets made some serious mistakes that almost cost the game. The Jackets had a season high four errors, all of which were capitalized on by the Hokies. Sophomore Pitcher Deck McGuire pitched the first five innings allowing six runs and lifting his ERA to 1.87—still an exceptionally good number. Freshman right-hander Mark Pope got his season’s fifth save.

On Saturday, the Hokies picked up where they left off in game one and showed that their performance in Friday’s game was no fluke. Skole continued his hot streak with a career-high four hits, but the Hokies were able to post some big innings that the Jackets couldn’t match.

In the first inning, Virginia Tech scored three runs to take the lead, and they never gave it up. Skole brought in a run the next inning to cut the lead to two, but Hokie left fielder Steve Domecus quickly responded by driving in a run.

The Jackets failed to score again until the seventh, while Virginia Tech added four runs in the fifth to bring the score to 8-1. In the seventh Tech began to rally, with Skole getting an RBI single and junior second-baseman Jason Garofalo batting in two runs on a pinch-hit double. Later in the inning, sophomore designated hitter Thomas Nichols scored on a wild pitch to make the score 8-5. Junior left-fielder Jay Dantzler and sophomore center-fielder Jeff Rowland drew back-to-back walks to load the bases, but the Jackets were unable to capitalize, and they did not score again for the rest of the game.

Tech jumped ahead early in game three, with Plagman, Skole, and Murton batting in runs in the top of the first to give the Jackets a 3-0 lead. The Hokies responded over the next two innings to tie the game at 3-3, and they took the lead in the third making the score 6-4.

Sophomore catcher Cole Leonida started off the fourth with his second solo home run of the season. Plagman got and RBI a few minutes later. Skole brought himself and two others home when he drilled the ball over the left field wall. After the Hokies failed to score at the bottom of the inning, Senior left-fielder Chris House scored when Rowland batted him in after stealing second on a failed pickoff. With a commanding 10-6 lead, the Jackets proceeded to score eight more runs to make the final score 18-8.

Both Plagman and Skole delivered impressive performances during the series, with each racking up four hits in Sunday’s game. On Monday, Skole was named the ACC Player of the Week after hitting .667 with three homers and 11 RBIs over the weekend.

“Skole had an unbelievable week, and so did Tony. Both of those guys swung the bat really well, and we needed them to. We needed to score some runs to win today,” Head Coach Danny Hall said in an interview with ramblinwreck.com.

After the Virginia Tech series, Tech returned home for a pair of midweek games against in-state foes Georgia State. The No. 3 Jackets stumbled badly against Georgia State, committing four errors in a 10-1 loss. Freshman starter Jed Bradley lasted only three innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks. Rowland drove in Murton in the bottom of the fourth to put Tech on the board, but that was all the offense the Jackets could muster. The Panthers collected three home runs and three stolen bases, and they held Tech to just two baserunners over the final four innings, securing the victory.

A rain-filled day resulted in the game against No. 1 Georgia being cancelled on Wednesday, and while efforts are underway to plan a make-up game, so far no date has been set. As a result, Tech will prepare for its next opponent, but the road will be no easier going forward; this weekend they will travel to Coral Gables to take on No. 2 Miami.