DURHAM, N.C. – In what turned into a pitcher’s duel between Florida State’s Luke Weaver and Virginia Tech’s Brad Markey finished with a dramatic nine inning that included a walk-off home run and a Hokie victory at the 2013 ACC Baseball Championship.
The Hokies’ Mark Zagunis came through with the game-winning hit connecting on a solo shot to left off Gage Smith (4-1) with one out in the bottom of the ninth as Virginia Tech (37-19) defeated Florida State (44-14) 3-2 Thursday evening inside the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“I’m not upset, I’m proud (of our guys),” said head coach Mike Martin. “That was truly a great game of baseball. I tip my hat to Pete Hughes and the Hokies, they did a great job.
“I’m daggum-proud of our Seminole Baseball team, the way we played, the way we kept fighting. We were obviously down and behind for eight innings, but it was a credit to our young men to come back and tie it up, but that is the way it goes.”
The win put the Hokies in the driver’s seat in Pool B as Virginia Tech improved to 2-0, while the Seminoles dropped to 0-2. A victory by the Hokies on Friday against Georgia Tech (1-1) will advance Virginia Tech into the finals for the first time in school history. The Seminoles will look to end their six-game slide in the ACC Tournament when FSU faces Virginia (1-1) on Saturday, May 25 at 11:00 a.m.
Weaver and Markey matched each other inning for inning on Thursday night as both starting pitchers held the opposing team without a run on just three hits through the first six innings.
“Boy-o-boy, Brad (Markey) pitched beautifully, I think he struck out 10,” added Martin. “Then you talk about the man to my left (Luke Weaver), he struck out nine and pitched a beautiful, beautiful baseball game.”
The Hokies finally broke with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 2-0 lead. Tyler Horan led off the inning with an infield single to third and scored on the very next pitch when Zagunis tripled to the gap in right center. Zagunis scored one pitch later when Andrew Rash lifted a sac-fly to left to give the Hokies a two-run advantage.
Virginia Tech was on the verge of adding to its lead in the eighth but Jameis Winston came through with a huge outfield assist at the plate to end inning and keep the Hokie lead at 2-0. Sean Keselica laced a two-out double off the wall in left and tried to score on a base hit to right by Chad Pinder, but Winston came up firing throwing a strike to Stephen McGee at the plate to get Keselica for the third out of the inning.
Markey kept the Seminole bats in-check all evening long and went out to start the ninth looking for his second complete game of the season against Florida State. But McGee had other plans opening the inning with a double off the Blue Monster in left. He moved to third on a groundout to short by John Nogowski and scored when Casey Smit lined a base hit down the right field line that one hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double.
The double by Smit ended the night for Markey after 8.1 innings of work. Clark Labitan (2-5) came on to hold down the one-run lead for Markey but pinch hitter Josh Delph spoiled those plans with an RBI single through the right side of the infield to score pinch-runner Brett Knief from second to tie the game at 2-2.
“He made a heck of a throw, he couldn’t have put it in any better of a spot,” added DJ Stewart on the momentum FSU carried into the ninth after Winston’s throw to the plate. “Having the crowd cheer for us was a big momentum shift. Steve (McGee) did a great job to get us started in the ninth and Casey (Smit) got a big hit too.
“We were taking about that today,” said Martin on Delph coming through with a key hit in the ninth. “That Joshua looked like he was getting a little stronger. He absolutely looked like his old self. It sure would be a welcome addition to get him back out there.”
Both starting pitchers did not factor into the decision on Thursday night but both put on quite the pitching clinic. Weaver tied a career-high with nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings allowing two runs on five hits as he walked one. Markey also tied a career-high in strikeouts with 10 over 8.1 innings allowing two runs on six hits and a walk.
“He was keeping his pitches down,” said Stewart on Markey’s performance tonight. “He was mixing in his fastball, curveball and changeup. He was doing a great job of keeping it down, keeping us off balance and he did a good job throwing strikes.”
“I felt great the whole game, everything was there,” said Weaver. “In the seventh inning I got a little unlucky with that slow roller off the end of the bat to third. They capitalized and jumped on the fastball when it went out to the gap and that was the biggest mistake I made all night. They did a great job of hitting, they were in an aggressive mode there and they did what they needed to do.”
Virginia Tech registered the game’s first scoring threat when Brendon Hayden opened the bottom of the third with a single to left. After a sac-bunt moved Hayden to second, the Hokie third baseman was thrown out trying to steal third. Alex Perez followed with a two-out double to right but was stranded at second when Weaver struck out Keselica for the final out of the inning.
The Seminoles left two on in the fourth after Stewart led off the inning with a single and Nogowski drew a two-out walk. Markey got out of the inning when Smit grounded out to short for the third out.
Florida State looked to push across its first run of the game in the eighth but left runners stranded at the corners. John Sansone reached as he was hit by a pitch and moved to third on Stewart’s third hit of the game lacing a base hit off the glove of the diving Hokie first baseman. Markey kept the Seminoles off the scoreboard getting Marcus Davis swinging on strikes to retired the side.
Stewart finished the game with his second three-hit game of the tournament as the freshman left fielder has now reached base in 10 of his last 11 at-bats. Pinder and Zagunis paced Virginia Tech with two hits apiece.
FSU wraps up pool play at the ACC Baseball Championship on Saturday, May 25 at 11:00 a.m. against Virginia. The Seminoles will send out LHP Brandon Leibrandt to start against the Cavaliers. The game will air live on the Regional Sports Network (fans are encouraged to check their local listings). Fans can listen to games on the Seminoles.com All-Access player and locally on 100.7 FM. As always, Seminole fans can follow the Noles on twitter @FSU_Baseball and remember to like the Seminoles on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FSUBaseball). Live stats will be available via gametracker.