BLACKSBURG, Va. – Andrew Rash’s three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning helped the No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies to a 5-3 comeback win over the visiting Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Friday evening in ACC action at English Field.
With the victory, the Hokies clinched their fourth straight conference series, the first time they’ve done that since joining the ACC. They had won three in a row, twice before and both during the 2010 season. It also gave them eight wins in their last four ACC weekends, tying for the most ever that time frame, doing that three other times – twice in 2010 and once in 2011.
Tech improved to 35-19 overall – only the second time since 1999 the team has reached the 35-win plateau – and are 15-14 in the league, the second-most wins ever in season in the ACC. The Hokies have won seven straight at home, 10 of their last 11 and are 13-2 in their last 15. Wake Forest dropped to 28-27 overall and 9-20 in the conference.
Getting the series win, though, proved tough, as the Demon Deacons’ starter Justin Van Grouw worked seven strong innings allowing just five hits and two earned runs with four strikeouts.
Tech starter Devin Burke was just as good, tossing 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits, three earned runs and struck out a career-high seven batters. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and ran into his only trouble in the top of the sixth, when Wake Forest used five straight hits to score its only runs of the game.
In the eighth, the Demon Deacons called upon Niko Spezial who saw Pinder and Zagunis each single sandwiched around a pop-out. On a 2-2 pitch, Rash launched a ball deep into the night sky which landed just fair of the left-field foul pole which put Tech up 5-3.
For Rash, it was his ninth long ball of the season, but the 40th of his Tech career. The last man to hit 40 home runs (or more) as a Hokie was Mike Conte, who reached 40 home runs back in 1989.
Jake Joyce, who struck out five in two frames, was one out away from ending the game before Wake Forest loaded the bases. Clark Labitan ended the game with a strikeout to earn his ninth save of the season, while Joyce improved to 7-1 on the year. Spezial lost his first game of the year and is now 6-1.
The two teams will play their final regular season game of the year on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.
Additional Notes: Tyler Horan’s double in the second inning was his 22nd of the year, which ties for the fifth-most in a single-season at the school. This was the team’s 15 overall comeback of the season, the eighth in which the Hokies trailed as late as the fifth inning. Rash has now been a part of 116 victories at the school, tied for the second-most at the school with Michael Seaborn (2008-11). Labitan picked up his 12th career save, just one shy of the fifth-most in a Hokie career.
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