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2024 Baseball Season Preview

By Sam Jessee | February 14
Baseaball hammer
via @HokiesBaseball on (X)

When John Szefc took the Virginia Tech job in June of 2017, the college baseball world was a bit surprised.

Not because of AD Whit Babcock’s choice, no. Szefc was coming off of five very successful seasons as the head coach of a Maryland program that historically had struggled. The surprise was due to Szefc accepting the job, when many other, more established, programs were vying for his services. Virginia Tech had been deemed one of the tougher jobs in the country. A program with very little historical success, in one of the deepest and toughest conferences in the country, and in a state with national power Virginia. Not many thought Virginia Tech was a place where baseball would take hold.

But Szefc had a vision. And with the help of an AD that knew the importance of college baseball, they set out to build a program from the ground up, literally.

“Build it Blacksburg” has been so much more than a social media tagline for the Hokies. It’s been the program’s mission statement for the first five years of John Szefc’s tenure.


“As you win and as you have success and the ballpark fills up for games, that’s when it gets pretty cool. Now not only is the facility good, but you have the people in it.”

-John Szefc on the ACC Baseball Etc. podcast


It’s been a five year run that has seen unprecedented success. The Hokies have hosted both a Regional and Super Regional, won an ACC Regular Season Championship, have had some of the best offenses in the recent history of the sport, and had 21 players drafted in the MLB Draft. The foundation had been laid in Blacksburg. From best-in-class facilities to ever growing fan support, the Hokies are firmly in the realm of big time college baseball.

But not every season is going to end in national success, and in 2023 that was the case. The Hokies finished the season 30-23 (12-17 in ACC), struggling to sustain both health and momentum over multi-week spans. It looked like the Hokies had a shot at an at-large birth in the NCAA Tournament with a few weeks left in the season, but a tough 0-3 series loss to top 20 Clemson and a 1-2 series loss on the road against #1 Wake Forest had the Hokies on the wrong side of the bubble.

Things don’t get easier in 2024. The ACC is loaded again, with 6 of the preseason top 15 teams in the country, and that’s not including really talented squads in Miami, Louisville, and Georgia Tech.

But this is what everyone signed up for in Blacksburg. This is what it feels like to be playing at the highest level of the sport. And there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Hokies will be challenging every weekend.

The Infield

by Kyle Beene

The Hokies’ star-studded infield should be more than capable of knocking in the runs, as the entire starting infield is returning for 2024. With 10 returners, Virginia Tech has some experience in the infield to get the season started right.

Garrett Michel, the Hokies’ starting first baseman returns for his sophomore year coming off a fantastic freshman campaign. Michel started 51 games in his first year, batting .339 for the 2nd highest average of players over 10 at-bats. Among returning players, Michel leads with 11 home runs and a .626 slugging percentage, so expect some power from Tech’s infield.

The Hokies’ probable starting second baseman Christian Martin boasts the highest batting average on the team at .345 and one of the lowest strikeout totals at just 28 in 174 trips to the plate. The junior comes with 76 games of experience at Virginia Tech, he’ll be important in mentoring the newcomers this year.

Jumping to the left side of the infield, another experienced junior Carson DeMartini slides into the picture, presumably at third. DeMartini is another one of Tech’s sluggers with a .593 slugging percentage and 10 homers on the season. His 112 total bases are the most of any returning player, which led him to a team-high 58 runs scored in 2023. He was named to the Preseason All-American Third-Team by both Perfect Game and D1Baseball.

3B Carson DeMartini is dubbed a Preseason 3rd Team All-American by

Another seasoned sophomore player in addition to Michel in the infield is Clay Grady. 48 games with 37 starts in his freshman year, the Hokies have plenty of young, experienced talent concentrated in the infield. Grady is one of five returning players who hit over .300 in 2023. His 23 strikeouts are the lowest of anyone who played in 75% of the games.

Senior Gehrid Ebel will start behind the plate in his fourth year with the Hokies. Last year marked a significant jump in his playing time, up from 13 games with four starts to 34 games with 21 starts. Ebel had five passed balls last year and allowed 23 stolen bases.

Eddie Eisert, played two years at NC State before transferring to Virginia Tech. He started two games as a freshman in the playoffs, one in the Fayetteville Super Regional against No. 1 Arkansas, and one in the College World Series against No. 4 Vanderbilt. Eisert plays in both the infield and outfield, seeing the field in 46 games. He managed 31 hits, 10 doubles, and six homers last year, scoring 33 runs and knocking in 21 RBIs.

