By Casey Richey
Here's a break down in bullet form because thoughts are too rambly to make segues at this point.
- Well, that sucked. As the word choice in my headline indicates, I thought the Hokies just came out flat. They struggled offensively from the first pitch and by the time the bats did come alive, they had a very tough go of it trying to tie it up. They also made some head scratching plays in the field and on the base paths. Hats off to UConn, since they came out ready to play and they played a good game for sure, but the Hokies also made it a lot easier for them. Now we get to take the tough road: lose and we're out.
- Holy hell, good showing Hokie fans. I was a bit worried that the game wouldn't be as packed as it was, which would kind of make us look bad as the hosts. Nevertheless, the place was PACKED. The line to get into the game snaked well beyond the normal sidewalk and far down Duck Pond Drive...further than I could see from my vantage point. Hope the games the rest of the way are like this.
- The strike zone shrunk throughout the game. At the beginning of the game it seemingly started at Duck Pond Drive and ended at Rector Field House. By the end, it was narrower than a Cassel Coliseum seat. In the beginning that benefited UConn since starter Carson Cross figured out early that the strikezone was very wide. Cross worked the outside of the plate and got the calls, putting Tech hitters in a tough position pretty quickly. Cross didn't have the best stuff that I've seen, but he was smart and methodical. He worked the outside and then came back in on hitters when the count was in his favor, forcing a lot of weak groundouts from close in on the hands. Mantiply, however, seemed to pitch a lot more to the textbook strikezone and the UConn hitters were able to make contact. By the time the relievers came in, the strike zone was much more defined and didn't include both batters boxes.
- If you think this loss is all on Tech starter Joe Mantiply: you're doing it wrong. Sure, Mantiply gave up four runs on 10 hits. You know how many of those runs were earned? One. You know how many hits his offense got behind his time on the mound? Two. He wasn't as sharp as he needed to be, but he sure didn't get any help from his teammates. It seemed like as soon as Jake Joyce came in to pitch, Tech picked it up offensively.
- Speaking of Joyce, he was fairly solid. He really only had one tough inning--the ninth--and he kept the Hokies in it when it certainly could have gotten out of hand. He seemed to throw with a lot more aggression than Mantiply, going after hitters instead of trying to bait them. He also was able to work the strike zone better and struck
- It showed that Andrew Rash isn't used to playing third base. His error on what should have been a routine groundout for the second out put a runner on and the Huskies tacked on three runs after that. Also, whenever there was a bunt, he switched with Chad Pinder and went to shortstop, presumably since Pinder is more used to fielding bunts than Rash, an outfielder.
- I fear what this loss did for Tech baseball. It was a HUGE opportunity to show the program's advancement and with English Field packed to the gills with some people that were probably at their first ever Tech baseball game, it was disappointing showing. I'm not saying that it overshadows the fact that Tech is even hosting a regional, but kind of a bummer that they couldn't pull out a win with so many people there. Here's to hoping that things are different tomorrow.
- To the boorish gentleman in front of me: you are an idiot. I don't hesitate in saying that because seeing as how you could barely figure out how to use a mechanical pencil, I doubt you can navigate through the wonderland of the internet. Background: this guy was being a total dick towards Hughes all game long. Show some respect for the coach that turned the program around, lobbied hard for the NCAA Regional to come to Blacksburg so that this dolt could even sit there slack-jawed to watch it. I only even bring it up because, well, he wasn't the only one doing it.
- I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I like turf fields. Yeah, they're great for a climate like Blacksburg that can be incredibly cold all the way up to mid-April, but a lot of the hard hit balls in the infield take crazy bounces. For instance--and maybe I'm exaggerating or mis-remembering on this one--the first run of the game for UConn came off a ball that bounced hard and high in the infield and over the head of Andrew Rash into the outfield. The ball had enough air to clear Rash, yet was slow enough that Horan had to charge it, allowing a somewhat slow runner to score from second. Not blaming the loss on that by ANY means since Tech has lived with (and undoubtedly benefited from it) over the past two years, just one of those things that you see live and just kind of makes you go "huh..." That being said, that field is beautiful.
- This next game is going to be tough. Coastal Carolina is a strong team and they did well against the expected number one draft pick in Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray. The Chanticleers tagged Gray for nine hits and three runs (two of which were earned). The probably-should-have-been-Big-South-Champs-but-choked-away-two-games-to-Liberty Chanticleers have a strong line-up with some pretty solid speed. Tech needs to come out strong from the first pitch and ready to play. If they're slow to start and have to dig themselves out of a hole, they may be watching the rest of the regional rather than playing in it.
Hokies flat against Connecticut in regional opener