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Tech Baseball Team Shows Improvement
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #483, May 6, 2011
The Virginia Tech baseball team began the season very slowly, but have since won eight of their last nine games, and they are squarely in the race for the ACC Tournament. Despite playing in the ACC Coastal Division, one of the toughest divisions in college baseball, the Hokies are staying competitive.
Virginia Tech is currently sitting at 27-20 overall, with a 9-15 record in conference play. As of today, Tech would be the very last team to make the ACC Tournament (only eight make the field).
The Coastal Division features Virginia (43-5, 20-4), Georgia Tech (31-14, 18-6), Miami (29-15, 16-7) and North Carolina (34-10, 13-8). Meanwhile, the Atlantic Division has three teams - Wake Forest, Boston College and Maryland - who have losing overall records. The talent level between the two ACC divisions is quite different, and the Hokies have the disadvantage of playing in the tougher division.
After making the NCAA Tournament last year, starting pitchers Jason Wright, Matthew Price and Jesse Hahn declared early for the MLB Draft, leaving the Hokies high and dry on the mound.
Tech has improved rapidly in the last three weeks, and much of that is due to the improvement of sophomore left hander Joe Mantiply. In his last three starts, Mantiply has pitched 25.2 innings while allowing just five earned runs and 20 hits. He knocked off Wake Forest 9-3, he beat Florida State 2-1, shutting down a very impressive Seminole lineup, and then topped Maryland 7-2. He lost to Duke 3-2 last weekend, but overall his pitching has been outstanding in his last three starts.
Joe Parsons has also been lights out over his last two starts, beating Maryland 13-5 and Duke 9-0. He pitched a complete game shutout against the Blue Devils, and allowed just one run in six innings against Maryland.
Fortunately for the Hokies, Mantiply and Marc Zecchino will be returning next season, so head coach Pete Hughes won't have to completely overhaul his pitching staff for the second year in a row.
Tech has also gotten help at the plate from Andrew Rash, a r-sophomore who is hitting .360 with 17 homeruns and 49 RBI's. He is fourth in the ACC in batting average, first in slugging percentage, tied for second in RBI's, and holds a whopping lead in homeruns. His slugging percentage is .776, much higher than second place Brad Miller of Clemson, who sits at .595. His 17 homeruns easily outpace Virginia Tech shortstop Tim Smalling, who has nine homers.
Smalling, a r-senior who transferred from Arkansas, is turning in a really good season as well, hitting .319 with nine homers and 38 RBI's. Junior Ronnie Shaban is hitting .309 with five homeruns, and his 49 RBI's are tied with Rash for second in the ACC.
Tech hosts a three-game series against Clemson from May 13 through May 15, and then hosts Georgia Tech from May 19 through May 21. If their pitching can stay consistent, and their bats continue to be hot, the Hokies should be back in the ACC Tournament.
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