When he toed the rubber at just past 11 AM on Sunday, Mike King knew exactly what the fate of the Virginia Tech hitters would be. Two hours later, everyone else knew exactly what he believed heading into the rubber match between the Hokies and the host Boston College Eagles.
King went the distance in a 4-1 victory over the Hokies, striking out six and throwing 110 pitches of masterful baseball. Striking out six, he induced 12 ground ball outs while throwing just under 70% of his pitches for strikes. Only one of Virginia Tech's five hits went for extra bases, with a Hokie reaching third base only once in the entire game in the fourth inning.
"The two seam fastball (was the go-to pitch)," said King after his dominant performance. "We call it a 'BP fastball' because if I'm a little bit behind in a count - either 2-0 or 3-1 - I take a little bit off the two-seam and get (hitters) to pound it into the ground. So when I had that early action where I was down in the count, I could take a little bit off it and get (hitters) to pound it into the ground. It would just result in a grounder over there to (shortstop) Johnny (Adams), and he had a hell of a day over there."
King's reference to Johnny Adams wasn't without merit. Adams had seven assists on the day, including the final out, in a credit to how the gameplan worked to perfection. For King, it was pitch to contact when necessary and let hitters simply beat it at the shortstop in a righty-heavy lineup. "Johnny had a whole bunch of ground balls," said head coach Mike Gambino. "It's so much fun for the guys playing behind Mike when he has that sinker going."
The starter ran into trouble only in the fourth when the Hokies struck for a run. After Saige Jenco walked to lead off the inning, Tom Stoffel doubled to right field to put runners on second and third with nobody out. But King rallied, forcing Phil Sciretta to fly to Logan Hoggarth in short right, not deep enough to score the runner, before he induced two straight grounders to Adams. The first, to Nick Anderson, resulted in a run scoring from third, but it kept Stoffel at second, where he was stranded.
"You also see how good Michael is in the fourth where (Virginia Tech) threatened," said Gambino. "There's second and third with nobody out, and he just minimizes it, gets just the one run, and we're back to okay. It was just awesome."
King's performance overshadowed the rest of Johnny Adams' day. Adams recorded just one hit, but he lent a helping hand in innings where Boston College scored their runs. In the second, with the game still scoreless, Gian Martellini crushed a 2-1 fastball from starting pitcher Nic Enright to deep left center field. It got to the wall, allowing the DH to chug into second with a double. Adams then grounded the first pitch he saw shortstop, but it was booted by Ryan Tufts, putting two on with one out. After Logan Hoggarth fouled out on the first pitch he saw, Mitch Bigras and Dominic Hardaway both singled through the right side, giving BC two runs and a 2-0 lead.
In the next inning, Nick Sciortino led off with a single up the middle, and after back-to-back sacrifice bunts, including one where a throwing error allowed Michael Strem to reach base, Adams laced a single up the middle to score both lead runners. That put the score at 4-0, all BC would need for their victory. "I was just looking for a fastball," said Adams, "something that I could drive up the middle. And that's exactly what I got."
The game itself, though, came back to King, who improved his record to 5-3 with the win. "Mike was just doing what he does best, keeping the defense involved," said the shortstop. "We're always hopping around on defense waiting for those groundball, and he was locked in all game."
King's performance highlighted a strong weekend on the hill by the Eagles' staff, who combined for almost 20 innings of work while striking out 17. "In an ideal world, you have a few different looks (to your pitching staff)," said Gambino. "To me, you have Jacob Stevens, who has a good fastball with a lot of pitchability in there and move the ball around, give you a chance to win every Friday night. You have Justin Dunn, who can dominate any lineup and just give you power power. And then you have Michael, who comes out with that sinker. It gives three different looks to lineups, and even more than that, it gives other teams fits."
If anything, the BC righty overshadowed another fine performance out of a Virginia Tech pitcher. Nic Enright, who entered the game with an ERA north of 7.00, allowed only one earned run on the day in five innings of work. He struck out four and walked only one, throwing 84 pitches and working a strong game for his team. He was replaced by Jon Woodcock to start the sixth, who finished the rest of the game by allowing only one hit and striking out two.
At the dish, Nick Anderson and Nick Sciortino posted multi-hit games with Anderson collecting two hits for Virginia Tech and Sciortino hitting two out of the two hole for the Eagles.
With the win, the Eagles clinched the weekend series, two games to one. They improved to 23-17 on the year, 9-13 in ACC play. Virginia Tech fell to 15-30, 5-19 in conference play.
The Eagles are back in action on Tuesday when they head to the Ocean State for a non-conference date with the Rhode Island Rams. First pitch is at 3 PM.