A top 100 incoming ACC freshman in 2021, Sam Tackett is back as well. After redshirting his first year, Tackett played in 25 games in 2022 and 22 games in 2023, where he boasted an impressive 20 total bases on just 39 at-bats. His grand slam against Miami accounted for four of Tech’s nine runs on the road.

Next is Warren Holzemer, a junior, who saw the field 12 times last year. Holzemer was incredibly efficient in nine trips to the plate, putting three runs, three hits, and two RBIs on the stat sheet for a .333 average.

Henry Cooke started in four games behind Ebel and Brody Donay, who left for Florida. He’ll look to take on a bigger role this season with a year of experience under his belt. His hitting was solid in limited trips to the plate with six runs, eight hits, and three RBIs for a .296 average.

Carter Newman is the last returner, playing in the infield and outfield. He made fantastic use of his four at-bats last season, batting .500 with two runs, two hits, and three RBIs. While it’s a small sample size, Newman’s 1.250 slugging blows away everyone on the team. His three-run bomb against Radford gave Tech a boost to win 17-2.

Onto the incoming freshmen, we’ll start with the top-rated catcher and third-overall player in Connecticut David McCann. Coming from Avon Old Farms High School, McCann received a 9 grade from Perfect Game (potential top-10 round pick), making him a high-powered commit for Virginia Tech.

Ethan Gibson from Abingdon High School. Gibson received a 9.5 grade from Perfect Game , placing as the 5th-ranked shortstop and 20th overall player from Virginia.

Next is Jake Slade, from Purcellville, Virginia. Slade falls one spot behind Gibson as the 6th-ranked shortstop in the state and 23rd overall. 6’4” Slade played at Loudoun Valley High School, where he pitched and played left-side infield.

Finally, Carrington Aaron, another Virginia product, hails from Chatham High School. He placed as the 30th overall player and 9th shortstop in Virginia, making him another valuable addition to the crew. With experience at third, short, second, the outfield, and pitching, it’ll be interesting to see how he’s utilized at Tech.

The Outfield

by Zachary Ozmon


Moving onto the outfield, the Hokies are coming into the 2024 season with a limited amount of depth in the position. With only one returning outfielder in Chris Cannizzaro, the rest of the outfield rotation consists of transfers and freshmen.

Cannizzaro, the 5th year graduate student, started his collegiate career at Bucknell University but spent his 2023 season with the Hokies where he played in 51 games, starting 45 of them The then senior batted .337 while recording 193 at-bats, a very impressive mark that he looks to keep up this year. Some more statistics include 65 hits, 10 home runs, 11 doubles, and two triples while slugging .570, and also added 45 RBIs.

Transferring over to some of the new arrivals, Eddie Micheletti Jr. and Ben Watson are two players that will bolster this Hokie outfield and bring much needed collegiate experience.

Starting with Micheletti, he’s a OF transfer from George Washington where in his junior year, he started all 55, as well as batted .384. Other stats include 86 hits, including 18 doubles, 2 triples, and 6 home runs. He also scored 46 runs and totaled 48 RBIs, as well as drawing 28 walks.

The second outfield transfer is Ben Watson who brings a ton of veteran presence to this newer Hokies roster. He spent his first four years of his college career playing for Elizabethtown College, a NCAA Division III in the Commonwealth Conference, as well as three seasons in collegiate summer ball . Don’t let the DIII title fool you, there is talent all over the NCAA no matter the division and Watson is an example of this. In 2023, he played in 42 games, started 40, batted .486 including career-highs of 63 runs, 86 hits, 21 doubles, and 42 RBI. He also registered eight triples, seven home runs, slugging .814.

To round out the outfield for the Hokies are two new freshmen on the roster, Mitch Jones and Nick Locurto.

Mitch Jones, the freshman OF, attended Junius H Rose high school where he was the #13 ranked Middle Infielder in North Carolina and #70 in the state. Even though he primarily played shortstop in his high school career, he is listed as an outfielder on the Virginia Tech roster. He was also given a perfect game grade of nine, which is “Potential top 10 round pick and/or highest level college prospect,” according to Perfect Game.

The other freshman OF Nick Locurto comes in from Don Bosco Prep School where he was the #18 overall ranked player and #3 ranked Outfielder in New York according to Perfect Game. As a member of the Watertown Rapids, who are in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, Locurto batted .253, recorded 24 hits, 14 walks, and 4 RBIs. It will be interesting to see what role Locurto will play in the Hokies outfield as the season rolls around.

The Pitching Staff

by Emma Ann Lay


While the Hokies lost 13 pitchers from their 2023 roster to both the transfer portal and graduating seniors, they have gained significant depth on the mound for the upcoming Spring. With a talented sophomore class and some experienced arms coming in from the portal, the Hokies have a lot to offer on the mound, but even more to prove.

