Posted: 11:17 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2013
For the first time in Virginia Tech history, the Hokies are hosting a NCAA Tournament Regional in Blacksburg this weekend. Tech will host the field of Connecticut, Oklahoma and Coastal Carolina.
As the top seed in the Blacksburg Regional, the Hokies' first opponent is the No. 4 Connecticut. Tech will play the Huskies at 5:30 on Friday after the opening game of the tournament between the No. 2 seed Oklahoma Sooners and the No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (wait, really? Yup. I checked).
The winners of the first two games will meet in the second game on Saturday at 5:30, while the losers will be relegated to the bottom or loser's bracket, as seen below. The tournament is double elimination, which is the reason there is a game 7 listed in the bottom right hand corner, should a team make it to the championship game unscathed.
According to Hokiesports:
"Tech has played each team in the Blacksburg Regional at least once, but outside of Coastal Carolina, it hasn’t been recent. Oklahoma and the Hokies have met just once, March 26, 1978 in Nashville, Tenn. A game won by Tech, 4-2. All-time against Big 12 teams, Tech is 54-32-1 (with 84 games against West Virginia). Coastal Carolina and the Hokies have met seven times in the last seven years, but only once after March 1 (last year in mid-April). Against Big South teams, Tech is 260-102-2. Connecticut and Tech haven’t played since 2004, when the Hokies left for the ACC. Against current BIG EAST teams, the Hokies own a 156-98-2 all-time mark."
So what will the Hokies have to do to get to the championship game? Well, I'm glad you asked, because I was about to tell you anyway. Below are previews for all three teams the Hokies might face.
We'll start with Connecticut, who the Hokies will for sure play in their first game. The Huskies went 34-26 (9-15) this season, winning the Big East Championship Sunday 8-1 over Notre Dame. Unlike Oklahoma, I did not see a report about which pitcher the Huskies will go with, but it would probably be one of their four best starters, Carson Cross (2.5 ERA 15 starts), Jordan Tabakman (2.5 ERA, 6 starts), Brian Ward (3.59 ERA, 10 starts) or Anthony Marzi (3.87 ERA, 16 starts). Marzi pitched all 9 innings on Sunday, so I would seriously doubt if he would start the first game.
In the bats department, senior infielder LJ Mazzilli, the son of former big leaguer Lee Mazzilli, leads the Huskies in batting average (.364), hits (90), home runs (6) and RBI (49). As a team, Connecticut has only hit 20 home runs, so they don't have many power hitters. The only other hitter on the team north of .300 is freshman infielder Vinny Siena, who hit .302 with 1 HR and 33 RBI's.
Now on to the Oklahoma Sooners, the Hokies' likeliest opponent Saturday based on seed. Oklahoma went 40-19 (13-11) and also won the Big 12 Championship over Kansas on Sunday, sweeping the tournament in four games. Per Mike Barber earlier today, the Sooners will send Jonathan Gray to the mound:
Oklahoma coach says Jonathan Gray will start Game 1. Dillon Overton will go in Game 2.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) May 30, 2013
Gray last pitched on the 23rd, a complete game shutout of the Baylor Bears, only allowing 3 hits, striking out 12 and walking none. Gray is the first of a two-headed pitching animal along with Overton, who both went 9-2 on the year, both with sub-3 ERA's. Beyond those two, only one player started more than five games (Adam Choplick, 5.35 ERA 10 starts).
Hitting the ball, the Sooners have several legitimate threats, none more dangerous than junior infielder Matt Oberste, who is hitting a piping hot .384 with 11 HR's and 58 RBI's. Behind him are senior infielder/outfielder Max White, who hit .300 on the nose and senior infielder Jack Mayfield, who hit only .250, but flashed power with his 7 HR's and 33 RBI's. Oberste and Mayfield's homers represent more than half of the team total (32).
Pitching plan for #Hokies: Mantiply Game 1, Burke says he's "99 percent" sure he'll pitch 2. Markey would be 3 & Campbell if necessary in 4.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) May 30, 2013
Now to the third seeded Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina went 37-21 (18-6) in the Big South, losing the conference tournament to the host, Liberty. Their top two starters were sophomore Ben Smith (2.19 ERA, 15 starts) and redshirt-freshman Tyler Poole (3.86 ERA, 14 starts). Beyond those two the Chanticleers had two others start more than five games: freshman Seth Lamando (3.43 ERA, 8 starts) and junior Herb Taylor (4.04 ERA, 11 starts).
Offensively, the Chants (a nickname they use) are led by junior center fielder Jacob May, who hit .321 with 6 HR's and 29 RBI's. He also added 16 steals on the basepaths. Senior outfielder Ted Blackman also hit .303 with 5 HR's and 24 RBI's. Their 11 home runs make up over of the team's 20 homers. So again, not much of a power hitting team.
For continued baseball coverage, including live-tweeting from Blacksburg the next couple of days, Gobbler Country is your Virginia Tech sports home.