Hokies Baseball Series Preview: Fordham
Following a one sided UNC-Asheville series, the excitement continued to build up as Virginia Tech took a small step up in competition with an ETSU matchup set for Tuesday. The only problem: rain. In an underwhelming three inning rain out (and subsequently a no contest), the Hokies actually struggled with what’s been their strong suit all season: hitting.
In three frames, ETSU’s right-handed starter Landon Smiddy sat in the mid-90s, with strong command of the fastball high from right over the top, bringing an energetic spark to the squad. As for the Buccaneers, they - as a matter of fact - put a run on the board, just before the eventual postponement. The Hokies ultimately left the wiped out ballgame having used three pitchers in three innings.
Game 1: Friday, 2pm, ACCN Extra
Game 2: Saturday, 2pm, ACCN Extra
Game 3: Sunday, 1pm
So going into a single game against a struggling Fordham University ballclub out of the A-10, they’re ready to hit the reset button and get a clean start- especially on the mound. Griffin Green has been the main man out of the three starters so far and is expected to start on the bump for the Hokies in their three-game series opener against the Rams on Friday. Green’s only outing this season was nothing short of excellent as the sophomore waved five UNC-A batters in five scoreless innings.
The main question mark headed into the Fordham series is when exactly leader Gavin Cross will be reactivated from his minor wrist injury (per Tech Sideline) , as he was absent for the last three games for the Hokies, following a 2-3 performance in the season opener less than a week ago. Otherwise, the only following questions remain for a Hokies bullpen which has shown some inconsistency since allowing five runs in the past two games. But, when asked about the need for a strong bullpen, freshman starter Drue Hackenberg - who took the start Sunday against UNC-A, followed by a so-so bullpen performance - he seemed confident in their ability to be the clean up crew they need:
“It’s something we’re going to need to stretch out the season…It’s good to see they came out and got the job done,” said Hackenberg.
As for their opponents, The Fordham Rams have started the season against strong competition, going 0-3 in an opening series against Texas A&M. The Rams lost 13-1 in game one, but were nearly shocked them twice , having lost early leads in subsequent 3-5 and 4-5 losses. So with the only win on the Rams record being against a smaller Sacred Heart University team, they’re looking for their first notable win of the season as well. And you know what, they are well within reach of shocking a talent-packed Virginia Tech ballclub, especially considering the underwhelming 1-0 no contest they’re coming off of.
In the two close games they had against Texas A&M, the Rams looked very well rounded. With great performances from Jack Poplozio - who was a surprise shut down starter in game three of their series, pitching five frames for no runs - and an impressive bullpen performance from Brooks Ey, who worked incredibly well in extended relief in game three, throwing three scoreless frames to no avail.
But their work at the plate is arguably just as much to worry about, especially considering the unpredictability of their talent. In Sunday’s matchup against the Aggies, Fordham’s utility man Sebastian Mexico pinch hit for their eight hole hitter Richard Grund, and evidently hit a three RBI knock to put the Rams in the lead. Mexico’s hot start has been nothing short of impressive hitting 4-5 on the season so far. But for the other regulars in the lineup; Andy Semo, Richard Grund, and CJ Vazquez are all five-tool guys with four knocks in four games on the season.
They’re missing one thing they’ll need to compete against the Hokies’ bats: some pop. The Rams lack a single home run in their four contests so far, even in their 19-0 blowout of Sacred Heart University Wednesday evening.
So with momentum drained from a Hokies team left unpunctuated from an underwhelming rain out Tuesday night, they have a red hot Rams team headed into Blacksburg looking to grab their first sense of notoriety on the season. Both teams are strong suited at the plate, and it could be fireworks Friday afternoon, as both squads look forward to an exciting three game series at English Field in Atlantic Union Bank Park.