Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Grip that pillow tight!
Exit light, enter night! Virginia Tech baseball is here and tied at the top the ACC Coastal as we enter the second weekend in April.
No. 13 Virginia Tech (16-9, 11-7 ACC) has gotten off to quite a start in this unprecedented 2021 season. The Hokies could potentially host a regional for the first time since 2013 should things continue to sway in their favor.
They will face yet another test in the gauntlet of the ACC this weekend, as they travel down to Winston-Salem to take on the always pesky Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-12, 5-9 ACC) for a three-game set.
Game Day Information
When: Friday, April 9 at 6 p.m. ET; Saturday, April 10 at 4 p.m. ET; Sunday, April 11 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: David F. Couch Ballpark
TV: ACC Network Extra
Series History: Wake Forest Leads 50-41-3
Last Meeting: Virginia Tech Won 10-9 on April 7, 2019
Last Time Out
The Hokies are playing right now like a team on a mission, and it’s showing.
Virginia Tech has won five of its last six ACC games. After taking two of three last weekend from Boston College, head coach John Szefc and company have to feel pretty good about where his team is at this point in the season.
That Boston College series win may be bigger than some think. The momentum taken from last weekend in Blacksburg has hit one of the highest levels during in the Szefc era. Virginia Tech finally got going offensively in the seventh inning of the second game of the series after being essentially lifeless for the first 15 innings.
After dropping Thursday’s opener 7-3, the Hokies erased a five-run deficit on Friday afternoon. It culminated in a three-run bottom of the ninth, capped by a Kevin Madden two-run walk-off single.
With one swing of the bat, Virginia Tech opened up the floodgates to steal a series away from the Eagles when it hadn’t particularly played its best baseball.
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It was a similar story in the Saturday matinee. Again, the Hokies had again battled back — this time from down 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Back-to-back homers by freshman phenoms Gavin Cross and TJ Rumfield tied that one up within a span of 90 seconds.
A Tanner Thomas RBI fielder’s choice then put Virginia Tech up 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth. That would be the final score, securing a series win for Virginia Tech.
The bullpen was also dominant for the Hokies, with guys like Ryan Okuda and Griffin Green picking up Szefc’s ballclub big time in the series victory.
Virginia Tech also picked up a solid 15-5 midweek victory against East Tennessee State. The story from that one, was all Cross.
The Bristol, Tenn. native was the first Virginia Tech player to hit for the cycle since 2010. It had to be even more special doing it in his own backyard.
It’s fair to say Cross, who also added seven RBIs, had a solid return to the Tri-Cities. With his dad having played for the Buccaneers, it was a nice evening for the Cross family.
What To Watch For – Virginia Tech
Oh, one more small note. Remember Nick Biddison? Yeah, he’s back now.
Arguably the Hokies’ greatest threat in a stacked lineup has finally returned after offseason shoulder surgery. Any time someone can automatically plug that bat into the lineup, the coaching staff has to sleep well at night.
Of course he had an RBI single in his first at-bat back. After all, that’s just what Biddison does.
It’s almost like the Hokies made the acquisition at the trade deadline. As the season goes on, having Biddison back should pay enormous dividends.
It’s also worth watching whether or not lefty-hurler Chris Gerard will return to action this weekend in Winston-Salem. The New Jersey native has missed his last two starts with a groin issue. If the Hokies can add him back to the rotation and shift The Citadel transfer Shane Connolly back to the closer’s role, pitching coach Ryan Fecteau’s staff will be sitting even stronger than it is currently.
Here’s how Szefc may pencil it in.
- CF Jack Hurley
- 2B Nick Biddison
- RF Gavin Cross
- 1B TJ Rumfield
- 3B Kevin Madden
- SS Tanner Schobel
- LF Carson Jones/Tanner Thomas
- DH Lucas Donlon (R)/Cade Swisher (L)
- C Dayne Leonard
Projected Starting Rotation
- LHP Peyton Alford
- LHP Chris Gerard/RHP Anthony Simonelli
- RHP Anthony Simonelli/LHP Shane Connolly
It hasn’t exactly been the start to the season that long-time head coach Tom Walter would have hoped for. But don’t sleep on the Deacs; they’re still a pretty talented team.
An early COVID-19 pause has certainly seemed to disrupt their rhythm, but that can return at any time.
Wake Forest has only won one ACC series to this point in the season, taking two of three from No. 18 Florida State down in Tallahassee. That’s still a solid series win though, and Wake hasn’t been swept yet either. That is the key in this cannibalistic ACC.
We still see the Demon Deacons making a solid push into the NCAA Tournament. If they get in, they can certainly make some noise.
Friday night starter Ryan Cusick (1-1, 3.90 ERA) was deemed to have the best fastball in the country by Baseball America, topping out at 99 miles per hour. He alone is worth the price of admission.
Offensively, the numbers aren’t great on paper for Wake, but third baseman Brock Wilken (.306, 9 HRs, 21 RBIs) is a serious threat in the cleanup hole for the Deacs. Leadoff hitter Lucas Costello (.303, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs) also provides some nice pop to the lineup.
Here’s how Wake looks to line it up.
- CF Lucas Costello
- 2B Pierce Bennett
- SS Michael Turconi
- 3B Brock Wilken
- 1B Bobby Seymour
- RF Chris Lanzilli
- C Shane Muntz
- DH Adam Cecere/Cole McNamee
- LF Michael Ludowig
Projected Weekend Rotation
- RHP Ryan Cusick
- RHP William Fleming
- RHP Rhett Lowder