Hokies score eight in the eighth to win
The Liberty baseball team (22-22, 7-8 BSC) allowed the visiting Virginia Tech Hokies (15-29, 5-18 ACC) to rally from a 10-2 deficit with an eight-run eighth inning, dropping an 11-10 decision Tuesday, April 26 at home at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
Junior right-hander Eric Grabowski made his first start of the season for the Flames, taking the no-decision in just 3 2/3 innings of work. Grabowski, the first of seven pitchers used by the Flames, allowed two runs on two hits, while striking out three and walking one.
Junior reliever Shane Quarterley (5-4) took the loss, dropping his third straight decision in as many games.
“We didn’t really want to throw (Quarterley) because he’s thrown a lot,” Flames Head Coach Jim Toman said. “That’s why at 10-2 he wasn’t in there. He’s had a lot of appearances, and we were hoping to rest him.”
Redshirt sophomore Nick Anderson also made his debut as a starter for the Hokies and lasted only three innings, allowing four runs on four hits, with one walk and one strikeout.
Freshman right-hander Nic Enright picked up his first win of the season in relief for Virginia Tech.
The Flames jumped on the board first with a four-run second inning that began with a leadoff single from Yacyk and a walk for Britt to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Sophomore third baseman Josh Barrick was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Freshman right fielder Jack Morris then ripped a double down the left-field line to score two runs and give the Flames a 2-0 lead.
Artis followed with a soft line drive up the middle for a two-run single to make it 4-0, Flames.
After sitting down the first six batters he faced, Grabowski ran into trouble in the third and fourth innings. He put runners on first and second with one out in the third, but he struck out the next two batters to avoid further trouble.
In the fourth, however, the Hokies cut into the deficit after Grabowski allowed a single which was then book-ended by two hit batters to load the bases with nobody out.
Senior first baseman Phil Sciretta scored on a wild pitch from Grabowski to get the Hokies on the board.
With runners on second and third, redshirt sophomore left fielder Garrett Hudson hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Anderson and trim the Flames lead to 4-2.
The Flames extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth. Yacyk grounded a single through the left side to score Artis from second and give the Flames a 5-2 lead. Britt and junior catcher Payton Scarbrough followed with back-to-back RBI singles to stretch the Flames lead to 7-2.
Liberty tacked on runs in the sixth and seventh innings to add to the advantage. With two outs, Shepherd hit an RBI single over the glove of Hokies senior second baseman Matt Dauby, giving the Flames an 8-2 lead.
In the seventh, Taormina crushed a two-run shot into the visiting bullpen in right field for his second home run of the season to increase the Flames lead to 10-2.
Then came the eighth. Hokies senior catcher Andrew Mogg reached base on a throwing error by Barrick to lead off the inning.
Then Flames right-hander Thomas Simpson, the fifth Flames pitcher of the night, hit the next batter and walked the following one to load the bases with no outs.
Hokies redshirt junior centerfielder Saige Jenco followed with a groundout to first to knock in a run and make it 10-3.
Tufts drove a double off the left-field wall to score another run and trim the deficit to 10-4. After Simpson walked Sciretta to load the bases yet again, he was replaced by junior righty Caleb Evans.
The first pitch Evans threw was lined into right field for an RBI single by Anderson to make it 10-5. Evans then hit Fragale with a pitch to force in another run for the Hokies and bring the score to 10-6.
Hudson notched his second sacrifice fly of the game, flying out to left to score Sciretta and put the tying run at the plate. With two outs, Mogg walked on four pitches to load the bases for the third time in the inning.
After fouling off a few pitches, Hokies redshirt sophomore pinch hitter Tom Stoffel smacked a three-run double into right center field, tying the game, 10-10.
“They had some key hits,” Toman said. “We walked some guys, and we hit some guys, and the inning started off with an error, but we didn’t expect them to put up eight runs. We couldn’t stop the bleeding in the eighth.”
Quarterley was brought in to get the elusive third out of the inning and got redshirt junior right fielder Rahiem Cooper, the 12th batter of the inning, to ground out to short to end the inning. The Flames allowed the eight runs on just three hits.
The Hokies would carry the momentum into the top of the ninth against Quarterley.
After a fielder’s choice to second put runners at the corners with two outs, Fragale singled to left-center to score Tufts for the go-ahead run and give the Hokies their first lead of the night.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Flames attempted to stage a rally after junior third baseman Andrew Kowalo was hit by a pitch with one out. Down to their last out, junior pinch hitter Josh Latta struck out to end the game and give the Hokies an 11-10 win.
The eight runs surrendered in the eighth were the most given up in an inning by the Flames. Flames pitchers walked eight batters and hit five in the game.
“You certainly couldn’t (pitch) worse than we’re (pitching) right now,” Toman said in regards to the bullpen. “We’re going to have a meeting to figure out what we need to do.”
The Flames begin an eight-game homestand Tuesday, May 3 when they host the defend-ing national champion Virginia Cavaliers at Liberty Baseball Stadium at 7 p.m.
Vandenbosch is the former sports editor.