Hokies Outdrive Demon Deacons, Take Control of Coastal Division
If you bring your bat to the ballpark you might as well use it, and the Hokies did just that.
Over the three game series, the Hokies were able to power their way to a dominant 3-0 sweep of the Demon Deacons for their second ACC series sweep in their last three and have now won six in a row. The Hokies (19-9, 14-7 ACC) now have a firm two game lead over Pittsburgh, whom the Hokies have the tie breaker over, and Georgia Tech. Wake Forest, on the other hand, has struggled mightily this season. The Demon Deacons are now 10-15 overall and just 5-12 in the ACC. Even still, this weekend's sweep comes against a power hitting lineup that has the capability to beat any team in the conference.
And that might be what makes this sweep more impressive than the sweep over Pittsburgh a few weeks back. The Hokies were able to beat Wake Forest at their own game, hitting 10 home runs in the series. That brings them to second in the ACC with 40 home runs on the season, just one behind Florida State. The Wake Forest lineup isn't going to just lay up, either. The Demon Deacons sit at third in the conference with 37 home runs.
The series sweep has shot the Hokies up to #17 in D1 Baseball's Top 25. The Hokies are joined by fellow ACC teams Louisville (#7), Notre Dame (#10), Pittsburgh (#19), and Florida State (#24) in this week's top 25.
The separator in this series was clearly apparent early on in Friday's game: clean baseball. Not just in terms of errors, but the ability to make clean and crisp plays in the field was going to be paramount in a series where both teams can make you pay with one swing of the bat. Sophomore 2B Nick Biddison made his ACC return for the Hokies after rehabbing his shoulder, and his experienced presence in the middle infield has added a real sense of confidence to a Hokies defense that has struggled throughout the year. His inclusion into the lineup resulted in freshman 2B/SS Tanner Schobel moving to the SS position, where he played in high school. Over the course of the series, the Hokies recorded no errors compared to Wake Forest's whopping 8 errors. Those errors gave a deadly Hokies lineup way too many opportunities.
Friday's game had a bit of everything. We saw two really solid starting pitchers in senior Peyton Alford and Wake Forest's top pitching prospect Ryan Cusick, big swings, some small ball, a lighting delay, and some really suspect defense for the Demon Deacons. The Hokies were in good control after a 2-run 6th inning that ended the day for Cusick. The inning perfectly summed up the series. The Hokie 8 hitter C Dayne Leonard came up with a clutch single to right, and aggressive baserunning mixed with sub-par defense created the 2 runs for the Hokies.
The Demon Deacons came back with a 3 run bottom of the 6th inning, and the Hokies were reeling. However, some divine intervention with a lightning delay paused the Deacs' momentum and P Jaison Heard was able to get out the inning. After that, the Hokies were able to get 3 more insurance runs with the help of a solo shot from RF Gavin Cross.
In the most dominant win of the series, the Hokies brought out the driver and hammered six homeruns and took the series win. 3B Kevin Madden hit two dingers to lead the Hokies in his first multi-homer game of the season. CF Jack Hurley put together a great offensive performance, as well, going 3-5 with 4 RBI and a homer. Hurley was swinging for the fences all weekend, made the Deacons pay with some fastballs that hung a bit high in the zone.
The game also featured home runs on back to back pitches for the Hokies, the second time that has happened this season. 1B T.J. Rumfield and Madden both gripped it and ripped it in the top of the 5th inning in the midst of a 2-out rally that really broke the game open.
As a whole, the Hokies continue to get production 1-9 in the lineup. All nine starters reached base safely, and five Hokies had multiple hits.
On the mound, Anthony Simonelli was masterful. The high-octane junior right-hander put in another top-notch performance that brought him his third win of the season. Simonelli has been the best starter on the staff since coming back from an oblique injury that sidelined him for a couple weeks. On Saturday, Simonelli was able to throw 108 pitches over 6 1/3 innings, proving that not only does he have the stuff but he has the stamina.
The series win was the fifth for the Hokies on the season, moving them to 5-2 in ACC series this season (losses to Florida State and Clemson). The Hokies are also yet to be swept this season.
In the series finale, the Hokies were able to trot out sophomore ace Chris Gerard to the mound. Gerard had been recovering from a groin injury he suffered a few weeks ago. On a day where the wind was howling out of the park, Gerard was a good option to start due to his knack for getting ground ball out and keeping innings quick. Gerard was able to go 4 2/3 innings on 77 pitches, which was about all you could ask for from a guy recovering from a lower body injury.
At the plate, the Hokies continue to grip it and rip it. The Hokies added three more homers to their weekend tally of ten. Biddison got things started off with a solo homer to in the second at-bat of the game, and the Hokies would keep the lead from there. Teh Hokies were able to score 8 runs in the middle innings after scoring 2 in the first inning. Wake Forest put together their best offensive performance of the series, scoring 9 runs on 13 hits. However, the defensive miscues led to too many opportunities on the base paths for a speedy Hokies team, and Wake Forest simply couldn't keep up.
The show wasn't all Hokies, however. Former ACC Player of the Year, Bobby Seymour, got in on the home run action and hit one into orbit. The TrackMan technology measured the ball at 490' with an exit velocity of 110 mph. To put that into perspective, that would've been the second furthest hit home run in Major League Baseball last season, only 5 feet short of Ronal Acuna, Jr.'s 495' bomb. Both homeruns are included, just so you can get a sense of what that looks like.
The game got interesting in the bottom of the 9th inning when Brock Wilken, who was the best Wake Forest player all series, hit a 2-run homer to make it a 1 run game with no outs. Relief pitcher Graham Firoved came in and retired the next three Demon Deacons to take the series sweep on the road in Winston Salem.
Up Next: Tuesday @ Liberty, Weekend Series vs Georgia Tech
The Hokies will make the short drive to Lynchburg to play a red hot Flames team that is sitting at 21-8 overall. The Flames have ACC wins against Virginia and Wake Forest and took both matchups against North Carolina. The flames were quenched earlier in the season, however, losing all three to TCU by a substantial margin. Still, the first of the two games this season against Liberty will be a great chance for the Hokies to pick up a non-conference resume builder in a year with very few of those opportunities.
Over the weekend the Hokies will host Georgia Tech in what will be the most high-impact and anticipated home series for the Hokies so far this season. The Yellow Jackets, who had spend multiple weeks in the top ten, have had the sting taken out of them recently and have lost back to back ACC series against Virginia and Notre Dame. Freshman catcher Kevin Parada is one of the best freshmen players in all of college baseball. He's hitting 0.378 with 10 doubles this season and is a brick wall behind home plate. The Yellow Jackets can also swarm you with a deep rotation that will challenge the Hokies offense all weekend.