Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Boston College Eagles
Friday: 2:30 PM
Saturday (Wounded Warrior Project Game): 1:30 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM
If Boston College needed any motivation at all for playing hard this week, they won't need to look very far to get it.
The ACC playoff race is completely jammed with 13 teams jostling for 10 spots. With the rumor mill showing the Eagles as an NCAA bubble team and predictions that upwards of 10 ACC teams could make the dance, wins are increasingly at a premium. A game back of 10th place, 13th place Boston College needs wins to catch Duke, North Carolina, and Clemson. They have a golden opportunity this week against a Virginia Tech team that's struggled in league play, in dead last, looking up at everyone else.
That's the same Virginia Tech program where head coach Mike Gambino was once an assistant. The Eagles head coach sat on the bench with former BC head coach Pete Hughes from 2007 through 2010. In their four seasons together, Coach Hughes and Gambino oversaw the development of the Hokies into an NCAA Tournament contender. In the first year where they had a recruiting cycle on their roster, VT won 40 games, 16 ACC games, and qualified for an NCAA Regional in Columbia, South Carolina. A #2 seed, they came within a game of forcing an elimination game with #1 South Carolina.
If that's not enough, there's a special air to the weekend with the Wounded Warrior Project game taking place. There's something about playing for a purpose, and putting on special edition uniforms, welcoming special guests, it makes the game feel like a little bit more than a game. Playing for their country's armed forces, there's more incentive to do more proud.
The Eagles and the Hokies. It'll be a weekend to remember at Shea Field.
Record: 14-28 (4-17 ACC)
Last Time Out: Duke took two out of three this past weekend from the Hokies, splitting a doubleheader on Saturday before winning the series on Sunday. After Virginia Tech won a 3-2 game to open things up, Duke went on a tear, defeating the Hokies, 19-9, before clinching the series with a 3-1 victory on ESPN3.
In their only midweek game, the Hokies went to Liberty and picked up an 11-10 victory.
Around The Horn
Virginia Tech's had some problems this year, but none of them are related to their bats. The team enters this weekend hitting .275, including 240 runs scored and 21 homers on the year. That's good enough to put them at 12th in the league, which doesn't seem very high until you consider that one or two percentage points is the difference between the Hokies and Notre Dame. A couple of more percentage points over that, and they're all of a sudden passing a team like Wake Forest.
There's talent inside the Hokie roster that goes inside the numbers. Phil Sciretta is one of the team's top threats, entering the weekend with a .331 batting average, six doubles, three homers, and a team-high 30 RBI. Behind him, Nick Anderson has a better batting average at .339 but gives up something in production. Although he has nine doubles, Anderson only has 17 RBI. Saige Jenco is another name to watch with 19 RBI and a .319 batting average.
Most of the production by these guys comes from non-conference games. In ACC play, nearly everyone's numbers drop except for Jenco, whose average goes up to .333.
That doesn't mean BC can take these guys lightly. Even though Jenco's the only one over .300, Virginia Tech's succeeded in having four or five guys capable of putting th eball into play, all between roughly .296 and Jenco with Ryan Tufts at .269 in ACC play.
In a three-game series with its best pitchers going, there stands to reason that the Boston College pitching staff should be able to succeed here, especially after what they did to Louisville last weekend. But the point is that Virginia Tech does have some talent, and good, solid pitching is something that while proven can't be taken for granted on any given weekend.
On The Bump
This is where things get dicey for the Hokies. They have, by far, the league's worst pitching staff with a 6.68 team ERA, just about two runs per game less than 13th place Wake Forest. In league play, the ERA jumps even higher up to 7.56.
The weekend starters will feature Kit Scheetz and Packy Naughton, but they're a combined 2-9 on the year in conference play. Jon Woodcock started six conference games, but he was replaced last weekend by Connor Coward. Woodcock, who at the time was 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA among conference games, was replaced by Coward, who in four appearances is 0-1 with a 12.27 ERA.
