KENNESAW, Ga. – Strong starting pitching was the key for Virginia Tech as the Hokies opened the 2012 season with a pair of wins on Friday. Power at the plate helped them to the 6-4 victory over Bradley in the first game and timely hitting brought them back in a 3-2 win against Kennesaw State in their second game.
Starters Manny Martir and Joe Mantiply combined to toss 14 innings – seven each – and allow just one earned run in their times on the mound. Martir matched his career high with the seven frames and struck out eight Braves in a no-decision effort. Mantiply surrendered two unearned runs to the Owls and struck out five, but also got a no decision.
In the first game, trailing 1-0 after two innings, Tech responded with four unanswered runs in the fourth through six innings to take the lead. Andrew Rash blasted a solo home run to tie the game, Jake Atwell added a two-run shot and Johnny Morales made it 4-1 with an RBI groundout scoring Rash.
Bradley (0-1) tied the game off the Hokies’ bullpen in the eighth, but the team answered back with a Tyler Horan home run in the bottom of the frame to make it 5-4. Atwell closed the game on the mound for his second career save.
Mantiply saw an unearned run score in the second and fifth innings, but allowed no further damage until the Hokie bats got going in the second game of the day.
In the top of the sixth, a Kennesaw State (0-2) error opened the frame and Ronnie Shaban’s 57th double of his career – now tied for third all-time at the school – put runners on second and third with no outs. Rash brought home Chad Pinder with a groundball and Morales plated Shaban with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.
In the ninth, a two-out single by Atwell was followed by a Pinder RBI double to give the Hokies their first lead of the second game. Shaban came in and closed out the game on the mound to earn his fourth career save.
Tech will return to Stillwell Stadium on Saturday to face Bradley at 10 a.m., a time change in hopes to get the game in before rain comes into the area.
Additional Notes: Tech is now 61-56-2 in season openers and has won five of its last seven. With the two wins, Tech is now just 16 wins shy of 2,000 in the program’s history. Also, with the victories, head coach Pete Hughes won his 150 game at the school. He is also just four games shy of coaching his 800th career game as a head coach overall. With a hit in each game today, Tyler Horan extended his hitting streak to nine games – dating back to last season.
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