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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Virginia Tech used 16 hits and a productive effort from its bullpen to overcome two weather delays and defeat Bucknell 16-7 in an elimination game of the NCAA Columbia Regional on Saturday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
The 16th-ranked and second-seeded Hokies (39-21) lived to play another day with their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1999, while fourth-seeded Bucknell saw its season come to an end (25-35). Tech will face the loser of Saturday night’s winner’s bracket game between South Carolina and The Citadel on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Hokies got tremendous production from their offense, especially first baseman Ronnie Shaban, shortstop Tim Smalling and left fielder Buddy Sosnoskie. All three had three hits apiece, with Shaban scoring three runs and driving in four, and Smalling scoring twice and driving in two. Sosnoskie drove in a career-high six runs thanks to a pair of home runs.
Tech got out to an early lead in this one, plating five runs on four hits in the opening inning. A single to right field by Shaban produced the first two runs in the form of center fielder Sean Ryan and catcher Steve Domecus. Right fielder Austin Wates, who had reached on a fielder’s choice when an errant flip to second allowed Domecus to advance, then came home on a passed ball by Bucknell catcher B.J. LaRosa. Shaban would later score on a single by Sosnoskie, and Smalling notched the frame’s final run by tagging up on a sacrifice fly to right field by designated hitter Andrew Rash.
After Tech’s Michael Seaborn drew a two-out walk in the top of the second inning, the game was halted due to approaching rain and lightning. One hour and 44 minutes later, play resumed with Domecus and Wates both getting walked by Bucknell starter Trey Frahler to load the bases. Shaban promptly drove in another pair of runs by doubling to right-center field, and Smalling brought home Wates and Shaban with another single to set the score at 9-0.
The healthy lead afforded the Hokies an opportunity to pull starting pitcher Mathew Price from the game for the possibility of using him in another contest if needed. Reliever Manny Martir came out to start the bottom of the second and threw no-hit baseball for his first three innings.
Tech tacked on another run in the fourth inning on an RBI double by Wates. Seaborn led off with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch before Wates’ 15th two-bagger of the season brought him home.
The Hokies scored in nearly identical fashion in the fifth inning to make it 11-0. Third baseman Tony Balisteri reached on a two-out bloop single before advancing to second on Bucknell reliever Matt Lamore’s second wild pitch in as many innings. Ryan quickly drove in Balisteri with a double – his 14th of the year.
The Bison finally got to Martir in the bottom of the fifth to get on the board, scoring four runs on four hits. After center fielder Bob Donato led off with a double, he moved to third on a single to right field by Drew Constable. However, Wates’ throw from right got away, allowing Donato to scamper home and Constable to move to second. Two batters later, Bucknell third baseman David Duffet notched the Bison’s second double of the inning to score Constable. Two batters after that, LaRosa lifted his fifth home run of the season to right field to cut Tech’s lead to 11-4.
Both team switched pitchers following a second weather delay that lasted 37 minutes between the fifth and sixth innings. The Bison picked up an unearned run off of Jake Joyce in the bottom of the sixth when first baseman Doug Shribman, who had reached on a throwing error by Balisteri, eventually came home to score on a sacrifice fly to right by Constable.
The Hokies got that run back plus one in the top of the seventh off of Alex Cillo, who allowed a leadoff double to Smalling before Sosnoskie sent his 11th home run of the year over the left-field wall to push Tech’s advantage to 13-5.
Three consecutive one-out singles in the bottom of the seventh got another run on the board for Bucknell. Shortstop Ben Allen had the first hit, and he was sent to second by LaRosa before coming home on a single by second baseman Ben Yoder.
A home run for each team in the eighth inning set the final score at 16-7. Sosnoskie drove in three more runs with his second home run of the game and 12th of the season, scoring Wates and Shaban in the process. It was the first multi-home run of Sosnoskie’s career and he is now tied for the team lead with Domecus. Shribman hit a solo shot for Bucknell in the bottom half of the eighth.
Martir picked up the pitching victory for the Hokies to improve to 4-3. He allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits and a walk in four innings on the mound, while striking out three. Joyce and Brandon Fisher combined for the final four frames to close out the victory, allowing three runs (two earned).
Frahler took the loss to fall to 4-7. He gave up nine runs (seven earned) on six hits and three walks in just 1.2 innings on the mound.
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