Virginia Tech had a chance to win its 500th game at English Field this past weekend, but Clemson got in the way. The Tigers swept the Hokies in an ACC series, dropping Tech to 4-8 in conference play.
The performance continued a recent skid that has seen Tech lose six games in a row. Prior to this recent stretch, the Hokies had been seeing plenty of success on the field, including snagging a win at No. 1 Florida State at the beginning of March. The Hokies won two of three on the road at Pittsburgh and won the first game of a weekend series against North Carolina.
After the win over UNC, Tech started to slide, losing the final two games against the Tar Heels, a midweek game against Liberty and the series against Clemson.
Part of what has contributed to the recent losses is the absence of four key players.
“It’s hard. You take [Chris] Gerard out. Gerard didn’t pitch the whole weekend,” head coach John Szefc said after the Clemson series. “He’s our number two starter. [Carson] Taylor’s our number three hitter. [Reagan] Teegarden plays all over the place. [Nick] Menken was getting close to getting back in the lineup.”
Taking those contributors out of the lineup has been tough for the Hokies, but that’s something that every team will have to deal with at some point in the season.
“I don’t know too many teams that are really gonna be able to survive losing four guys in seven days, be able to play with those people,” Szefc said. “That’s the way it goes, everybody’s dealing with something.”
Despite the recent struggles, Szefc has been trying to keep his teams’ spirits up. During the fourth inning of Sunday’s game, with the Hokies down five runs, Szefc gathered the team outside the dugout for an inspirational message.
“The only point I was making is I said, ‘It’s a five run game here. And it’s early. It’s not like we’re down six or eight in the ninth. I mean, we’ve got a lot of game to play here.’ And we did. I thought it was the best game three we’ve played outside of two just god awful innings,” Szefc said.
The Hokies started in a deep deficit as Clemson jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning. The No. 15 team in the country added another run in the second to make it 7-0.
The Hokies clawed their way back to make it a one-run ballgame in the bottom of the fifth, but a big seventh inning from Clemson gave the Tigers another advantage. Clemson scored five runs in the seventh to take a 12-6 lead.
“It’s difficult to win any baseball game when you give up 12 runs. But we gave up 11 runs in two innings and that’s why we lost. Any time you get a poor start you’re most likely gonna lose and that’s what happened.
“It’s difficult to win any baseball game when you give up 12 runs,” Szefc said. “But we gave up 11 runs in two innings and that’s why we lost. Any time you get a poor start you’re most likely gonna lose and that’s what happened.”
In the midst of the loss, there were some solid performances from Tech. Reliever Nic Enright put in his longest outing of the season, pitching 5.2 innings and giving up four runs on four hits while striking out six batters.
“It was probably one of the best ones I’ve seen, I told him that, since I’ve been here,” Szefc said of Enright’s performance. “He was outstanding. He gave us a chance to come back in the game. He just kind of ran out of gas and we didn’t really help out much after him.”
On the offensive side, centerfielder Dalton Harum had a stellar day, notching a season-high four hits against the Tigers. Harum finished the day 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.
“He did a really good job of giving us added offense,” Szefc said. “He was really good today, [Kevin] Madden was really good. I think they had seven hits between the two of them.”
Madden went 3-for-5 on Sunday and came across the plate twice in the game.
If there’s any solace for Szefc and the Hokies in a tough weekend series, it’s knowing that the team they faced is one of the best in the country.
“That’s the best team we’ve played all year by far,” he said. “That might be an Omaha team right there. They’re good.”
The Hokies will take the diamond again today when they travel to Lexington for a matchup against VMI. Following the midweek contest, they’ll head to Winston-Salem for a weekend series with Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons are currently 5-7 in ACC play and at the bottom of the Atlantic division. This weekend’s series begins at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics