Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Baseball is the ultimate game of ups and downs. There’s time where everything is clicking, and there’s time where everything’s not.
Unfortunately for No. 25 Virginia Tech (22-15, 15-12 ACC), it has hit that little stretch where the baseball gods aren’t on its side, losing five of the last six in ACC play. The Hokies also lost their ACC Coastal division lead, and may have lost the right to host a regional by getting swept last weekend by NC State. So it’s a big weekend for Virginia Tech.
Need more motivation than that? Guess who’s coming to town?
The Virginia Cavaliers (20-19, 11-16 ACC) come to Blacksburg this weekend in what should be a fun, emotional, and hostile series. This weekend’s winner of this Commonwealth Clash series will take all the momentum into the final month of the regular season.
Game Day Information
When: Friday, April 30 at 7 p.m. ET; Saturday, May 1 at 7 p.m. ET; Sunday, May 2 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Doak English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park
TV: ACC Network
Series History: Virginia Leads 103-87-4
Last Meeting: Virginia Tech Won 8-4 on May 18, 2019
Last Time Out
Raleigh, N.C. has not been kind to the Hokies.
Not only did Virginia Tech get swept there last weekend, but it still hasn’t even won a game there since 2009. The Hokies and the Wolfpack don’t play every year, but that’s still a remarkable statistic.
In the Friday match-up, lefty starter Peyton Alford (1-3) was masterful in seven innings pitched. The southpaw only allowed two earned runs on four hits while adding eight strikeouts in arguably his best outing of the season. His offense failed to give him any run support though, and the Hokies dropped the series opener to the Wolfpack by a final score of 3-1 after leaving nine on base.
A Saturday washout led to a doubleheader that took place all day Sunday. But those gloomy clouds still loomed over the Virginia Tech dugout as walks, errors, baserunning miscues, and NC State just hitting the baseball led to the Hokies’ demise in an 11-3 defeat in game one of Sunday’s twinbill.
Virginia Tech jumped out to an early lead in game two — one it held into the seventh inning. But relievers Jaison Heard and Matthew Silverling were again uncharacteristically hit hard and the Wolfpack pulled ahead for good, securing the sweep.
The Hokies bounced back on Tuesday evening with a midweek 12-0 defeat of East Tennessee State at English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park. Star Gavin Cross (.404, 10 HRs, 33 RBIs) picked it back up in that one after having a subdued weekend down in Raleigh. Nick Biddison (.271, 2 HRs, 9 RBIs) has started to really regain his timing back and get back to form following his offseason shoulder surgery that left him sidelined the first half of the season.
A 12-run victory always has to get teams confident heading into a weekend series. The Hokies hope to bring some offense along with them for this three-game set against the Cavaliers.
What To Watch For – Virginia Tech
Any time a team comes home for a weekend series, especially against a rival like Virginia, it has to be feeling pretty good about itself. That’s exactly the situation Virginia Tech is in here.
The concerning part for John Szefc’s ballclub though, is that it will still likely be without Chris Gerard manning the Sunday spot in the weekend rotation. Virginia Tech will have to insert The Citadel transfer Shane Connolly to fill in for Gerard.
Connolly has been very strong filling in for a fellow lefty hurler, but that means the Hokies also have to take him out of the closer’s role. With the bullpen struggling a bit of late, that can’t be the most comforting decision for Szefc and pitching coach Ryan Fecteau.
The bullpen is legit when it is on though. If the Hokie relievers pitch to their capabilities, they’ll be just fine.
Here’s how the Hokies look to line it up this weekend.
- CF Jack Hurley
- SS Tanner Schobel
- RF Gavin Cross
- 1B TJ Rumfield
- 3B Kevin Madden
- LF Tanner Thomas
- 2B Nick Biddison
- DH Cade Swisher
- C Dayne Leonard
Projected Starting Rotation
- LHP Peyton Alford
- RHP Anthony Simonelli
- LHP Shane Connolly
What To Watch For – Virginia
The Cavaliers didn’t have the best start to the 2021 season, but they’ve played better of late. They now found themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Wahoos have built a strong tradition for baseball in Charlottesville under head coach Brian O’Conner. Virginia is only one of two ACC teams to ever win a national championship. The 2015 ‘Hoos and the 1955 Wake Forest Demon Deacons are the only two.
That’s amazing when you think about it, especially considering how elite of a baseball conference it is. Miami’s four national championships came prior to joining the ACC.
It certainly hasn’t been the strongest Virginia team, but they’re always pretty lethal. Remember, the Cavaliers were a No. 3 seed the year they won it all in Omaha several years back.
Offensively, the Cavaliers are in the middle of the pack in the ACC. They’re led at the dish by outfielder Kyle Teel (.304, 5 HRs, 19 RBIs) and third baseman Zack Gelof (.295, 5 HRs, 27 RBIs), but that’s really it as far as top end offensive threats.
The pitching has plenty of solid arms, especially toward the back end of the bullpen.
Starters Mike Vasil (6-3, 3.51 ERA) and Andrew Abbott (4-5, 3.86 ERA) are viable options on both Friday and Saturday night. Bullpen arms Blake Bales (2-0, 0.60 ERA) and closer Steven Schnoch (2-0, 1.78 ERA) have been absolutely stellar at shutting the door in the ‘Cavs ‘pen.
They’ll arrive in Blacksburg off a series victory against Duke, and a midweek win over Liberty.
- 3B Zack Gelof
- 2B Max Cotier
- LF Brendan Rivoli
- 1B Devin Ortiz
- RF Kyle Teel
- SS Nic Kent
- DH Tate Ballestero
- C Logan Michaels
- CF Chris Newell
Projected Starting Rotation
- LHP Andrew Abbott
- RHP Mike Vasil
- LHP Nate Savino