Starting Pitching Advantage: Even
Jim Morris employed a tweak in this past weekend’s rotation; he switched Eric Erickson and Jason Santana back to their original spots in the rotation with Erickson starting Saturday and Santana on Sunday against Wake Forest. The Canes’ consistent starting pitching has been the key to their success against ACC opponents in weekend series. Junior Chris Hernandez is the squad’s ace leading the team in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. The Virginia Tech weekend starters are putting up similar numbers as the Canes’ trio. Juniors Justin Wright and Jesse Hahn plus sophomore Mathew Price all have winning records and solid ERAs, especially Hahn, whose 2.23 earned run average leads all Hokie starters. Wright took home ACC Pitcher of the Week honors last week due to his performance on Friday night leading Tech to victory over a potent Florida State offense.
Bullpen Advantage: Even
It’s tough to say this matchup is even when Virginia Tech super reliever has appeared in over 2/3 of the Hokies’ games, is good for one shutdown inning at least, has earned an ERA of 0.79, and has converted all 3 of the team’s saves. On the flipside, David Gutierrez, while successful early in the season, has blown up in a couple of games and his ERA has inflated to over 7. Most recently, he blew the save on Saturday night against Wake Forest. Luckily, Scott Lawson was able to clinch the win in the 11th that night with a walk-off single to left giving Daniel Miranda the win after pitching 2 2/3 innings of scoreless and hitless baseball while striking out 5. It appears Miranda may now take over for Gutierrez in the 9th inning; he earned the save in Tuesday’s mid-week game against FAU. Freshman E.J. Encinosa out of Coral Park High really highlights the club’s middle relief as he has all season.
Catcher Advantage: Miami
Senior Hokie catcher Steve Domecus presents a formidable foe for Yasmani Grandal, but Grandal is one of college baseball’s best. Domecus has been leading off for Virginia Tech and is hitting .341 while leading the team with 8 home runs and stealing 6 bases this season. Grandal is leading the Canes in nearly every offensive category; among them are batting average, slugging, OBP (he literally gets on base half the time), hits, and doubles.
Infield Advantage: Miami
You have to love what this infield has been able to do as of late. Harold Martinez continues to add to his home run total (8) and is even edging the incomparable Yasmani Grandal by 1 for the team lead in RBI. Stephen Perez is a selective hitter who’s been hot lately getting that average up over .300; he also leads the team in walks- a testament to that great “hitter’s eye” he has at the plate, and oh yeah, he’s not too shabby with the leather. Frankie Ratcliff has been delivering some clutch hits and Scott Lawson was the hero in the Canes’ most recent extra inning affair. Virginia Tech’s infield is highlighted offensively by first baseman Ronnie Shaban who’s hitting .354 on the year but presents the awkward combination of being able to hit for average yet striking out a lot. He was plugged in at first since his defense at third was becoming more troublesome than Pacman Jones was to the NFL. The team also benefited from a lift offensively when Tim Smalling was able to return to short.
Outfield Advantage: VT
Austin Wates leads the Virginia Tech outfield. He took home ACC Player of the Week honors, as well as National Hitter of the Week by the NCBWA, this past week after being the key to the Hokies series win over then No. 4 Florida State. He went 6-for-13 in the three games hitting third in the VT lineup. In addition to hitting .436 on the year, Wates has driven in 30 runs and stolen 10 bases. He’s a versatile utility player and was moved to right field earlier this season when head coach Pete Hughes decided it was better to play Ronnie Shaban at first. For the Canes, Chris Pelaez is no longer putting up the same absurd numbers, but he is still a key “X-factor” for Miami to put up runs. Jim Morris, on some nights, has gone as far putting his three outfielders (Pelaez, Nathan Melendres and Zeke DeVoss) in the three spots in the bottom of the order.
Intangibles Advantage: VT
The Hokies are red hot. This past weekend they defeated the Florida State Seminoles in two of the three games of their series to clinch their first ever series win against the Noles. The fine weekend for Virginia Tech culminated with a ranking of 25 and a sweep of the week’s ACC awards. In their most recent game they shut out NC Central for a 13-0 victory on Tuesday. They’ll remain at home as the three game set will be played in Blacksburg, VA. It’ll take a great effort from the Canes to take this series from VT, especially if the Hokies are sporting their alternate jerseys that are reminiscent of the old school Houston Astros uniforms. Those are nice.
David Furones may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org