Hokies will ride a five-game winning streak in No. 18 UNC

NOIRSBOURG – After winning three straight on the road during its five-game winning streak, the Virginia Tech baseball team (15-6, 3-4 ACC) will travel to Chapel Hill in hopes of beating the No. 18 North Carolina (19-6, 5-4 ACC) this weekend when the Hokies play a three-game series against the Tar Heels at Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium (April 1-3).

Games Friday through Sunday will be broadcast live on ACC Network Extra with coverage beginning at 6 p.m., 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. Fans can also tune in to WRAD-FM 101.7 to listen to games called by Tech Baseball’s play-by-play radio voice, Evan Hughes.

LIKELY BEGINNERS

Friday: Green Griffin (2-1, 4.23 ERA) vs. Connor Bovair (2-1, 2.48 ERA)

Saturday: Drue Hackenberg (4-0, 2.81 ERA) vs. Max Carlson (1-0, 1.46 ERA)

Sunday: TBD versus TBD

THREE THINGS TO KNOW
Something must give: Virginia Tech’s powerhouse offense will be put to the test this weekend when the Hokies — ranked among the top 10 NCAA Division I programs in batting average (.327, seventh) and slugging percentage ( .612, second) – will face off against the nation’s third-best pitching staff in ERA (2.44). Tech’s lineup is filled with seven hitters hitting .300 or better, led by a true sophomore outfielder Jack Hurley, who arrives in North Carolina with the third-highest batting average in the nation (.470), second-highest slugging percentage (.928) and a 20-game hitting streak. Moving to Hokies .400 club this week, third-year catcher cade hunter created a .405 batting average while starting 17 of Tech’s 21 games behind the flat. Hunter just wrapped up his career night Tuesday at VMI in which he recorded his first career five-hit game (5-on-5), scoring four runs and totaling five RBIs with a double and two homers. Considering Tech’s last five-game winning streak, the Hokies went .360, averaging 13.3 runs and 14.6 hits per nine innings while hammering 19 doubles, two triples and 14 homers. Tech’s spirited offense could be a recipe for success against Tar Heels Friday starter Connor Bovair, who has the third-best batting average among ACC skilled pitchers (.170). North Carolina Saturday man Max Carlson also ranks among the ACC’s top 15 pitchers in strikeouts, accounting for 35 of 24 and two-thirds of innings pitched.

Mastery on the mound: Pitching was the determining factor in No. 24 Virginia Tech’s 2021 series victory over No. 25 North Carolina at English Field — the Hokies’ first-ever win against UNC. The Tech staff combined to throw 21 strikeouts in their 10-6 series opener win over the Tar Heels, setting the program’s single-game record in the ACC era. Of the 14 pitchers who combined to record the Hokies’ 50 strikeouts this weekend, seven remain on the 2022 roster, led by the fifth-year senior Ryan Okuda (3.91 ERA, 23 innings pitched). Right lifter Graham Firoved is also back, having struck out six of eight UNC batters he faced midgame, earning the series-clinching victory. Despite losing more than 60% of their program record, 562 strikeouts in the 2021 season, the Hokies continue to hold their own on the mound this spring, sporting the seventh-best ERA in the ACC (4.10) all allowing the third-fewest home runs (16) in the league and posting his third-best walks in nine innings (3.53).

National Power Rankings: Virginia Tech was well represented in D1BaseballWeek 6 Positional Power Rankings: Jack Hurley (Voltigeur n°3), Eduardo Malinowski (second baseman #5), Carson DeMartini (third baseman #18), Gavin Cross (Outfielder No. 19), cade hunter (Receiver #23) and Tanner Schobel (Shortstop #24).

FOLLOWING
Virginia Tech will return home to Blacksburg on Tuesday, April 5, when the Hokies host Marshall. The first pitch at English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Helen L. Cuellar