The mantra within the Virginia Tech baseball program starts at the all the way at the top.
“We talk Omaha, Nebraska every single day, and that’s why we wake up at five to lift, that’s why we practice in 30-degree weather,” said Pete Hughes, head coach.
“We’re doing that to go to Omaha.”
Fortunately for Hughes and his staff, the team has what are perhaps the two most vital components for success: pitching and self-belief.
While less than half of the starting pitching has returned from one year ago, new arms and more experienced ones alike look to fill the vacated shoes. The presence of new faces does not scare Tech pitching coach Patrick Mason — it excites him.
“I expect that we’ll have more depth than ever before, more depth than anyone in the conference on the mound,” Mason said. “To my count right now, we have 13, and potentially 14 guys that we trust to pitch in conference games.”
The depth starts at the top of the rotation where the Hokies are proud to boast two upperclassmen that, after being drafted in the 2012 MLB draft, decided to turn down their chance to play professionally, for the moment.
“To me, that’s huge,” Hughes said. “I know if I have another year … I’m going to get to another level of my career and I’m going to improve my draft status, which is going to improve my prospect status in an organization, which is what it’s all about. Not to mention that we get two really good players back with a ton of experience with a chip on their shoulder.”
Joe Manitply, a senior and Virginia native, will be the ace Hughes and Mason look to on Fridays to start conference series’ off on the right foot. Last year, despite having a losing record (5-6), Mantiply led the team in innings pitched and tied for the team lead in strikeouts. Standing tall at 6-foot-4, the lefty held opponents to a .266 average.
His size, stature and production were enough to gain the attention of MLB scouts, however after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 28th round, Mantiply decided to return to Tech.
Mantiply has proven to his head coach that he is both a competitor and a leader, and therefore Hughes won’t accept anything less.
“Since Joe stepped on campus he’s been our most competitive guy. Now, he’s a senior with a wealth of experience and knowledge,” Hughes said. “I expect Joe to keep us in every start like he has the last three years, and I expect Joe to be a great example for our younger pitchers how to compete and attack the strike zone.”
Although Mantiply returning is undoubtedly a good thing for the Hokies, perhaps the team is most excited to see what newcomer Brad Markey can bring to the program.
Markey, who played his freshman year at Georgia Tech before transferring to junior college for a year, has set his goals for 2013.