Virginia Tech Series Preview

After two midweek wins against Columbia, the Hurricanes will welcome the Virginia Tech Hokies to Mark Light Field for a three game ACC series.

The Hokies, formerly known as an ACC baseball doormat, have been a solid team over the last several years and 2013 is certainly no exception. They have the look of a team that will be in the regionals for the second time in the last four years.

So far this season, VT has two solid wins over both Kent State and UNC-Wilmington and a nice series sweep against Duke, a team that won a series against Miami in the opening week of ACC play.

The Hokies boast a well-rounded bunch. Offensively, they are hitting .305 as a team and feature a lineup filled with physical hitters. Leading the way is junior Chad Pinder. So far this season, he is hitting .398 with two home runs, 21 RBI and a .505 on-base percentage. Catcher Mark Zagunis is just about as good. He is hitting .365 with three homers and 23 RBI. The best pure hitter in the lineup might be outfielder Andrew Rash. The Anderson, South Carolina native is hitting .318 with three home runs and a team-leading 24 RBI.

All told, the Hokies have 21 home runs as a team. That's more than many teams will finish with for the entire season. There are few weak spots in their lineup, so Miami pitchers will have to proceed with caution this weekend.

The offense is top-notch, but the pitching staff isn't bad either.

The two top pitchers in the VT rotation are as solid as it gets.

Friday night starter Brad Markey has a 2-1 record with a 3.06 ERA. In 35.1 innings, he has struck out 30 and walked only seven.

Saturday starter Devin Burke has been even better. He is 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA. Opposing hitters have a .214 batting average against him. After that, the Hokies have a host of other pitchers with starting experience that can shut you down. Joe Mantiply has experience in a weekend starting role, but with a 5.40 ERA, he has gotten off to a slow start.

Tanner McIntyre is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in seven games, including four starts. Sean Keselica is 2-0 with a 4.42 ERA in five games, including three starts.

In the bullpen, the Hokies are led by workhorses Jake Joyce and Clark Labitan. Joyce has thrown 18.2 innings over nine appearances and has a 1.45 ERA and two saves. Labitan has thrown 13.2 innings over ten appearances, has a 3.95 ERA and a .213 batting average against to go along with four saves.

For the Hurricanes, it's nice that this series is at home. VT doesn't exactly have the best home field advantage, but Blacksburg is a tough place to play because it is so isolated and requires a lot of travel to get to.

For me, this is a statement series for the Canes. Their overall record is still pretty good, but they haven't inspired a lot of confidence so far in conference play. If they are going to make a run in the ACC, they are going to have to start making that move soon.


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