A walk-off win Sunday capped-off a weekend in which the Virginia Tech baseball team took two of three games from the No. 6 Miami Hurricanes.
The Hokies (25-13, 7-11 ACC), dropped Friday night’s game 6-4 before storming back on Saturday and Sunday behind two walk-off wins.
On Friday night, starting pitcher Joe Mantiply was able to last just 4.2 innings before exiting the game with arm soreness.
Although the loss hurt, the weekend would not be remembered for the disappointment on Friday.
Saturday the Hokies fell behind early again, as starting pitcher Marc Zecchino was able to get through only 4.1 innings. But unlike Friday night, the Hokies bullpen came through when needed most, pitching 4.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Clark Labitan got the win, improving to 5-1 on the season with his three innings of work, allowing just one hit.
In the eighth inning, the Hokies tied the game for the second time, when Ronnie Shaban’s sacrifice fly scored Andrew Rash.
Then in the ninth, Miami’s Adam Sargent loaded the bases before
walking freshman Alex Perez to force in the winning run for the 5-4 win.
“I’m happy for that freshman class,” said Pete Hughes, head coach.
“They’re getting valuable experience and the future looks good.”
On Sunday, all the pieces seemed to fall into place, starting with the performance of pitcher Andrew Aizenstadt.
In a tight battle against opposing pitcher Steven Ewing (eight innings, one hit, one run allowed), Aizenstadt silenced the mighty Hurricane bats for eight innings, giving up just three hits and one
After the game, Aizenstadt reflected on his performance.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I never really got a feeling for my second pitch, so I just had to work the corners. The defense behind me was incredible.”
A redshirt-senior transfer, Aizenstadt came to play at Tech for the chance to pitch in games like Sunday’s.
Having struggled in his previous two starts, Aizenstadt got over the mental part of the game to put it all together.
“That’s what I’ve kind of been working on a lot, not letting the game kind of get to me,” Aizenstadt said.
“Kind of stay calm, and (pitching coach) Mason was great every inning, keeping me calm in the dugout.”
Through eight innings, the only Hokies run came courtesy of Brendon Hayden’s solo home run.
After Aizenstadt exited in the ninth inning, Miami scored two runs off Hokies closer Jake Joyce to make it 2-1 going to the bottom of the ninth.
“The message was I don’t care what happened last half inning,” Hughes said.
“The only thing I care about is what’s going to happen after this half. Let’s stay positive, let’s stay focused on what we have to do, not what we didn’t get accomplished.”
After Perez singled to start the inning, Gabe Ortiz was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and
second. With one out, Johnny Morales bunted for a hit to load the bases for Tyler Horan.
Horan was hit by a pitch to force in the tying run, bringing freshman Mark Zagunis to the plate with a chance to win the game.
With the count 2-2, Zagunis laced a single to the opposite field to score Ortiz, giving the Hokies the 3-2 win.
“My exact words to Coach (Hughes) when the game ended were ‘that wasn’t a freshman hitting,’” Mason said.
“He’s not a freshman catcher, and he’s just way beyond his years when it comes to caving to pressure or anything along those lines.”
Hughes, whose team faces Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State and North Carolina to
finish its ACC schedule, knows the value of the series win.
“We needed to beat a quality opponent in a series,” Hughes said.
“We hadn’t done that this year, and their RPI indicated that we needed to get a quality win. I want to
win every game and I want to go to the national tournament so we can get hot and go to Omaha. You don’t do that without beating Miami or another formidable opponent in our ACC.”
The Hokies hope to extend their non-conference winning streak to 14 games when they face Coastal Carolina tonight. First pitch is 5:30 p.m. at English Field.