User ID: Password:

November 7, 2008

Briefly recapping the baseball and softball teams' fall seasons

By: Matt Kovatch

Fall World Series MVP Steve Bumbry (middle) celebrates one of his three home runs.

Three up, three down with the baseball team

1 UP – In the Hokies’ three-game intrasquad Fall World Series, Tech hitters swatted a combined eight home runs and banged out 60 hits, numbers that rated high above their per-game rates from the spring. Three of those dingers came from series MVP Steve Bumbry, but five others hit one each, and eight players batted at least .364 in the series. And that list of eight doesn’t even include Anthony Sosnoskie, Sean Ryan and Matt Blow, who hit .315, .305 and .290, respectively, a year ago. So have the Hokies improved their hitting …

1 DOWN – Or have the pitchers stayed the same? It’s too early to tell. Tech sported a 5.76 team ERA in the spring, and that number was about the same in the series. But let’s keep it in perspective. The Hokies’ best pitchers all turned in limited duty this fall after having successful summer league campaigns, so many of the runs given up in the series were allowed by either a trio of freshmen pitching in their first game-like collegiate action, a walk-on eating innings, or a utility infielder who was moonlighting on the mound for a few batters.

2 UP – Speaking of Tech’s best pitchers, they were solid when they did pitch this fall. Workhorse Rhett Ballard was scheduled for just three innings in the series but ended up throwing six scoreless frames with eight Ks, while Justin Wright, Jesse Hahn and Brandon Fisher – all dependable in the spring – combined to toss 10.2 shutout innings with 10 more strikeouts.

2 DOWN – Tech needs to iron out the rest of its staff. Transfer Ben Rowen allowed a run in two innings, but his awkward, from-down-under delivery will prove troublesome for hitters who’ve never seen him. Sean McDermott and Kyle Cichy turned in lots of streaky innings last season and looked vulnerable in the series, but McDermott wasn’t at full go and Cichy was working on a new arm slot. Freshmen Luke Erickson, Clark Labitan and Mathew Price (a draft pick of the Atlanta Braves) will also factor in.

3 UP – The Hokies have depth in the field, something they didn’t have at the end of last season. Ty Hohman, Nate Clark, Buddy Sosnoskie and Luke Padgett all return from injuries in the spring, and no one was hurt when the series wrapped up. But the two biggest additions may be the in the form of two junior college transfers, OF/DH Mike Kaminski and C/OF Steve Domecus, a pair of players who could easily find themselves as opening day starters.

3 DOWN – Who steps up in the place of the graduated Sean O’Brien? Not only was he a virtual lock to get on base twice per game after leading the team in hitting for four years, but he started nearly every game at first base and rarely committed an error. Someone needs to man first and find ways to get on base at the rate O’Brien did.

Three thoughts with softball coach Scot Thomas

The questions start and end with the pitching staff.
“How do we account for the loss of Angela? I hear that a lot. The bad news is that we don’t have another Angela Tincher. But the good news is that nobody else does either. I thought the pitching staff did a pretty good job in the fall. The only thing they’ll have to continue to work on is getting ahead in counts and cutting down on walks. But one good thing is that they didn’t give up a home run all fall.

“We were a little beat up – 50 percent of our staff was hurt and that’s not good when you’re rebuilding a staff – but we’re hoping that gets better. Kenzie Roark threw really well for us and Abbie Rexrode has been working really hard. We need Kristin Graham to be healthy. I think we can pitch by committee and do a decent job. People might have to be patient with us, but I think we’re going to be fine.”

Scoring more runs will be imperative.

“We’ve never had a problem with setting the table, but we’ve been leaving too many runners on, and I think a lot of time it’s the mentality of things. I think that sometimes when you don’t feel like you have to score runs, then you don’t really press to score those runs. I think that can happen a lot when you have a great pitcher, and that certainly happened to us. We’ve got to make sure we don’t get complacent and that we continue to score runs and play out the games.

“This fall, I thought we scored and manufactured runs when we needed to. We got a lot of sacrifice flies and we got the ball out of the infield. We did things with runners in scoring position, which is something we’ve been trying to focus on, so I feel good about that. We’ve got the kids who can do it.”

Don’t count us out come spring.

“We’re not talking about the World Series, but we’re talking about winning the ACC title and peaking at the right time, and I think we have the players who can make that happen. We’re going to have a much different look. You may see Misty Hall behind the plate a lot more, and you may see Erin Ota playing some shortstop. You may see some new faces inserted into different places in the lineup. Charisse Mariconda, Jess Everhart, Whitney Davis and Jenna Rhodes are all back, too, and Richelle McGarva is going to be a major addition to our program. I think we have the makings of really solid offensive lineup.”