BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech collected 11 extra base hits, including seven home runs, on the way to a 17-9 victory over Niagara in its baseball home opener at windy English Field on Friday afternoon. The win improved the Hokies’ record to 4-1, while the Purple Eagles remained winless in four outings.
Tech out-hit Niagara 18-13 with its first eight hits all going for extra bases. The Hokies got two homers apiece from senior shortstop Tim Smalling and redshirt sophomore left fielder Andrew Rash. Rash also had a double on the way to a 3-for-5 day that included four runs batted in and four runs scored. Smalling and redshirt freshman designated hitter Chad Morgan both turned in three hits and three RBI during the contest.
Tech started the game with a bang in the bottom of the first inning with three of its first four hitters collecting home runs. Senior center fielder Tony Balisteri and Smalling led off the inning with back-to-back solo shots to left. After senior second baseman Michael Seaborn drew a base on balls and stole second, cleanup hitter Rash lifted a pitch down the left field line for his second round-tripper of the season and a 4-0 Tech lead.
The Purple Eagles got on the board in the third inning with a pair of two-out hits. Center fielder Cam Stykemain singled and then scored all the way from first on second baseman Eric Hink’s double to right center.
The Hokies went the home run route again in the fourth to extend their lead to 7-1. Senior catcher Chris Kay had a solo homer with one out, and Smalling collected his second long ball of the day with a man on.
Niagara countered with four runs in the top of the fifth inning, stringing together four hits and two walks with a costly Tech error. Stykemain singled home designated hitter Lucas Signor with the first run of the frame. After Hink reached first on a Hokie throwing error, Purple Eagles’ left fielder Wynton Bernard singled in Stykemain and first baseman Ryan McCauley doubled home Hink. Bernard cut the deficit to 7-5 when he scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch.
Rash’s second home run of the game – leading off the fifth – pushed Tech’s lead to three runs. An inning later, the Hokies used their first singles of the game to fuel a five-run outburst. Singles by junior third baseman Johnny Morales and Balisteri opened the inning and both runners came home on a one-out single by Seaborn. Morgan added a two-run double and came around to score the final run of the stanza on a single by junior right fielder Gabe Ortiz. Morgan and Rash also drove in a run apiece during a three-run Tech seventh.
Starting pitcher Joe Mantiply was the beneficiary of Tech’s hitting display. The sophomore left-hander pitched 5 2/3 innings to pick up his second win in as many appearances. Brandon Fisher pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief, while Jake Atwell and Charlie McCann finished out the game with an inning each. Lefty Atwell struck out the side in the eighth.
Stykemain paced the Purple Eagles with four hits and four runs scored in five trips to the plate. Hink added three hits and two RBI, and Wynton drove in three runs with a pair of hits. Niagara starting pitcher Joel Klock took the loss, falling to 0-2 on the season.
The Hokies and Purple Eagles are slated to play a double-header on Saturday with game one set for 1 p.m.
For updates on Virginia Tech baseball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Baseball).