In college baseball, offense is everything.
The 2012 NCAA national champion Arizona Wildcats had a collective .329 batting average, which ranked fourth in the country.
Arizona defeated back-to-back College World Series champion South Carolina in the final series, a Gamecocks team that had a loaded pitching rotation.
When the Virginia Tech baseball team made a run to the NCAA regionals in 2010, the Hokies had six players with 100-plus at-bats hit over .300.
Last season, the Hokies only had three such players.
Pete Hughes, in his seventh year in Blacksburg, might have his best collection of hitters on one team in 2013. The Hokies return their top four hitters from a team finished 35-21.
“I know when we do these intrasquad scrimmages, (pitching coach Pat) Mason is having a tough time calling pitches against our lineup,” Hughes said. “If you look at it, it makes sense.”
Leading the Hokies on offense will be sophomore Mark Zagunis. As a freshman, Zagunis took the ACC by storm, leading the Hokies in batting average (.344) and stolen bases (17).
Zagunis played the summer with the Baltimore Redbirds of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. He worked on his catching, a position he is expected to play again in 2013.
“There are no worries about catching an older guy and getting yelled at for something dumb,” Zagunis said. “Our pitchers and our coaches are all awesome and willing to work everyday.”
A preseason second team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, Hughes expects Zagunis to come back even stronger in his sophomore season.
“The biggest jump I always see at this level is from freshman to sophomore year, and if Mark’s going to make a big jump, he’s going to have a heck of a sophomore year,” Hughes said. “I expect him to have a better year; he’s ready to have a better year.”
Behind Zagunis will be the power combo of third baseman Chad Pinder and outfielder Tyler Horan. Last season, the two combined for 22 home runs, 30 doubles and 78 RBI.
“Tyler Horan hit 31 home runs in a calendar year in like 140 games, that’s a crazy number, he’s back,” Hughes said. “Chad Pinder’s our highest ranked prospect. We have seven returning position players who are very good offensive players, and I look forward to seeing us score a ton of runs.”
Horan and Pinder, although they remain the key to the Hokies success at the plate, are confident that the rest of the lineup will protect them.
“That’s always a help when you have guys that can hit around you," Pinder said. "They can’t pitch around you as a single person and they have to go after everybody. Our lineup is very potent to say the least.”
Horan echoed Pinder’s sentiment.
“Our lineup is going to be stacked,” Horan said. “We have so many guys coming back, we’re excited for this.”
Two freshmen last season, Brendon Hayden and Alex Perez will figure into the starting lineup this season as well. Hayden played primarily at first base in 2012 and will most likely man that spot again this year. Perez slides over to shortstop in place of the graduated Johnny Morales.