BLACKSBURG — Major League pitcher Joe Saunders and pro golfer Johnson Wagner are among six new members selected for induction into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
The other 2013 inductees are:
- Bobby Beecher, a talented big-man who helped Tech men’s basketball to four postseason appearances and was part of the winningest class in Hokie hoops history.
- Clarisa Crowell, who did it all for the Hokies on the softball field from 1999 through 2002, earning honors in two different conferences.
- John Engelberger, a football walk-on who went on to earn a scholarship, All-America status and a starting job in the NFL.
- Jimmy Milley, whose Tech tennis career during the late 1970s featured a long list of firsts for the Hokie program.
The six new honorees will be inducted during a Hall of Fame dinner on the Tech campus on Friday, Nov. 15, the evening before Tech’s home football game against the University of Maryland. Each of the inductees will be introduced to fans at halftime of the football game. The new inductees will bring the total number enshrined to 169. The Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1982.
Bobby Beecher joined Dell Curry and Keith Colbert to form one of the top-rated recruiting classes in Tech men’s basketball history during the fall of 1982. Beecher, who had passed up chances to attend all-star summer camps to work on his father’s farm during his high school days in Lawsonville, N.C., capitalized on his basketball chances in Blacksburg.
During his first Tech season, the skilled 6-foot-9 high school All-American started 33 of 34 games, earning Metro Conference Freshman of the Year honors over teammate Curry. Beecher led the team in field-goal percentage (.570) and free-throw accuracy (.913), while averaging 13.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and earning second-team All-Metro honors. He helped the Hokies to a berth in the National Invitation Tournament and a then-school record 23 wins. Beecher played in the National Sports festival during the summer of ’83, and then toured Australia with the Nike-NIT All-Stars.
Beecher was inconsistent as a sophomore, but contributed a team-best 46 blocked shots and 9.8 points per game as the team posted 22 wins and advanced to the semifinals of the NIT. Tech won 20 games and received an NCAA Tournament bid in 1984-85 with Beecher averaging 13.1 points in Metro games and 11.8 overall, to go with 6.2 boards a game. He played on the USA team in the World University Games the summer before his senior season.
As a senior, Beecher averaged 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds to finish his Tech career eighth in scoring (1,548 pts.) and sixth in rebounds (797). He played in 128 of 129 games as a Hokie, starting 126. Currently, he still ranks third all-time at Tech in blocked shots (170) and stands in the top 10 in career rebounds, field goals made (640) and free-throw percentage (.807). He is 16th all-time in scoring.
Beecher, who was selected in the fourth round of the 1986 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, earned his Tech degree in human services with an emphasis in family and child development. He currently lives in Roanoke, Va., where he works as the lead estimator for the mechanical department of Varney, Inc.
Clarisa Crowell did a little bit of everything for the Hokies on the softball field, pitching and playing third base and in the outfield, in addition to having a standout career at the plate. The Waldorf, Md., native played at Virginia Tech from 1999-2002, batting .289 for her career with 16 home runs and 35 doubles, while also going 65-25 in the circle with a 1.39 earned run average and 475 strikeouts.
As a freshman, Crowell went 25-8 with an ERA of just 1.05, 209 strikeouts and three no-hitters, earning a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Conference Team. In 2000, she was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference Team as an outfielder and was named to the Virginia all-state team as a pitcher and an outfielder as voted on by state SIDs, becoming the first player in state history to make the team at two different positions in the same year. She hit .296 with nine home runs and went 20-8 in the circle with a 1.48 ERA.
Her junior season, Crowell moved to third base when not pitching and posted an ERA of 1.26 while hitting .240. In her final campaign, she earned first-team all-region and second-team All-Big East honors as a third baseman. She led the team with a .367 batting average and had 11 doubles and 30 RBIs.
Crowell graduated from Tech in 2002, receiving a degree in psychology. She earned her master’s degree in recreation and sports sciences from Ohio University in 2005 and is currently in her second year as the head softball coach at Miami University in Ohio.
Crowell still stands second all-time at Tech in winning percentage as a pitcher (.722) and remains third in career ERA and shutouts (26), and fourth in wins and complete games (62). She is ninth in career runs batted in (103) and 10th in career hits (200), doubles and runs scored (104).
She went to Miami after a six-year stint as an assistant coach and pitching coach at Oklahoma State, where she helped lead the Cowgirls to the Women’s College World Series in 2011.
John Engelberger made the most of his time in Blacksburg, going from walk-on, to four-year starter, to second-round NFL Draft pick, while earning All-America honors and his college degree along the way.
Engelberger, who came to Tech from Springfield, Va., joined the Tech football team in 1995 as a tight end. He was redshirted that year, and during the spring, he was moved to defense and awarded a scholarship. He played in every game during the 1996 season, including seven as a starter. His six sacks tied him for fifth in the Big East Conference and his 64 tackles led the Hokies’ defensive linemen. Engelberger had a career-best 70 tackles in 1997 and contributed 15 tackles behind the line, including six more sacks. He followed that up with 7.5 sacks and 16.5 total tackles for loss in ’98, earning second-team All-Big East honors for the second straight season.
As a senior, Engelberger teamed with Corey Moore to give the Hokies one of the best pair of defensive ends in the country and helped spark Tech to an unbeaten regular season and a berth in the national championship game. He contributed 53 tackles, seven sacks, six additional tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hurries on the way to second-team All-America honors from The Associated Press. His career totals for sacks (26.5), tackles for loss (25) and total tackles behind the line (51.5) still rank in the top five all-time at Tech.
