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VT Baseball Wins Series Against Miami for the First Time Since 2011

By Taylor Caskey | March 02
Hokie baseball1
The Hokies celebrate a Gavin Cross home run in the 9-6 win over Miami this past Sunday. PC: Hokie Sports

Virginia Tech put the ACC, and the nation, on notice last weekend

It had been ten years since Virginia Tech baseball last won a series over the University of Miami. To put that in perspective, the last time the Hokies beat the ‘Canes, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was the number one song in the country and Tech freshman outfielder Gavin Cross was only nine years old.

The Hokies entered last weekend’s series with Miami having only played three other games this year. They kicked off their season with two wins against Kent State and a decisive 22-2 thrashing of Radford last Tuesday. Yet, despite their hot start, Virginia Tech headed to Miami to face a team that had just beaten top-ranked Florida. The odds notwithstanding, the Hokies were confident in their abilities on the field.

“Our mindset was really ‘just don’t care.’ We don’t care where we are playing or who we are playing,” said Cross. “We knew if we played our brand of baseball we could play with anybody.”

Game 1

The Hokies opened the series with a solid 5-3 win over Miami in Game 1 on Friday, with all of the scoring taking place in the first three innings of the game. The Hurricanes scored two early runs in the bottom of the first, but the Hokies responded with hits from Kevin Madden, Jonah Seagers, and a home run from sophomore Cade Hunter to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the second inning.

In the top of the third inning, Cross tripled to right field and Texas Tech transfer TJ Rumfield blasted his third home run of the season, putting the team up 5-2.

The Hurricanes scored one more run in the bottom of the third but couldn’t muster much offense against Virginia Tech’s bullpen, which allowed no runs through the next six innings.

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Game 2

Chris Gerard took the mound in Game 2 for the Hokies, as Miami came out firing and scored three runs on four hits in the bottom of the first. Yohandy Morales got things started for the Canes with an RBI single to center, followed by a 2 RBI single from Adam Frank. Virginia Tech had just three players register hits but did not score any runs in a 3-0 Game 2 loss.

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Game 3

In the series finale on Sunday, junior Anthony Simonelli got his second start of the season and recorded four strikeouts while allowing two earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings of work. After Miami scored two runs in the bottom of the first, Simonelli settled down and didn’t allow a run over the next three innings. Despite struggling offensively the day before, the Hokies were able to put nine runs on the board in the back-and-forth affair.

The Hokies offense started getting going in the second inning when freshman Tanner Schobel drove in Jacksonville, FL native Tanner Thomas for the team’s first run. An inning later, sophomore Fritz Genther hit a solo home run to tie the game 2-2. Although Miami scored two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 4-2 lead, Schoebel struck again in the sixth, driving in Thomas and Madden to draw the Hokies even again at 4-4.

Freshman Tanner Schobel and sophomore Fritz Genther both registered hits in the series. PC: Hokie Sports

“It feels really good to be able to help the team in any way I can,” said Schoebel who has 10 RBI’s already in the young season. “As a young player, it’s important to play within yourself and not do too much, so I just try to do my job and know my role is to bring the team the most amount of success as possible.”

After Schoebel tied up the game, Miami answered with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Hokies were down two runs as they entered the seventh inning but were able to pull ahead after hits from Rumfield and Madden and another RBI from Schoebel, who had four for the game.

Now ahead 7-6, the Hokies got a strong performance from the bullpen to keep it close. Senior pitcher and Maitland, FL native Jaison Heard held the Hurricanes scoreless for the last three innings of the game while the offense continued to add insurance runs. After struggling in the earlier games of the series when he went 1 for 8, Cross cemented the win with a two-run home run in the eighth inning to give the Hokies a three-run lead they would never relinquish.

“It was surreal. I knew I had a good matchup with the guy on the mound and throughout the game, I had struggled a little in the field and in my previous at-bats. I was looking to just put a good swing on the ball and got a changeup to hit and took advantage,” said Cross.

The Hurricanes had two hits in the bottom of the ninth inning but were unable to plate any runners. After Miami grounded out to end the game, the Hokies immediately ran toward their dugout to celebrate.

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The Hokies were able to win the series with timely power-hitting, but not too much offensive production overall. Senior Tanner Thomas had a great homecoming to the Sunshine State posting a 0.500 on-base-percentage and scoring 2 runs. T.J. Rumfield continued his stellar season with a 0.417 batting average and 2 RBI. Other than that, the runs were really manufactured by the committee. When the Hokies needed a big hit, it was whoever was at the plate who came up big. It’s a testament to the team’s ability to win in multiple ways, even if they rely mostly on the small-ball game to manufacture runs. The Hokies only hit 0.227 in the series, and for a team that had done great drawing walks in the previous three games, a tally of only 6 walks for the series is an eye-catcher.

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Beyond the Miami win itself, what may be most exciting about this Virginia Tech baseball team is their youth. Of the nine players that got at-bats in Game 3, Thomas and Madden were the only upperclassmen. Junior Nick Biddison, who is ranked #7 in D1 Baseball Position Power Rankings this year, is currently recovering from a shoulder injury and is expected to be back later in the month. Cross, Rumfield, Hurley, Hunter, and Schobel are all freshmen, while Seagers and Genther are sophomores, suggesting that many more good things are in store.

Head coach John Szefc praised some of his younger players a few weeks back.

“TJ Rumfield is an experienced, polished hitter and has some defensive versatility at third and first,” said Szefc. “Two really interesting position players who have excelled quickly are Jack Hurley, a center fielder, and Tanner Schobel, a middle infielder. Those three showed this fall that they are pretty advanced.”

This was Virginia Tech’s first win at Miami in program history and moved the Hokies up to #24 in the D1 Baseball Top 25 Poll, and are ranked higher in others. Although the team may be young, they seem to have found their flow.

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“Our pitcher threw great this weekend and the offense was able to do what we needed to do in order to win the series and get off to a good start this season,” said Cross. “We have a long way to go, but this is a great start to the ACC season for our team.”

Next Up: Home Series vs Carolina

The Hokies are set to face off in a three-game series against #25 ranked UNC on Friday, March 5th in Blacksburg. UNC is coming off an impressive series win (2-1) against Virginia in which the Tar Heels only allowed 5 runs. The games are still closed to the public, but you can watch on ACCN and ACCNX regardless of your location.