New-look Hokies ready to open season
Roster includes 21 new players
February 21, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va. - The Virginia Tech baseball roster will feature 21 new names when the Hokies open their 2008 season against Pittsburgh on Saturday in the INN-vitational at Conway, S.C. Even so, head coach Pete Hughes has a much better feel for his team this year than he did a year ago, when he began his first season at the Tech helm. And he likes what he sees.

"I like our team," Hughes says. "We've got a lot of depth, especially on the mound. When you have that, you give yourself a chance to win a lot of games. We're all going toward one thing, which is turning this program back into the winning program it was not too long ago."

Joining the newcomers on the roster are 18 returning players, including 10 with extensive starting experience. Six of those returnees are projected to be in the opening day lineup.

Seniors Sean O'Brien (Chappaqua, N.Y.) and Matt Hacker (Richmond, Va.) return at first and second base, respectively, to help anchor the infield. O'Brien has led Tech in batting each of the three seasons he has played, while Hacker has been a versatile performer during his three seasons in the starting lineup.

Joining the two seniors in the infield will be freshman Tony Balisteri (Lexington, Va.) at shortstop and redshirt junior transfer Ty Hohman (Tomball, Texas) at third. Hughes also plans to use Hohman at shortstop during the trip and play redshirt freshman transfer Michael Seaborn (Atlanta, Ga.) at third.

Sophomore Anthony Sosnoskie (Front Royal, Va.) is scheduled to handle the bulk of the catching duties. Sosnoskie started 21 games behind the plate last season as a freshman and batted .292. Freshman Chris Kay (Marietta Ga.), the Georgia class 5A Player of the Year in 2007, will start one of the four games over the weekend in preparation to take over the chief backup duties at the position.

The Hokies will open with three experienced players in the outfield. Senior Jose Cueto (Miami, Fla.), who has spent much of his career in right field, is slated to handle the left field duties, with sophomore Steve Bumbry (Cockeysville, Md.) moving into the right field job. Bumbry picked up 32 starts in the outfield last season as a freshman, with 25 coming in left field and seven in right. Junior Sean Ryan (Ashburn, Va.), who got starts at all three outfield positions during the 2007 season, will take over in center field.

Freshman Austin Wates (Richmond, Va.) has been getting lots of work in the outfield during recent practices and also joins Seaborn as a leading candidate for the designated hitter slot. David Rhoads (Fr.; Tomball, Texas) or left-handed hitting Matt Blow (r-Fr.; Richmond, Va.) could also figure in.

The pitching rotation for the four-game trip will feature three new faces. Right-hander Josh Wymer (So.; Fort Worth, Texas) is scheduled to start the season opener against Pittsburgh. Southpaws Andrew Wells (Sr.; Alexandria, Va.) and Sean McDermott (Fr.; Walpole, Mass.) are slated to start against Pitt and host Coastal Carolina, respectively, on Sunday. Another freshman, right-hander Jesse Hahn (Groton, Conn.), is set to take the mound against Coastal on Monday.

"This program has an unbelievable tradition, and we're eager - because we think we have the right individuals and the right mindset right now - to get back to those winning ways."

Tech's opening game with Pittsburgh will mark the 19th baseball meeting between the two schools. Tech and Pitt played as members of the BIG EAST Conference from 2001 through 2004, but the two teams first met in 1922. That game ended in an 8-8 tie at Blacksburg and set the tone for close games in the series. Of the 18 games between the Hokies and Panthers, all but two have been determined by three runs or less. Pitt holds a 10-7-1 lead in the series, but the Hokies are 4-1 against the Panthers at neutral sites, including a 7-3 victory in last year's INN-vitational.