The Hokies, like dozens of teams around the country, have set their sights on the mecca of collegiate baseball: the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
With seven position players returning, including Tyler Horan, a finalist in the 2012 College Home Run Derby, and Chad Pinder, who led the team with 22 doubles, the Hokies believe they will have enough offense to reach their destination — if they can stay healthy. The bigger question, however, is whether the pitchers can do their part to compliment the stacked lineup.
If the answer is yes, a major reason will be the right arm of junior Brad Markey. Markey, however, is looking forward to the challenge.
At C. Milton Wright High School, where he lettered all four years, he led the Mustangs to a Maryland state championship his senior year. Despite being named first team All-State, Baltimore Sun Player of the Year, and a Louisville Slugger first team All-American, Markey remains humble.
“I was just playing games with a bunch of friends and had a great time doing it,” said the 5'11" Bel Air, Md. native. “I just happened to have a successful year, and it was fun getting all those things.”
After high school, the highly-recruited Markey decided to play ball at Georgia Tech for head coach Danny Hall. However, by the end of his freshman year, Brad decided that Atlanta and Georgia Tech were not right for him.
In his sole season as a Yellow Jacket, he appeared in six games, totaling 5.1 innings. He struck out four in that span and did not allow a run in his first four appearances.
Due to NCAA restrictions, when a player decides to transfer, he or she must sit out of NCAA play for one academic year. In order to continue to play baseball during that year, Markey decided to play at Santa Fe College, a junior college in Gainesville, Fla.
“I got contacted by the coach (at Santa Fe), and I thought it would be a good fit. That’s when I decided to go there,” Markey said.
Virginia Tech head coach Pete Hughes saw an opportunity in the available Markey and signed him for the following year right away.
“Before his successful year, we signed him, luckily,” Hughes said. “But that’s just from our staff being thorough and working hard.”
Successful is stating it lightly.
Markey went 10-4 in his 14 starts for the Saints, posting an astonishing 1.33 ERA. He struck out 70 in 95 innings and was selected to first team FCSAA All-State, first team All-Mid-Florida Conference, and named Mid-Florida Conference Pitcher of the Year.
After his standout year at Santa Fe, Markey was drafted in the 35th round of the 2012 MLB draft by the New York Mets, but decided he had more work left to do in college.
“It was an honor getting drafted,” Markey said. “I definitely enjoyed it, but I always wanted to come back to college and see what I could do my junior year.”
When Stephen Markey, Brad’s father, was asked about having his son drafted, his smile said more than his words.
“It was cool — exciting. It made me proud,” Stephen Markey said.
Hughes, who hopes that Brad can have another great season, understands why he may have struggled at Georgia Tech.
“It’s really hard to be productive in this league as a freshman, especially on the mound — it is a flip of the coin," Hughes said. "That’s what happened with Brad. Sometimes you have to go into a different atmosphere and have success and get some confidence back and that’s what he did at Santa Fe."
When Markey first arrived at Tech, some, including those on the Tech coaching staff, wondered what kind of character he had. Those questions were quickly answered.
“My first impression during the practice was, ‘I don’t know if this kid takes baseball seriously,’” said Tech’s pitching coach Pat Mason. “And then I immediately found out, he just loves being out on the field. He can throw all day and loves being around the game. He’s knowledgeable, and in any situation we’ve been able to create in the preseason that we would consider pressure situations, it just didn’t affect him.”