You can take your best guess at a weekend rotation, but even coach Szefc has admitted he isn't sure who will be tabbed to pitch and when quite yet. Expect a bit of a revolving door early in the season.

The Hokies look to return a strong sophomore class with eight guys including Andrew Sentlinger who pitched 26.1 innings with a total of 34 strikeouts, and Jacob Exum who made 16 appearances for 29.0 innings while striking out a career-high of eight batters against the in-state rival Virginia across five innings.

Along with Exum returns veteran Matthew Silverling, redshirt-junior Brady Kirtner, and redshirt-sophomore Luke Jackman as well as several incoming freshman of which many are Virginia natives and/or coming off the Perfect Game’s 2023 Top 500 rankings.

Head coach John Szecf not only recruited a strong class of freshmen, but also hit the jackpot in the portal gaining several power-five and championship experienced pitchers to the roster.

A 6’2” Sophomore RHP transfer from Ole Miss, Jordan Vera, had five starts in his freshman season. The SEC rookie finished his rookie year with a 2-1 record and 22 strikeouts over the course of 29.1 innings.

Coach Szecf also recruited several seasoned pitchers including Graduate transfers Jeremy Neff from Richmond University, David Shoemaker from the University of Pennsylvania, Grant Manning from Chapman University, and Carson Ohl from Grand Canyon University.

Along with the SEC sophomore transfer include Juniors Jordan Little from East Carolina University who made three appearances for the pirates this past season, Wyatt Parliament from Rutgers University who pitched 27 innings with 31 strikeouts, and Jacob Stretch from Frostburg State University who pitched a total of 47 innings with 63 strikeouts on his 2023 season.

Pitching is an area of concern for the Hokies, and it may take a month or so to figure things out. There's some talent in this staff, but guys will have to perform in roles they haven't been asked to at a level of competition that they have never played at. Safe to say the difference between an NCAA Regional berth and an early summer vacation will be how this staff comes together.

The ACC Outlook

by Sam Jessee


Once again, the ACC is absolutely loaded. ranks six ACC teams inside the top fifteen of the country, including consensus #1, Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have, for the second consecutive season, a rare combination of elite pitching depth and a lethal batting order. They’re the odds on favorite to win the College World Series, and considering their depth they probably should. 1B Nick Kurtz may be the best power bat in the country, and starting pitcher Josh Hartle could probably be playing AA minor league ball this summer if he wanted to. Both are 1st team All-Americans. Hartle’s two fellow starting pitchers, Michael Massey and Chase Burns, are both 2nd team All-Americans.

D1Baseball has eight ACC teams projected as making the NCAA Regional, including Wake Forest:

  • Wake Forest
  • Clemson
  • Duke
  • NC State
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Florida State
  • Louisville


Virginia and Clemson both have star power and were building towards the end of last season. They could both end up in Omaha if they stay hot at the end of the season. Duke and NC State have some really nice pieces, but both have major question marks. For Duke, offense will be harder to come by as they lost seven hitters from their regular starting lineup from last season. Their starting pitching, however, may carry them through the season. NC State will have the offensive firepower, but starting pitching will be a big question mark. The Wolfpack will need to figure out how to piece together a pitching staff. They have plenty of experience, but injuries and declining play have taken them from a trip to Omaha in 2021 to a bottom half rotation in the conference.

Traditional powerhouses Florida State and Louisville find themselves in rebuilding mode, with the Seminoles being one year ahead of the Cardinals. Still, there’s enough talent on both of these rosters to hear their names being called on Selection Sunday. For Florida State, it’s all about defense. Last season, the Seminoles were dead last in the conference in fielding percentage and 9th in double plays turned. Some transfers and a year of experience should help, because they will have the pitching and offense to get to above .500 in ACC play. The Cardinals are a veteran team, but they lack any start power. No one in this lineup really scares you, which means pitchers will have no problem attacking every hitter in the zone. They do have great athleticism, so extra base hits, stolen bases, and defensive web gems will be the X-factor for the Cardinals.

North Carolina is solid all around. They have a star CF in Vance Honeycutt, and a few transfers with a ton of pop in their bat. Expect the Tar Heels to be near the top the ACC in offensive output along with Wake Forest (aka Rake Forest) and the Hokies. The weekend rotation is a question mark, but there’s enough talent there for things to materialize as the season progresses.

Behind those teams you have your next grouping of teams that could be described as “really good in some areas, but who the heck knows everywhere else”. This is where we find the Hokies.

