Saturday, May 20, 2000
by Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com
Hokies Win A-10 Baseball Championship
Tech swept through the A-10 baseball tournament without a blemish, winning the championship and advancing to the NCAA's. Tech got two wins over UMass, including the championship game, and a victory over GW to bring home the trophy.
The Hokies opened the tournament on Thursday with a 4-3 squeaker over Massachusetts that was won with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Gray Hodges, who was pinch-running for Brian Copeland, scored the winning run from third on a misplayed ground ball. The ball was put into play by Tech batter Chad Foutz and was bobbled by UMass second baseman Shaun Skeffington, enabling Hodges to score the game-winner.
Even though Foutz didn't get a clean base hit on the play, it was poetic that he would play a hand in the winning run. Foutz's mother died earlier in the week, reportedly of cancer, and the entire team attended her funeral before making the trip to Boyertown, PA for the tournament. Obviously, nothing will make up for the loss of his mother, but for Foutz, his decision to make the trip proved not to be pointless or in vain.
Jason Bush pitched a complete-game nine-hitter to get the win. The victory raised his record to 9-5 on the year, tying him for the team lead in wins. The two teams' line scores were very similar, the major difference being that the Hokies committed no errors to UMass's three.
In the second game on Friday, there was no such drama. The Hokies mowed over George Washington 8-1, knocking around GW's Greg Conden, the A-10 Pitcher of the Year. Conden entered the game with a 9-1 record but was just cannon fodder for the Hokies, who touched him for four runs in the first two innings and never looked back.
The winning pitcher for Tech against GW was freshman Seth Bandy, who gave up just one run in six-plus innings and raised his record to 2-2. Hitting stars for the Hokies were left fielder Addison Bowman, who drove in four runs, and Foutz, who led off the game with a homer and collected two hits total.
Tech ran up against UMass in Saturday's championship game and put the Minutemen away 9-6 for the championship. The game was a seesaw battle, with seven ties or lead changes. UMass led 1-0 after one inning and managed to stay in front for most of the game, taking a 6-4 lead in the top of the eighth.
The Hokies blew it open in the bottom half of the eighth, scoring 5 runs. Tech's Marc Tugwell homered with one out to close the game to 6-5, and then the fun really started for the Hokies. The next two Tech batters walked, and after UMass pulled their starting pitcher, the relief pitcher hit the next batter to load the bases.
With the bases full of Hokies, Addison Bowman came through once again with the bat, launching a grand slam that put the Hokies up 9-6.
It would prove to be the final margin of victory. In the top of the ninth, the Minutemen put runners on the corners with one out, but Tech reliever Anthony Miller, who entered the game in the eighth inning, rose to the challenge and retired the last two batters on a strikeout and a diving catch in centerfield. The Hokies then collected their championship hardware and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Sophomore pitcher and HokieCentral.com reader Chip Runyon started the championship game and had a strong outing for the Hokies, recording 10 strikeouts before giving way to Miller. Since he entered the game in the top of the eighth, Miller got the win. It raised his record to 5-2.
For the Hokies, the championship is sweeter than sweet. Tech struggled all year long with injuries, academic probation and suspensions, as detailed in an excellent article by Randy King, Hokies try to salvage difficult season, that appeared in last Wednesday's Roanoke Times. Although the Hokies have now won the A-10 championship three times in the five years they have competed in the tournament, this year was special, because of the uphill climb that they faced.
The starting pitchers in particular really rose to the challenge. As King's article details, the Hokies entered the tournament without four of their top five starting pitchers (the frame of reference is the preseason, I believe). Bush was the top starter that the Hokies took with them. He was expected to pitch well and did, winning the first game. Miller was the Hokies' top reliever with 8 saves. He was expected to pitch well and did, winning the championship game.
But the performances from Bandy and Runyon, a freshman and a sophomore respectively, were not guaranteed, and the fact that relatively unheralded pitchers like them came through in fine fashion for the Hokies was the key to winning the tournament.
Also critical was the stellar hitting from Addison Bowman. After going 0-4 in the first game, Bowman went nuts in the final two games, batting 4-8 with 8 RBI, 3 doubles, and a home run (the grand slam that put the Hokies ahead in the championship).
According the to cumulative stats page on HokieSportsInfo.com, Bowman is the Hokies' season leader in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, RBI, and home runs. If you want to win a championship, your star has to come through for you, and Bowman did, in spades. His efforts rightfully earned him Tournament MVP honors.
The 64-team NCAA field will be announced Monday, May 22nd. There will be 16 four-team regionals, and they will be held May 26-28 at on-campus sites. To follow the NCAA Baseball Tournament, click on www.ncaabaseball.com. For box scores from the A-10 Tournament, see HokieCentral's Baseball/Softball page.