VT Baseball Series Preview

That would be Chuck Hartman, retired Hokie baseball coach, doing what all Hokie fans have to in order to survive the mountains of Southwestern Virginia.
We scoured the globe in search of a VT Hokie baseball fan. We found Josh Parcell creator of ACC Mania and guest editor on Gobbler Country. Disclaimer: we do not advise discussion of college baseball near F4H. He will spit in your general direction.

In typical preview fashion, we sent Josh a series of questions about the Hokie baseballers and he sent us a nice response, which is much more detailed and accurate than anything we could slap together in 10 minutes. Here's the exchange:

FTRS: Who are the Hokie aces GT fans should keep a lookout for this weekend? How is the Hokie bullpen?
Josh @ ACCM: Justin Wright is the Friday pitcher for the Hokies, and he has had a solid season thus far. He’s 4-3 with a 3.88 ERA. However, the best starting pitcher the Hokies have had this season is Jesse Hahn. Hahn is a bully on the mound with a fastball that touches triple digits on the radar gun. He has had erratic moments that have cost him games, but if he can keep those to a minimum he’s a force for the Hokies.

Head coach Pete Hughes believes his bullpen is one of the strongest in America. Brandon Fisher is a hard-throwing former walk-on who is a reliable arm at of the bullpen. So far this year he is 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA in 13 appearances.

What Hughes prefers to do is get seven solid innings out of his starters before turning the ball over to closer Ben Rowen. Rowen is a remarkable prospect with a submarine delivery that makes it near impossible for batters to pick up the ball on his release. He has 41 strikeouts in 30.1 innings, and has four saves this season. If the Hokies have a lead when Rowen enters the game, they can feel pretty safe about the outcome. He has allowed just four earned runs this season.

FTRS: Georgia Tech's scoring runs at an alarming rate. Who are the bats responsible for keeping Virginia Tech alive against GT's volatile offense?
Josh @ ACCM: The Hokies’ offense has been inconsistent as of late, but when they are hitting well, they are lights out. Austin Wates and Steve Domecus are the two most reliable hitters in the Tech lineup. Domecus, the catcher, bats leadoff and his very good power for that spot in the lineup. In fact, he leads the team with nine home runs. Wates is third in the conference with a .404 batting average. Three weeks ago, he was named both ACC player of the week and national hitter of the week for his performance in the 2-1 series victory at Florida State.

Tim Smalling has also hit the ball well as of late. He is right behind Wates with a .402 batting average. In the series-clinching win two Sundays ago against Miami, Smalling hit a solo home run and an RBI double to spur a thrilling comeback.

There have been games when the bats have been silenced, however. In its three most recent defeats, Tech scored two runs each against Miami and Virginia (twice). But like I said, if they can figure out whoever they’re going up against on the mound, these Hokie batters can get really dialed in.

FTRS: Has the transition from Chuck Hartman to Pete Hughes been seamless? Are the Hokies better off now than they were before Hartman's retirement? Has the transition from the Big East to the ACC affected the Hokies?
Josh @ ACCM: The Hokies have finally turned a corner in 2010 under Hughes. Hartman didn’t leave much in the way of talent for Hughes to work with when he took the job, but through strong in-state recruiting and patience with young pitching, the Hokies are breaking through that competitive barrier finally. Hughes is committed to getting the Hokies to the College World Series, as was evidenced when he turned down more money to coach the University of Washington last summer.

The Hokies are much better off now for a few reasons. One is the move to the ACC, which obviously was beyond Hartman’s control. ACC Baseball is like SEC football or Big East basketball – it just doesn’t get any better at the top. It’s been a long journey getting to this point, but the recruiting tool of playing in this league has done wonders for Tech. Another reason they have improved was Hughes’ much-needed infusion of a new-school approach to the game. The later into Hartman’s career, the more Tech struggled to keep up with its competition.

If I’m a Hokie fan, I’m doing everything possible to make sure Athletic Director Jim Weaver locks up coach Hughes for a long time, because he’s taking the program to places it has never been before.

FTRS: Rumor has it that UVA put in additional seating for the UVA-VT series last weekend. How has the perception of this year's Hokie squad changed as the weeks have passed?
Josh @ ACCM: I had not heard that rumor. If that is true, it’s good to know that Virginia is taking baseball games against us seriously. That’s a big step for our program, and an ultimate sign of respect from an elite level program. After knocking off Miami and Florida State in consecutive weeks, it seems like teams around the ACC are beginning to take the Hokies a bit more seriously. It should be a great weekend in Atlanta.

Thanks for the info, Josh. I hope your Hokies put forth a valiant effort while they're being swept by the almighty Jackets! It'll be my first and possibly only series of the season. Give 'em Hell Georgia Tech!
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