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Opponent Preview: Virginia Tech

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Meet the Hokies... A team far exceeding expectations

Virginia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Virginia Tech

Mascot: Big Bird’s Illegitimate Cousin | School Location: Blacksburg, VA | Conference: ACC

2022 Record: 18-7 (5-5, 3rd Coastal) | 2022 RPI Rank: 43

2021 Record: 27-23 (16-20, 6th Coastal) | 2021 RPI Rank: 66

2020 Record: 11-5 (1-2, 5th Coastal) | 2020 RPI Rank: 57


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: English Field (Blacksburg, VA)

Game Time(s): Fri, Apr 8 @ 7:00pm | Sat, Apr 9 @ 3:00pm | Sun, Apr 10 @ 1:00pm

TV: Friday (ACCNX), Saturday (ACCNX), Sunday (ACCNX)

Radio: The Varsity Network (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

So two things about Virginia Tech:

  1. These birds can mash
  2. John Szefc needs a raise

I’ve always agreed with the saying that teams will only go as far as their pitching takes them, but this Hokies squad is bucking that trend. Yes, they’re getting more-than-serviceable (and better than expected) starting efforts from a pair of young arms (Griffin Green, Drue Hackenberg), but the hitting... THE HITTING! Virginia Tech is slashing .322/.425/.609 as a team with four players who have 8 or more home runs on the season. In case you’re wondering if those numbers are inflated thanks to a weak non-conference schedule, let me just point out that they’re hitting .296/.400/.582 in ACC play with six players having 3 or more homers in those 10 games.

That’s getting it done.

Now as for Szefc and the coaching job he’s done at VT, consider that the Hokies have participated in just two of the last twenty NCAA Tournaments, with the last one being in the 2013 season. Granted, a pretty epic late season collapse last year prevented VT from pushing that number up to three, but the fact is that the Hokies weren’t supposed to be good last year and yet were in the conversation as a Regional host as the season kicked into the closing stretch.

This year, the Hokies weren’t supposed to be good either. They had just two proven hitters returning and also lost their top four pitchers. They started ACC play living up to that low expectation by getting swept by Georgia Tech and losing their series opener against Pittsburgh, but have since gone 5-1, including a series win last weekend at UNC-CH.

Before closing out on Szefc, let’s take a look at his other head coaching stops. Prior to heading to Blacksburg, the man led Maryland to three Regional appearances in his five years at the helm, including the only two Super Regionals in school history. Before his time with the Terps, Szefc led Marist to four Regionals in seven years there, including in each of his last three seasons. The Red Foxes have been to just three in the 17 years since.

Get that man a raise!


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Griffin Green (SO)

Saturday: RHP Drue Hackenberg (FR)

Sunday: TBD


Key Players:

Offense

LF Jack Hurley (SO) - .464/.531/.928, 13 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 33 R, 34 RBI, 14 BB, 10 K, 1 HBP, 5-7 SB. Has a hit in all 24 games he’s played this year, with multiple hits in 14 of those. Dude went from being a strikeout machine a year ago (30.8 K%) to an impressively well-balanced hitter with huge pop.

C Cade Hunter (SO) - .409/.495/.761, 7 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 18 R, 33 RBI, 14 BB, 19 K, 3 HBP, 9-10 SB. Was a 35th round pick (Rockies) out of high school in 2019, but barely played over his first two years on campus with just 89 PAs over that span (he already has 107 this year). The lefty hitter has some serious offensive hitting ability and excellent athleticism, but his weakness (right now) is that he’s only thrown out 3-of-17 base stealers.

SS Tanner Schobel (SO) - .368/.471/.632, 8 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 27 R, 28 RBI, 18 BB, 21 K, 4 HBP, 4-4 SB. A little undersized, but way under-appreciated. Certainly has the eye of scouts, though, especially after his great summer in the Cape Cod League in 2021. Solid shortstop. Has multiple hits in six of the last nine games.

3B Carson DeMartini (FR) - .344/.455/.700, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 26 R, 21 RBI, 15 BB, 28 K, 4 HBP, 0-2 SB. If Virginia Tech was going to exceed expectations this year, they were going to need some big contributions from some freshmen. DeMartini is one of those guys who is playing the part. Had been manning the hot corner really well until late (four errors in the last six games).

CF Gavin Cross (SO) - .327/.416/.633, 7 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 31 R, 17 RBI, 12 BB, 10 K, 3 HBP, 3-3 SB. Projected 1st round pick in this year’s MLB Draft. Big time lefty hitter who hits the hell out of the ball and has very few holes in his offensive game. Probably will be a corner OF at the next level, but plenty of athleticism to play an above average CF at the college level.

2B Eduardo Malinowski (SR) - .313/.419/.708, 6 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 28 R, 29 RBI, 15 BB, 20 K, 4 HBP, 6-6 SB. Grad transfer from Penn, where he was a former teammate of Josh Hood. Freshman All-American in 2018.

Pitching

RHP Griffin Green (SO) - 3-1, 3.58 ERA, 32.2 IP, 33 H, 8 BB, 24 K. Big righty was a bullpen arm a year ago who showed promise and has built on it.

RHP Drue Hackenberg (FR) - 5-0, 2.37 ERA, 38.0 IP, 41 H, 5 BB, 33 K. Impressive control from a freshman arm who has been thrust into a very prominent role on a thin pitching staff. Has had two bad outings, but the rest have been fantastic.

LHP Jonah Hurney (JR) - 1-1, 1 SV, 3.50 ERA, 18.0 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 28 K. Short dude from Hawaii who is a former transfer from JUCO in Oregon. Was very effective last year, but in very limited opportunities.

RHP Graham Firoved (JR) - 1-0, 0 SV, 4.08 ERA, 17.2 IP, 17 H, 9 BB, 27 K. Former transfer from Radford has been a stalwart of the bullpen for the past two seasons. Big time swing-and-miss stuff, but also has miss-the-plate issues that can show up.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC State needs to more wins to reach 50 all-time against Virginia Tech. Currently State leads the series 48-22-2.

The Hokies have had 21 former players reach the MLB level, with five of them playing at that level in 2021 (LHP Packy Naughton, LAA; LHP Joe Mantiply, ARI; INF Chad Pinder, OAK; RHP Jesse Hahn, KC; RHP Ben Rowen, LAA).

Virginia Tech has just one player from the State of North Carolina: SO LHP Matthew Siverling from Charlotte Christian HS in Matthews.


Prediction

State’s rotation is a bit of a mixed bag now with Sam Highfill’s back injury flaring up something bad. It’s strength on strength.

Outcome: The rubber match decides it.