User ID: Password:

June 28, 2010

Tech baseball falls just short of Super Regional after thrilling postseason run

By: Matt Kovatch

Despite a season-ending defeat at South Carolina on June 6, offensive stars Steve Domecus and Austin Wates kept their heads high while addressing the media about Virginia Tech's breakthrough 2010 season.

Steve Domecus looked longingly over his shoulder as he was herded through the tunnel toward the postgame interview room at Carolina Stadium on June 6. The Virginia Tech baseball team had just been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by host South Carolina, suffering a 10-2 loss that ended a reviving season during which it won 40 games and advanced to regional play for the first time in a decade.

“Do I have to go?” the redshirt senior catcher asked, pausing to sign a few autographs in hopes that the inevitable might somehow be avoided. “I was really hoping that I could ride the bus back with the guys one last time.”

The Hokies’ bus would be leaving momentarily, taking the majority of the team back to the hotel, but the media beckoned. After all, Domecus was not only a key figure in the game – he smacked a two-run homer to give Tech an early lead – but he also played a major role in the Hokies’ turnaround over the past couple of seasons. The reporters wanted to know – how would he remember it all?

“Mostly just the group of guys we were with,” Domecus said, visibly fighting back a lump in his throat. “I’ve never been with a tighter team, so to speak, than this one. Everyone worked hard and we got along with each other – I can’t even think of a single time that we got into a fight as a team. It was a good year and I enjoyed this group of guys, and that’s what I’m going to take with me for the rest of my life.”

It was the last swerve in a rollercoaster final month of the season, one that finished with the Hokies winning two NCAA Tournament games for the first time since 1954. Here’s a quick look at the highs and lows:

May 15: The Hokies are sitting pretty at 36-15, dreaming of the possibility of an NCAA regional at home.

May 22: Tech loses its fourth straight following a sweep at the hands of North Carolina, and must play well at the ACC Tournament to ensure a favorable NCAA bid.

May 28: The Hokies pull out a clutch win over eventual College World Series participant Clemson at the ACC Tournament, needing only to beat N.C. State the next day to advance to the title game.

May 29: Holding a 9-8 lead over the Wolfpack in the ninth inning, the Hokies give up one in the ninth and one in the 10th to lose.

May 31: Tech celebrates an invitation to the Columbia, South Carolina regional – its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000.

June 4: The Hokies fall 7-2 to The Citadel in their NCAA opener, dropping to the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination format.

June 5: Tech pounds Bucknell to survive, though not without enduring a nearly two-hour rain delay in the second inning that effectively burns starting pitcher Mathew Price.

June 6: In the first game of the day, Tech is cruising 3-0 over The Citadel through three innings before starting pitcher Jesse Hahn leaves with forearm strain, forcing freshman Joe Mantiply, who was being saved to start one of the next two games, into emergency duty. The Hokies hang on to win 4-3, but must defeat the Gamecocks later in the day with Price coming back on extremely short rest. It doesn’t happen, but the Hokies can’t help but be appreciative of the ride after the loss.

“The past couple of years, we’ve been fighting to make this an elite program,” said right fielder Austin Wates. “We worked hard for so long and to come up short like this, it just really hurts. But I think we definitely turned a corner with this program and that’s a huge deal. I’m glad we made a lot of noise.”

“It’s been a goal to get to a regional and to get the baseball program back to where we wanted it to be,” Domecus added. “I think we’re getting close. The next couple of years, you might have to look out for the Hokies in Omaha.”