BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sean Keselica had two hits and an RBI to lift Virginia Tech past Connecticut 3-1 in an elimination game at the NCAA Blacksburg regional held at English Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Hokies (40-21) advanced to play for the regional championship later Sunday evening against Oklahoma. UConn (35-28) saw its season come to an end.
“It was a really good college baseball game,” Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said. “High stakes were on the line. We got another quality start. Everything is predicated on a quality start, and we were fortunate enough to have one from Brad (Markey).
“I thought we did a good job with situational hitting and fundamental baseball on the offensive side today. I look at the three runs, but I thought we had quality at-bats. I thought the bat was on the baseball a ton, so I think our bats are still in good shape. Hopefully we can get them hot in the next game.”
The Hokies scored in the top of the second when Tyler Horan drew a lead-off walk and stole second base. Andrew Rash reached on an error by UConn shortstop Tom Verdi, putting runners at first and third. Horan then scored when Chad Morgan grounded into a fielder’s choice.
The Hokies made it 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning when Horan hit a one-out double to right and came around to score on Rash’s double.
UConn’s lone run came in the fifth when Bobby Melley, who led off the inning with a single, later scored on an error by the Hokies’ Alex Perez. Perez couldn’t handle a throw from Morgan on a sacrifice attempt by UConn’s Jon Testani, but Perez did chase down the ball and threw out UConn’s Max McDowell at home to preserve Virginia Tech’s lead.
“We deserve a better third-base coach,” UConn coach Jim Penders said, referring to himself. “It could have been a heckuva lot different ball game if he doesn’t make a bad decision in the fifth inning. That one was on me, and I told the guys that.”
The Huskies later loaded the bases in the fifth inning with one out. But Tech closer Clark Labitan got Verdi to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Labitan got his 11th save of the season, going 3.2 innings in relief. He allowed just two hits, while striking out four.
“Clark was a really good matchup against them, being right handed and having a ton of arm-side run,” Hughes said. “He really fit, but you still have to execute the game plan and make the pitches. I think we got him at just the right time. I’ve never seen Brad throw eight balls in a row the entire season. That was a good indication to make a move, and Coach (Pat) Mason was right on it. A good move is when someone comes in and executes, and Clark was very good today.”
“He was very good,” UConn second baseman LJ Mazzilli said of Labitan. “He hit his spots against everyone. He forces you to chase a lot, and when he did come in the zone, he wasn’t easy to hit then either.”
Keselica gave the Hokies an insurance run in the ninth inning when his fielder’s choice scored pinch runner Logan Bible.
Brad Markey (5-4) went 5.1 innings to get the win for the Hokies, giving up one run on five hits.
Anthony Marzi (5-7) took the loss for UConn.