CONWAY, S.C. – Virginia Tech was one pitch away from starting its season a perfect 3-0. However, the first offering after Tech’s pitching staff surrendered its 11th walk of the evening went over the fence for a walk-off two-run shot and the Hokies fell to Coastal Carolina, 6-5, in the final game of the Caravelle Resort Tournament Sunday.
It had appeared that Hokie closer Jake Joyce had KJ McAllister struck out to end the game in the bottom of the ninth, but the pitch was called a ball. The next batter pinch-hitter Tripp Martin swung at the first pitch he saw and put it over the left field fence for the Chanticleers’ victory.
That had come just a half inning after Tech scored a go-ahead run in the top of the frame in a most unusual fashion. Michael Seaborn singled to lead off the ninth, moved to second on a passed ball and got to third on pinch-hitter Matt Blow’s sacrifice bunt.
As Coastal’s relief pitcher Josh Conway was looking to intentionally walk Ronnie Shaban, his second pitch glanced off catcher John Fidanza’s mitt and went to the backstop. Seaborn raced in to put the Hokies up 5-4 in what turned out to be a back-and-forth contest.
Tech jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning when Seaborn hit a solo home run that stayed just fair as it went down the left-field line and over the fence.
Coastal Carolina (3-1) used a pair of errors in the bottom of the second inning to score two runs and take the lead. A single and walk put runners on first and second and Fidanza put down a sacrifice bunt, but reached first on an error loading the bases.
Zach Lopes then lofted a ball into right field for a sacrifice fly scoring Hayes Orton, but a throwing error trying to get the trail runner at second allowed McAllister to cross the plate.
The Hokies tied the game in the top of the third on a two-out single by Tim Smalling that scored Johnny Morales from second, who reached on a bunt single and stole a base.
The Chanticleers would take their lead back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Orton that scored Daniel Bowman, who also reached on a bunt single and stole second before coming home.
Virginia Tech went back on top in the fifth on a two-out two-RBI single by Smalling. Chad Morgan and Tony Balisteri led off the frame with back-to-back singles before moving into scoring position on a Morales sacrifice bunt, then scoring on Smalling’s base hit to give him three RBI in the contest.
Coastal Carolina evened the game at 4-4 and ended the day of Tech starter sophomore Patrick Scoggin in the process in the bottom of the frame.
After allowing a leadoff single and a walk to the second batter, the Hokies went to their pen. They brought in Eddie Campbell and the third batter he faced was Orton, who would drive in his second of the day with a groundout.
Neither team scored in the sixth through eighth innings, but the Chanticleers were robbed of a couple runs thanks to some great glove work and pitching by the Hokies.
Shaban pulled in a deep drive into the right-center field gap in the sixth, saving at least one run, and Andrew Rash hauled in a game-saver to end the eighth after Coastal had a runner on third with no outs.
However, too many free base runners finally caught up to the Hokies in the ninth. They were able to strand 12 Chanticleers through eight frames, but that final walk proved costly.
Virginia Tech (2-1) will take a day off before returning to the road on Tuesday, travelling to Spartanburg, S.C. to face USC Upstate at 4 p.m.
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