Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics

A two-week hiatus from ACC play has been a nice break for the now-unranked Virginia Tech Hokies (27-17, 16-14 ACC). 

Once 14-7 in league play, John Szefc’s ball club has started showing its youth in the last three conference showdowns. Virginia Tech dropped two of three to Georgia Tech, was swept at NC State, and lost another series at home to in-state rival Virginia. All three were unranked opponents. 

The good news for the Hokies is that the right opportunity to get back on track presents itself this weekend. 

Durham, N.C. is the place that will house Virginia Tech this weekend as the visiting Hokies trek back down to Tobacco Road to square off against the Duke Blue Devils (21-20, 10-17 ACC).

Game Day Information

When: Friday, May 14 at 6 p.m. ET; Saturday, May 15 at 1 p.m. ET; Sunday, May 16 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: Jack Coombs Field

TV: Friday on ACC Network Extra, Saturday on Raycom Sports Network, Sunday on ACC Network Extra

Series History: Duke Leads 41-28

Last Meeting: Duke Won 9-5 on April 14, 2019

Last Time Out

Virginia Tech hasn’t played an ACC game in 12 days. But that doesn’t mean the Hokies haven’t been staying busy. 

The Hokies picked up a midweek victory over Georgetown last Wednesday before welcoming MAC foe Toledo into English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park for a three-game weekend set. There was no liftoff for the Rockets, as Virginia Tech swept the series with relatively no problems. Virginia Tech took a Saturday doubleheader by the scores of 7-1 and 3-2 before taking the Sunday matinee with a 16-5 obliterations of the Rockets. 

It all started with two gems from the Hokies’ starters. Southpaw Peyton Alford threw 5.2 innings of one-run ball. He allowed just four hits while striking out eight Toledo hitters. 

Anthony Simonelli didn’t disappoint following that up. The righty-hurler went 7.2 innings, giving up two runs on just three hits, ultimately holding the Rockets at bay. Utility man Nick Biddison finished this one off, sending a shallow fly ball into right field that scored pinch-runner Fritz Genther to secure the series and a walk-off win for the Hokies. 

The Sunday finale wasn’t nearly as competitive. An 11-0 outburst in the first three innings willed the Hokies to a 16-5 win on a comfortable Sunday afternoon in May. Sunday’s game also marked the return of star lefty Chris Gerard, who pitched for the first time since a trip to Wake Forest in mid-April. He got back into the fold by facing the Toledo lineup once through during a two-inning outing. 

The series however, belonged to fifth-year senior Tanner Thomas. The Florida native had a 6-for-7 weekend while garnering five RBIs and securing the home run hammer with a towering opposite-field shot to left. 

If his play continues in the four-hole of Virginia Tech’s lineup, the starting nine will be a hard group to handle. 

What To Watch For – Virginia Tech

If you’re Virginia Tech, this is a series you just got to have. Not only have the Hokies fallen out of the lead for the Coastal division, but they now have to defend what could likely be a No. 2 seed in an NCAA Regional. 

The Blue Devils are good for 12th in the league, and will just barely qualify for the 2021 ACC Tournament. This is a series that Virginia Tech just has to have. 

Having Gerard back for a full start will be nice, as well as catcher Cade Hunter. Hunter made his return to the lineup last weekend after breaking a bone in his throwing hand in late March. 

Here’s how the Hokies project to line up this weekend, after shaking some things up last week. 

Projected Lineup

  1. SS Tanner Schobel 
  2. RF Gavin Cross
  3. 1B TJ Rumfield
  4. DH Tanner Thomas
  5. 3B Kevin Madden 
  6. 2B Nick Biddison
  7. CF Jack Hurley
  8. C Cade Hunter
  9. LF Carson Jones

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. LHP Peyton Alford
  2. RHP Anthony Simonelli
  3. LHP Chris Gerard

What To Watch For – Duke

The Duke Blue Devils are not a bad baseball team. They may be only one game over .500 at 21-20 overall, and 10-17 in conference play, but the offense at the top can compete with just about any team in the league. 

Outfielders Joey Loperfido (.365, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs) and RJ Rchrek (.349, 12 HRs, 37 RBIs) are huge threats for the Duke lineup. Fellow outfielder Peter Matt (.319, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs) can hit the ball out of the ballpark at any given time, and drive in a multitude of runs. 

Both of the Blue Devil’s ballparks in Jack Coombs Field and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (home of the Triple-A Durham Bulls) are hitters’ paradises. So it makes sense that Duke’s offensive numbers are higher than you’d think. 

Rotation wise, Duke hasn’t been as good. 

Luke Fox (1-2, 2.80 ERA) has done a nice job since taking over the Sunday spot. But Jack Carey (3-2, 5.16 ERA) and Cooper Stinson (2-3, 6.23 ERA) haven’t been nearly as good on Friday and Saturday, respectively. However, Carey pitched well last weekend at Louisville in a 13-3 victory. He allowed just an earned run on four hits in seven innings.

Here’s how Duke projects to line it up this weekend. 

Projected Lineup

  1. SS Ethan Lewis
  2. LF RJ Schreck
  3. RF Peter Matt
  4. C Michael Rothenberg 
  5. 1B Chris Crabtree
  6. CF Joey Loperfido 
  7. 3B Erikson Nichols
  8. DH Chad Knight
  9. 2B Graham Pauley

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. RHP Jack Carey
  2. RHP Cooper Stinson
  3. LHP Luke Fox