Alongside the Hokies are Miami and Georgia Tech. Miami lost a ton of talent from last season, but the pitching should be solid. How well their young recruits and veteran role players are able to adapt to their new roles will be the storyline for the Hurricanes. Georgia Tech will have a power hitting offense, but pitching and defense seem to be lacking. Last season, the Yellow Jackets made some great web gems, but struggled with the routine plays at times. That won’t help their pitching staff, which will be an unproven bunch with a lower than normal ceiling for an ACC staff.

At the bottom of the conference are Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Notre Dame. All three struggle to recruit at the same level as the more southern schools in the conference, but have still found ways to compete in recent years. Boston College lost most of their developed star power, and look to be a year or two away from getting back to that level of play they saw in 2023. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the pitching staff to make up for a lineup that has way too many holes. In this league you need to have at least 7-8 guys who can get a hit off any pitcher at any time. The Panthers have maybe 3-4 of those. Notre Dame has done a solid job in the transfer portal and replaced much of what they’ve lost over the past two seasons. How well those players adapt to life in the ACC remains to be seen. The Irish are the most likely of these three teams to figure it out and make the Regionals, but that feels like a long shot in this conference.

The Schedule

The good thing about playing baseball in the ACC is there’s no shortage of resume building opportunities!

Hokies Baseball Schedule

The Prediction

John Szefc has said it enough times that maybe people in the clubhouse are starting to believe it. This feels like the Hokies team from 2022 that hosted a Super Regional.

Well, at least there are similarities. Both teams return a ton of offense loaded with star power, 5 tool players, and experience. Both teams also had no clue who was going to be in the rotation to start the season. That’s a less than ideal spot to be in, but it’s how the Hokie program has operated under Szefc: recruit and develop hitting, piece together a pitching staff.

What made that 2022 team the best in school history was not only the elite star power on offense, but how the pitching came together. Drue Hackenberg shocked everyone with his command as a freshman, and guys like Griffin Green, Jordan Gerber, and Jonah Hurney pitched out of their minds in big spots. Can the Hokies get that again this season? Possibly. There are some guys hidden in this pitching staff that could break out this season. Freshman Madden Clement has been lauded for the past two seasons by everyone who’s seen him throw. Brady Kirtner has the stuff to succeed in a starting role, and transfers Neff and Little have ACC-caliber stuff. But what about the bullpen? That remains a major question.

The Hokies have recruited very well over the past couple cycles for a program under construction, top 10-15% in division 1. But the pitching star power just hasn’t worked out. Guys have either gone straight to professional ball or not panned out. The Hokies have done a decent job using the transfer portal to build their staff, but so far they haven’t gotten enough high quality arms to have sustained success in a league such as the ACC.

Offensively, however, this will be an elite ball club. Last season, the Hokies led the ACC in runs per game in conference play with 7.8. They could be pushing up to 9 this season, which is a ridiculous, yet well within reach, number. How good does you pitching staff really have to be if you can plate 9 runs per game? Well, about 8 runs per game is the smarty-pants answer. Jokes aside, this may be a pitching staff with a plethora of question marks, but they certainly won’t be one under much pressure.

As far as making the NCAA Regionals, which is and should be the goal of this program in its current state, the Hokies will need to take care of business in the non-conference (18-6 minimum over 24 games) and stay above .500 in ACC play. Last season, both Boston College and Duke made the Regionals at 2 games above .500 in ACC play. North Carolina made it right at .500, and somehow, NC State made the Regionals with a 13-16 ACC record. The selection committee has made it clear that even competitive teams in the ACC belong among the best in the nation. If this team does that, they’re in.

Ultimately, I think the Hokies can get it done on the backs of their offense and some really good defense. The pitching will get better as the season progresses, just enough to finish strong. It will be an immense challenge for a ball club with a lot of new faces, but that’s why they came to Blacksburg; to build a program against the best competition in the nation.

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I'm a born and raised Hokie. My first game in Lane Stadium was in September of 1997 when Tech stomped Big East rival Syracuse 31-3. 

I was born and raised in Richmond, VA, where I developed a passion for local cooking, scenic nature, and everything Orange and Maroon. I graduated from Tech with a degree in Finance in 2019 and received my Master's in Data Analytics in 2021. I'm a certified analytics nerd with a passion for data visualization and modeling, which fuels much of my work.

I joined the Sons team in 2020, and now act as the Website Content Manager overseeing all online content and mentoring our talented tea of writers. I also co-host the Two Deep podcast with Pete B.

I currently work in Virginia Beach, VA, as a data and financial analyst for LifeNet Health, a biotech and organ transplant non-profit.

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