A hard worker who was one of the top performers at the 2000 NFL Combine, Engelberger was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He played in all 16 games with 13 starts as a rookie and went on to a nine-year pro career that included five seasons with San Francisco and four with the Denver Broncos. He started 80 of the 139 games he played in the NFL.
Engelberger, who graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, currently lives in Leesburg, Va.
Jimmy Milley, a native of Danville, Va., developed his tennis skills participating in state and Mid-Atlantic junior tournaments before beginning what would be a career of ‘firsts’ at Virginia Tech.
From the time he stepped on campus in the fall of 1975, Milley played the No. 1 singles spot for the Tech men’s tennis team. He also excelled in doubles with a number of different teammates. After posting a 12-13 singles mark as a freshman, he put together three consecutive 20-win seasons, finishing 20-3 as a sophomore, 20-7 as a junior and 27-2 as a senior. He was the first Tech player to win the coveted Virginia State College Fall Tournament.
Milley’s individual singles record of 27-2 in 1979 still stands as the best single-season finish for a Virginia Tech tennis player. He earned the first national ranking for a Tech player at No. 20 that year and was the first Hokie to participate in the NCAA singles championships.
The summer between his junior and senior years, Milley won the first of three consecutive Virginia State Open Championships. He advanced to the finals again the following year before losing in three sets to Mark Vines, a professional player who a few weeks earlier had beaten Ivan Lendl, the No. 2-ranked player in the world at the time. Milley remains one of just two players to have won the State Open three straight years over the past 65 years.
Immediately after graduating from Tech with a degree in mass communications, Milley spent some time on the professional circuit, earning Association of Tennis Pros ranking points in singles and doubles, while playing in satellite tournaments on the East Coast and in Europe. He was invited to participate in two Grand Prix tournaments.
Milley currently lives in Richmond, Va., were he works as an operating room nurse at Memorial Regional Medical Center.
The Philadelphia Phillies picked Joe Saunders in the fifth round of the 1999 Major League baseball draft following his final season at West Springfield (Va.) High School. Instead of signing, however, the 6-foot-3 left-handed pitcher opted to enroll at Virginia Tech. Three years later, he became the Hokies’ highest draft pick ever in the June draft when the Anaheim Angels selected him with the 12th overall pick.
Saunders was pushed into a key role early at Tech due to unexpected personnel losses on the pitching staff. He appeared in 17 games as a freshman, starting 15 of those contests. During one stretch, he pitched back-to-back, three-hit shutouts and had a string of 22 consecutive scoreless innings. He posted a 9-2 record and team-leading 3.92 earned run average over 101 innings as Tech capped the season with an Atlantic 10 Conference championship and an NCAA bid. Saunders was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team and was a first-team All-Atlantic 10 selection.
Another nine-win season followed for Saunders in 2001 as the Hokies switched to the Big East Conference. He pitched a career-high 116.1 innings, struck out 87 and lowered his ERA to 3.48. His 7-1 mark against Big East foes helped him earn second-team all-conference honors.
Saunders became the only Tech pitcher to win nine or more games in three consecutive seasons when he went 9-2 in 2002. He led the Big East in strikeouts with 102 in 97.2 innings, while walking just 22 batters. His 1.81 ERA in league games was the best of any Big East starter and his overall ERA of 2.86 was a personal best. He was a first-team All-Big East pick.
After signing with the Angels in 2002, Saunders spent three seasons in the minors and was named the Angels’ Organization’s Pitcher of the Year in 2005. He made his major league debut on Aug. 16, 2005 against the Toronto Blue Jays and was selected for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in in 2008. Over his nine full seasons in the majors, he has pitched for the Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles and currently the Seattle Mariners.
Saunders is still the second winningest left-hander in Tech history and his 27 pitching victories currently rank third all-time at Tech.
Johnson Wagner wasted no time in making a good impression at Virginia Tech, recording the lowest stroke average (75.79) on the Hokie golf team as a freshman in 1998-99. The freshman from Garrison, N.Y., was Tech’s top finisher in four of its seven spring events that season and was named the team’s most valuable player, as well as the Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year.
The following season, Wagner led the nation in eagles made in the final NCAA regular season statistics with eight. In 2001, when Tech moved to the Big East, he was one of the team leaders as the Hokies captured the conference title and finished eighth in the NCAA Championships.
Wagner garnered All-Big East honors his last two seasons, winning the conference tournament individual title as a senior in 2002, while the Hokies repeated as team champs. Tech made another visit to the NCAA Championships, finishing 20th, and Wagner was named All-South Region and third-team All-America.
The 2002 Tech graduate finished his career with a scoring average of 73.96, which was the best in school history at the time and still ranks 10th on the all-time list. During his time at Tech, Wagner became the first amateur ever to win all three major titles of the Metropolitan Golf Association (NY) in one calendar year (2002).
As a professional, Wagner has won three events on the PGA Tour, the 2008 Shell Houston Open, the 2011 Mayakoba Golf Classic and the 2012 Sony Open in Hawaii. He was also named the PGA Tour Player of the Month for January, 2012. He played in the 2012 and ‘13 Masters and is exempt on the PGA Tour through the 2014 season.
Wagner currently lives in Charlotte, N.C.
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