The visiting Sooners, who did not have a reputation of fielding a lineup full of power hitters, overpowered Virginia Tech 11-2 to win the Blacksburg Super Regional’s series-deciding third game and advance to next week’s College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Oklahoma (42-22) earned its spot in the CWS — its first trip to Omaha since 2010 — by taking a page out of the Hokies’ playbook offensively, while its pitching staff stifled Virginia Tech’s lineup, which had averaged more than 12 runs per game in its five previous NCAA Tournament games.
The Sooners had 15 hits, including five home runs and four doubles. They never trailed after Peyton Graham and Tanner Tredaway each hit solo home runs off Hokies starting pitcher Jordan Geber in the top of the first inning. Tredaway was only getting started, following up that first-inning blast with two doubles and another home run.
“I never feel like it’s going to be one of these days,” Tredaway said. “But I did tell myself that this is my senior year, and it could be our last game of the season, and I wanted to leave it all on the field. That’s what I did and I made some magic happen.”
To make matters worse for the host team, Virginia Tech (45-14) had its least productive day of the season at the plate. All the Hokies generated were two hits — a one-out single by Eduardo Malinowski in the third inning, followed by a two-run home run by Ocean Lakes High graduate Carson DeMartini. Before Sunday, the lowest-hitting day for Tech was a five-hit effort in a 2-0 win over Boston College on April 22.
DeMartini’s home run tied the score at 2 after three innings, but Tech’s hopes of gaining control of the game were dashed quickly by the Sooners in the top of the fourth. A leadoff home run by Tredaway sparked a three-run inning for OU, which scored at least a run in every inning after that.
“I’ll speak (for the others) and say this sucks pretty bad,” Hokies catcher Cade Hunter said. “We didn’t get it done on offense today and that’s pretty much the moral of the story. There’s not too much to be happy about, but we can still celebrate the season and what we did together.”
Geber was pulled after facing two batters in the fourth inning after giving up four earned runs — including three homers. He was the longest-lasting of the Hokies’ starting pitchers over the weekend.
Gerber, Friday starter Griffin Green and Saturday starter Drue Hackenberg went a combined 6 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and 10 earned runs (for a 13.50 ERA), while walking four, hitting four batters and striking out eight.
Oklahoma’s starters, in comparison, lasted 16 2/3 innings, giving up 16 hits and eight earned runs (a 4.32 ERA). OU’s starters walked six, struck out 22 and did not hit a batter.
The short stints by the Hokies’ starters meant that the other 20 1/3 innings were handled by Virginia Tech relievers. Coach John Szefc said working with the combination of a tired bullpen and an anemic offense was difficult. Two Hokies — Kiernan Higgins and First Colonial High product Graham Firoved — pitched in all three games.
“We really had not leaned on any one pitcher in that pen too much during the year, so we were always able to go to the tank whenever we needed,” Szefc said. “If you look at the last two days, we had to go to the pen early. And it’s tough because you’re … facing a good team.
“[The starters] have been steady for us the whole year, so I can’t really criticize them,” Szefc said. “Those were the kind of guys that got us here. … My guess was that the tank was starting to get a little low, but those guys wouldn’t say that.”
Other than that quick reflection of what did not go the Hokies’ way on Sunday, Szefc and the players who accompanied him to the postgame press conference chose to focus on what had this team accomplished. Among other things, Tech earned the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and won a team-best 19 ACC regular-season games. The 44 wins were the highest total since Chuck Hartman’s 1985 team won 50. The 119 home runs were bettered only twice in school history.
“They’ve accomplished an incredible feat,” Szefc said. “They might not even understand it right now. But what they’ve accomplished here is very, very respectful. And it will be the standard that future teams will try to live up to for years to come.”
The players echoed Szefc’s feelings. For a 40-man roster that included 18 in-state players and 23 players with at least three years of experience, they believe the positive parts of the year will overshadow how the season ended.
“I know this is the best team I’ve ever played on,” said Walsingham Academy graduate Tanner Schobel. “… Being an in-state guy, playing for this team is one of the coolest things you can do. Growing up as a Hokies fan and coming to games then was cool. And now getting to wear the uniform has been great.”