Ask any coach, player or employee associated with Virginia Tech baseball what their goal for the 2013 season is and the answer is short and sweet.
Coming off a 35-21 season in 2012, Pete Hughes and the Hokies are concentrated on reaching college baseball’s pinnacle: the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
“I won’t talk about anything less,” Hughes said. “I don’t think it’s fair to Hokie nation or President Steger or Jim Weaver, who hired me. We all have the same goal, and we’re going to fight like crazy to get there.”
The Hokies have never reached the World Series. However, that fact is far from anyone’s mind when discussing the upcoming season.
“That’s been the goal from day one,” said outfielder Tyler Horan. “Coach Hughes has hammered it in that that’s where we want to get. That’s why we plowed a field of snow so we could get outside. That shows how much we want to get there.”
Recently picked to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal division by Perfect Game, the Hokies will have to fight through a fierce conference schedule. Both North Carolina State and North Carolina are poised to make the World Series, while Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami and Virginia are right on the doorstep. If the Hokies play to their potential, an NCAA regional appearance may be in the cards.
“Really it’s just all about the team and getting to the ACC tournament and making a regional, then taking it game by game from there,” said Chad Pinder. “That’s the ultimate goal for us.”
ACC rival UVa. has enjoyed a lot of success on the diamond recently, reaching Omaha in 2009 and 2011. The Hokies are just 2-7 against the Cavaliers over the last three years.
The rigor of a 56-game schedule is brutal enough, never mind the week-in and week-out punishment of the ACC.
“(The ACC) gets you battle tested come national tournament time,” Hughes said. “There’s no venue we’re going to walk into in a regional that we’re not prepared for by playing in the ACC week in and week out. To be in that league every weekend is what we really relish.”
Over the last several years, college baseball has transformed itself into a more pitcher-friendly game. The new metal bats, introduced in 2011, must adhere to the NCAA's new Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) standard. The bats aren’t perfect, but the result is a product that closely resembles professional wood bats.
With six of their top seven hitters returning from a season ago, Hughes expects the Hokies to take another step toward returning to the NCAA tournament. The senior leadership should propel the Hokies through the ups and downs of the long season.
“Every team that I’ve ever coached that has that senior core, which you don’t see a lot in college baseball these days because of the draft and guys leaving early. I’ve had successful teams,” Hughes said. “I love our leadership, and I love our abilities.”