Thursday, April 15, 2010

series preview: Virginia Tech

Consider this Installment #1 of Revenge Weekend. Last year, the VT series was the last one before the ACC tournament, and despite not having a spot in it, Tech beat UVA in the series - though it's only fair to note that Danny Hultzen got a weekend off from starting duties and didn't make an appearance on the mound until the third game, in relief of Robert Morey.

This year, Tech has a relevant baseball team that's looking to make the NCAA tournament, let alone their first ACC one. Relevant - but mightily inconsistent. They have their ways of surprising people, none bigger than their series wins over FSU and Miami. They also have their ways of delivering some major clunkers. Getting swept by Clemson put a damper on their record, and while it's not inconceivable you could lose a game to the ACC's worst teams(Maryland and Wake Forest) getting shut out by their awful pitching is not a prideful accomplishment. Neither is losing to Bryant.

Mostly, Tech's pitching is respectable but not scary. We'll probably see Justin Wright, and maybe Mathew Price if they want to give their catcher some exercise (one wild pitch every two and a half innings) but Jesse Hahn is the guy they'll likely send out to duel with Hultzen. Besides Hahn, the other pitcher to watch out for is Ben Rowen, one of the top closers in the country.

Their hitting is largely the strength of the team, although it's been known to totally disappear from various games. Austin Wates and Tim Smalling are batting .400+, and Tech overall is well in the upper echelons of power-hitting teams in the ACC. Steve Domecus leads the way there with nine home runs and a .655 slugging percentage. Tech doesn't walk much compared to the rest of the conference, which you'd expect from a power-hitting team, but they also don't strike out much compared to the rest of the conference either.

One thing Tech has a major shortage of is left-handed pitching arms. Wright is a lefty, and so is Joe Mantiply, and then there's seldom-used spot lefty Sean McDermott....and that's it. I would bet we'll face Mantiply on Sunday instead of Price for this reason, because UVA can throw more lefty hitters at a pitcher than your average team.

Maybe it's a good thing that the team laid such an egg yesterday at VMI, just to get that little memento mori out of the way before this series. Despite Tech's sudden resurgence in the rankings, our baseball team is still better than theirs, only I don't want to make any predictions because last time I said HEY WE KIN SWEEP 'EM, we didn't. Better than theirs, yes; so much better that we can sleepwalk through the series, no.


Couple quickies:

- Billy Baron signed his LOI yesterday, so now UVA can finally acknowledge that he exists.

- Dom Starsia gets a little testy.

- Mike London ganked another Richmond recruit: DreQuan Hoskey, who'll run track as well as play football. It's still up in the air who exactly is going to pay for his UVA education, but right now it seems likely enough that he'll count against the limit of 85 for football....maybe.

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