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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech used solid pitching and timely hitting to sweep a baseball double-header, 7-2 and 11-7, against Niagara University at English Field on Saturday afternoon. The win improved the Hokies to 6-1, while Niagara dropped to 0-6.
Tech pitchers gave up just one extra-base hit during the twin bill and held the Purple Eagles to nine runs on 12 hits over 18 innings. Meanwhile, Tech’s bats produced 23 hits, 12 of which went for extra bases.
The Hokies got on the board during the opener via the long ball. With one out in the bottom of the second, first baseman Ronnie Shaban drove a pitch over the fence in left field for his first homer of the season. After freshman designated hitter Chad Morgan reached on a Niagara fielding error, junior right fielder Gabe Ortiz collected his first round-tripper to put the Hokies on top 3-0.
Hokie starting pitcher Marc Zecchino allowed just one ball out of the infield until running into some trouble in the fifth inning. Zecchino limited the Purple Eagles to a hit and a walk over the first four innings, while striking out four batters and coaxing eight groundouts. In the fifth, Niagara got back-to-back one-out singles from third baseman Brian Deering and catcher Wes Walker. Zecchino got another groundout but could not escape center fielder Cam Stykemain who laced a single to center to score both runners and cut Tech’s lead to 3-2.
Seniors Chris Kay and Tony Balisteri teamed up to get one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning. Catcher Kay drew a leadoff walk and, after being sacrificed to second by third baseman Johnny Morales, raced home on a double by Balisteri.
Shortstop Tim Smalling gave Tech some breathing room with a two-run homer in the seventh inning and Balisteri added another RBI-double in the eighth. The Hokies finished the game with 10 hits, including two each by Balisteri, Shaban, Morales and left fielder Andrew Rash.
Zecchino and reliever Manny Martir combined for a four-hitter. Zecchino picked up the win, his first decision of the season, after working six full innings. The junior right-hander gave up two runs on four hits, while striking our six and walking two. Martir worked three scoreless innings without allowing a hit. He walked two and struck out three on the way to his first save.
Tyler Spear (0-2), the first of three Niagara pitchers, took the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits over five full innings. Catcher Wes Walker accounted for two of the Purple Eagles’ four hits.
Niagara drew first blood in the second game when second baseman Eric Hink walked, stole second and came around to score on a two-out single by first baseman Ryan McCauley. An inning later shortstop John Wilson touched Tech starting pitcher Patrick Scoggin for a leadoff homer to left field for a 2-0 Purple Eagles lead.
The visitors stretched their advantage to 3-0 in the fourth. Designated hitter Joel Klock drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch by Scoggin before racing home on single off the bat of Deering.
Niagara starting pitcher Cody Kasper held Tech scoreless on three hits over the first four innings, before the Hokies’ bats came alive in the fifth. After a leadoff walk by right fielder Tyler Horan and a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Morales, Tech collected six consecutive hits, capped by Chris Kay’s three-run, pinch-hit home run. The seven-run inning also included RBI-doubles by Balisteri and second baseman Michael Seaborn and run-scoring singles off the bats of Shaban and Morgan.
Tech continued to extend its lead in the sixth with four more runs, two of which came on a double by Shaban. Rash added a sacrifice fly and Kay an RBI-single. Those runs proved to be important ones when Niagara tagged Shaban for four runs during a relief pitching stint in the ninth inning.
Southpaw Sean McDermott (1-0), who pitched two scoreless innings of relief for the Hokies, picked up the win, while Kasper (0-2) took the loss. Balisteri finished the game with four hits in five at bats for Tech. Shaban added three hits and three RBI and Kay drove in four runs. Wilson and Deering had two hits apiece to lead Niagara.
The two teams are scheduled to conclude their four-game series with a single game Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
For updates on Virginia Tech baseball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Baseball).