Within a larger body of work, those numbers drop somewhat, but this is a team that quite honestly is having a terrible year on the hill. Only two pitchers - Scheetz and reliever Aaron McGarity - have ERAs under 6.00. Scheetz is 4-4 on the year with a 3.97 ERA with 10 starts and 65.2 innings thrown, and McGarity, in 10 appearances (all relief) is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA. But even then, in his 10 appearances, he's only thrown 11.1 innings.
The rest of the pitching staff has been a disaster. Coward is 0-1 with a 6.15 ERA. Woodcock is 1-7 with a 6.79 ERA, having started seven of his 14 appearances. Naughton, in 11 appearances and 10 starts, is 2-6 with a 7.50 ERA in 54 innings.
BC's hitting has been known to brown out for innings on end. If you're an Eagles fan, this could be just what the doctor ordered. At the same time, though, the same could be said in reverse. If BC's offense doesn't show up, the numbers won't matter for Virginia Tech's pitching.
For the most part, the weekend's weather should be pretty positive, and an absolutely gorgeous day is on tap for Saturday. Friday's forecast calls for 50 degrees and partly cloudy skies, with the same forecast receiving a temperature increase on Saturday. The Wounded Warrior Project Game will have highs pushing 55, and with the early start, it should be a magnificent day at Shea Field.
Clouds and rain are in the forecast for Sunday with temperatures dipping back to the low 50s, and the wind will pick up as the day goes on. The chance of rain starts out low and gets worse as the day goes on, meaning that the early start should allow the Eagles and Hokies to complete their series. The chance of rain does hit 80%, but that doesn't happen until after 8 PM. The game should be long done by then.
That's the same for the winds, which should be breezy in the morning and pick up as the day goes on.
Where in the World is Boston College Baseball?
The Eagles remain at home for the end of their extended homestand. So far at home, BC's been 5-5, having played only 10 games at Shea Field thanks to that patch of weird weather to begin this month.
This is the seventh straight game at home for the Eagles, who go on the road on Tuesday to take on Rhode Island. Then they'll return home for seven more at home before finishing the season at Georgia Tech.
Boston College is at home pretty much until that Georgia Tech series since Rhode Island really isn't that far away, all things considered.
Music to listen to as you honor America's armed forces
Bagpipe Music - Coming Home.
Without fail there are two songs, when played on the bagpipes, that make it incredibly dusty in the room. The first is Amazing Grace. The second is Coming Home.
I've heard Coming Home played at funerals in the Boston area, and every time, it tugs at my heart strings. It's both incredibly sad and incredibly beautiful all at the same time.
I love that Boston College honors the men and women of the armed forces, and the camouflage uniforms are a nice touch (much better than those American flag uniforms from the older years, in my opinion). But let's remember that not everyone gets to have the luxury of doing this, that there's a steep price for us to go and watch a baseball game. The amazing men and women who don the uniform of our country make all of this possible, and we are but a drop in the bucket of the debt that we're owed to them for doing so.
They are the true heroes of every day. It's our duty and it's our honor to be able to say thank you to these great Americans.
Random Fact(s) of the Week
Virginia Tech's first season of baseball came in 1895, when they went 3-2. In 117 seasons of baseball, the Hokies have over 2,000 victories.
Pete Hughes took the Hokies to two NCAA Tournaments - the aforementioned 2010 tournament and again in 2013. in 2013, the Hokies again wound up in an elimination game in the Regional Final, this time against Oklahoma. Eliminated by Oklahoma, it proved foreboding as the Sooners took Pete Hughes as their head coach in Norman.
This is a huge weekend for the Eagles, who need to finish +1 over Duke and Clemson in order to slide into the postseason. They can both lose very quickly if Boston College wins and they lose to NC State and Florida State, respectively. As for North Carolina, they're the safest if BC starts winning because they're off. BC would have to win twice just to tie the Tar Heels, and UNC gains ground against the other schools if they start losing.
But it's something that BC has to do - win. The Eagles likely will need two or three victories here to really make you feel comfortable about how things can shake down. A sweep would be ideal, but that's incredibly hard to get in the ACC. This is a golden opportunity for Boston College. Losses here would be really damaging to their NCAA and ACC hopes, making this weekend, like all of those before and all of those upcoming, incredibly intriguing and compelling baseball.