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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Niagara University built a four-run lead then held off a last-inning Virginia Tech rally to defeat the Hokies 8-7 in the final game of a four-game weekend series at English Field.
The win was the first of the season for Niagara after losing its first six games. Tech, which saw a four-game winning streak snapped, now stands at 6-2.
The Purple Eagles led 7-4 after eight innings and got what proved to be their most important run on a solo homer by shortstop John Wilson to lead off the ninth inning.
Niagara reliever, Brian Deering struck out the first two Tech batters he faced in the bottom of the inning before walking designated hitter Jake Atwell and yielding a pinch-hit single to senior Matt Blow.
Hokie center fielder Tony Balisteri, who homer with a man on board in the third, connected again to cut the lead to a run. Tech’s hopes ended when second baseman Michael Seaborn was called out for interference while running to first on a chopper in front of the plate.
Niagara starting pitcher Drew Fittry earned the win with six full innings of work. The freshman right-hander held the Hokies to four runs (three earned) on five hits to pick up his first decision of the season. The Purple Eagles backed their pitching with 14 hits and got multiple-hit games from six different players, including three from first baseman Ryan McCauley.
The two teams traded runs over the first three innings. Tech started with a sacrifice fly from first baseman Ronnie Shaban in the bottom of the first, and Niagara’s McCauley singled and eventually scored during a double play in the top of the second.
The Purple Eagles made it 4-1 on a bases-loaded double by third baseman Deering in the third, but the Hokies countered with Balisteri’s two-run homer in the bottom of the frame.
Niagara went back up by three runs in the fifth after getting a sacrifice fly from Wilson and a run-scoring single from Deering. McCauley gave the Purple Eagles a 7-3 advantage with a sac fly in the sixth. Wilson capped Niagara’s scoring with his solo home run in the ninth.
A double by left fielder Andrew Rash, followed by an RBI-single off the bat of shortstop Tim Smalling produced a Tech run in the bottom of the sixth. The Hokies managed just seven hits, with Balisteri accounting for two on the way to five RBI and three runs scored.
Tech used five pitchers in the game with starter Eddie Campbell (0-1) taking the loss. The freshman left-hander gave up five runs on seven hits during his four innings on the mound.
Tech is scheduled to return to action on Wednesday with a 3 p.m. home game against Liberty University at English Field.
For updates on Virginia Tech baseball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Baseball).