The Fightin’ Irish proved why they are the ACC #1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Post season baseball is about win and move on. While the Fightin’ Irish and the Hokies played through much of a pitchers duel, the Irish bats would come alive in the mid -section of the game and flex some offensive muscle, including a 420 foot monster homerun to centerfield. You can also say the same thing for the Irish on defense. Three pitchers combined for a shutout in game one of Pool A play in the tournament.
Innings One Through Three
You can say that the starting pitchers for the Irish and the Hokies were engaged in a contest of who would blink first. Not sure how the Irish were the away team, but the Irish got to bat first in the afternoon matchup. Anthony Simonelli made quick work of the Irish by striking out three of the Irish batters, while walking walking Ryan Cole.
Will Mercer, got the start against VT. While Mercer didn’t have as an easy inning as simonelli, he did manage to work out of a jam with the bases loaded.
Simonelli came out of the game and Jaison Heard came on in relief after one inning. But Heard was on fire as well for the Hokies and he made quick work of the Irish. This inning the outs came via a fly-out to centerfield, and two groundouts. One to shortstop and one to first base.
Mercer on the other settled down after his first inning scare. Mercer picked up his first three up and three down as he got the Hokies to ground out out to third, fly-out to centerfield and picked up his first strike out of the game.
Heard showed a little chink in the armor in the third inning. After a strikeout by David Lamanna, Zack Prajzner singled to left field. Spencer Myers reached on a fielder’s choice, but Prajzner is thrown out at second base. Cole was hit by a pitch. Nick Kavadas walked loading the bases for the Irish. But the Irish would strand three runners as Carter Putz grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning.
Innings Four Through Six
The fourth inning was not very offensive for the Irish. The only Irish player to reach base was B Coetzee and that was on a single to left field. Simonelli was getting back in the zone.
Mercer on the other hand was in a groove. Once again, Mercer was able to take down the three batters he faced including a strike out to end the inning.
The Irish bats are ALIVE! A lead off single by Prajzner was followed by a single to Myers allowing Prajzner to advance to third for runners on the corners with no outs. Cole grounded out to third base, allowing Prajzner to advance with runners now on second and third. Heard’s after noon was done as Jonah Hurney came on in relief. Hurney threw a wild pitch that allowed Prajzner to score, advancing Myers to third and Kavadas walked and advanced to second base. Putz’s walk loaded the bases for the Irish. After facing just two batters, Graham Firoved came on in relief of Hurney. Firoved got a double play ball to end the inning. Three different Hokies pitched in the inning. Allowing one run on two hits and score of 1-0 Irish.
Mercer just kept on dealing for the Fightin’ Irish. After giving up a single to Nick Biddison, Mercer collected another strike out, Biddison was caught stealing second by LaManna for the second out. The third out came via a running error by Gehrig Ebel trying to advance to second but is thrown out by Cole from left field.
The sixth inning is led off by a monster homerun by Miller. 420 feet to be exact over the centerfield wall. And from there the Irish exploded. Coetzee reached a walk, then stole second base. LaManna bunted for a single and advancing Coetzee to third. A little small ball by the Irish. Firoved would leave the game and Ryan Okuda would be the fifth pitcher for the Hokies. Prajzner walked for the Irish, runners now on first and second. Myers reached on fielder’s choice, Prajzner would be safe second, LaManna was thrown out at third and Coetzee scored. Cole singled to left field, advanced to second base on the throw and Myers scored. Kavadas would strike out swinging to end the inning, For the Irish, three runs on three hits, and a lead of 4-0
Alex Rao comes on in relief of Mercer. Mercer had 5 innings pitched, allowed 3 hits and had 3 strike outs on 48 pitches. That’s a tremendous afternoon for Mercer. Rao picks up where Mercer left off. He got his first three up and three down as he got a pop up, strike out and a fly out to end hid half of the inning, This is efficiency at its best.
Innings Seven Through Nine
The seventh inning saw two more runs move across by the Irish. After Putz lined out to left field, Jack Brannigan singled. Miller, who homered in the previous inning, gets the hardest base in baseball. He rips atriple down the left field line and easily scores Brannigan for another RBI. Coetzee singled to left to keep it going and Miller scores on the Coetzee RBI single. LaManna grounds into a double play to end the inning. But the Irish put two runs on the board on three hits for a 6-0 lead.
Rao continues his hot hand on the mound. Allowing only one walk and no hits and faced only four batters in the inning.
Griffin Green comes in relief for the Hokies Okuda. Green minimizes the Irish impact on the game. Allowing only a single to Prajzner in the inning and then striking out the next three batters. The eight inning was the first inning the Irish had not scored in since the fourth inning.
Rao on the other did not blink. Allowing on a walk in the inning, he worked a fly out, strike out and a ground out to second base. What a confidence builder for Coach Link Jarrett.
Grant Umberger relieves Green and takes the mound for VT. To start the ninth inning off, Putz doubled to right center. After Brannigan grounded out to shortstop, Putz advanced to third. After not wanting to see what elese Miller could do, VT walked him to put runners on the corners. Coetzee flied out to centerfield easily scoring Putz from third. LaManna walked and advanced Miller to second. Matthew Siverling became the eighth pitcher of record when he relieved Umberger in the ninth inning. Prajzner singled to left field and scored Miller from third. The Irish end another great inning with two runs on two hit and a score of 8-0.
Liam Simon came on in relief for Rao. Simon did what every other Irish did. He shut down the Hokies. He went strike out, fly out, double, and another strike out to end the game. The Irish win in dominating fashion in Pool A play 8-0.
The Wrap Up
The Fightin’ Irish were dominant up and down the roster on Wednesday afternoon. The played good small ball, played a long ball, tremendous pitching, and just wowed the stat sheet.
Though all the Irish were key in the victory, there a few that stood out. Prajzner was 4-4 and 1 RBI, Miller was 2-4 HR and 2 RBI’s, Coetzee was 2-3 with 2 RBI’s, Mercer pitched 5 innings, 3 Hits Allowed, 3 K’s, 48 Pitches, and Rao pitched 3 innings, 2 BB’s, 3 K’s and 40 Pitches. That’s a great day in any Head Coach’s book.
Up next for the Fightin’ Irish (30-10) is No. 8 Virginia (28-22) on Friday May 28th at 11 a.m. The winner gets to move onto the semifinal’s on Saturday May 29th at 1 p.m. versus the Pool D winner (Duke or Miami). Click here for copy of the ACC Tournament link. The game game be seen on ACC Network Extra, or RSN.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘⚾🌩