BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech got strong pitching from starter Devin Burke, and both Andrew Rash and Chad Pinder hit solo home runs to lift the Hokies to a 9-1 victory over Coastal Carolina in an NCAA regional game at English Field on Saturday afternoon.
Mark Zagunis and Rash each drove in three runs for Tech (39-21), which staved off elimination in the double-elimination format. Coastal Carolina (37-23) saw its season come to an end.
“I told the boys today that the only option was to win,” said Rash, who went 3-for-5. “There was no other option. There was no tomorrow. The only mindset we had was to win, and we went out there and did it.”
Burke (11-3) played the biggest role in that. He gave up just five hits in a 121-pitch outing that was his second complete game of the season. He struck out two and walked just two in winning his sixth straight decision. He hasn’t lost since April 14, a span of seven starts.
“When you’re in the loser’s bracket, it’s critical to get a quality start and a complete game,” Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said. “It saves our bullpen, which we’re going to need. Holy cow! That game was Devin Burke setting the tone for everything.”
“Halfway through the sixth inning, I just turned it on and didn’t look back,” Burke said. “Obviously, I’m upset about the home run (by Coastal Carolina’s Jacob May in the ninth inning), but we won the game. It was just an amazing day for our team.
“I didn’t feel tired at all. I just kept hydrating and stretching out so that I wouldn’t cramp. I did think my stuff got better as the game went on. I definitely felt stronger. I didn’t feel tired at any point. It was hot, but that really didn’t do anything to me.”
Tech managed to put the first run on the board in the top of the sixth inning against Coastal Carolina starter Ben Smith. Alex Perez led off the inning with a walk and reached second on a sacrifice by Sean Keselica.
With two outs, Zagunis hit a ball that Coastal Carolina second baseman Jake Kane fielded right behind second base. Kane tried to get Zagunis at first, but Zagunis beat the throw, and Perez, who was running with two outs, came around to score to give the Hokies a 1-0 lead.
The Hokies then scored two more times in the seventh. Rash led off the inning with a solo homer to left field, his 10th of the season, while the other run came on a RBI sacrifice bunt by Perez. In the eighth inning, Pinder led off the inning with a solo shot to left, his eighth of the season.
“When Andrew hit that home run, I really felt like that’s when everyone started feeling more relaxed up there (at the plate),” Hughes said. “That’s when the bats started flying.”
Tech then broke things open with five runs in the ninth. Pinder drove in another run and Zagunis, who went 4-for-5, added a two-run single. Rash added a two-run double.
Smith (5-4) went 6.1 innings for the Chanticleers and gave up just two earned runs in a losing effort. He walked four and struck out five. May recorded two of Coastal’s five hits against Burke, including a solo homer in the ninth.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said of Burke. “He really mixed and matched pitches. Whenever we tried to create some action, we’d hit it right at someone for a double play. If we could have gotten one to squirt through and scored, I think things would have been different.
“But you’ve got to give Virginia Tech credit. They did a great job of creating offense, and they swung the bats well.”
The Hokies will play the loser of Saturday evening’s Oklahoma-Connecticut game on Sunday at 1 p.m.
For updates on Virginia Tech baseball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Baseball).