Hokies survive ETSU

By Matt Hill

   KINGSPORT-- "Big" Tom Buchanan threw out the first pitch before the Virginia Tech-East Tennessee State baseball game Tuesday night, but in the end the Hokies were the "survivors."
   Virginia Tech used a six-run fourth inning to build a comfortable lead, then held off a late Buccaneer challenge to dethrone ETSU 8-5 in the Kingsport Baseball Classic.
   "We had our chances," ETSU head coach Tony Skole said. "Our kids fought hard and competed. We just couldn't get it done."
   The Bucs did make a valiant comeback after being behind 7-2 at one point. ETSU scored two in the sixth to cut Virginia Tech's lead down to 7-4, then really made things interesting in the top of the eighth.
   After a Jeremy Terry double started things off for the Bucs in the frame, Brandon Cross delivered a single that scored Terry to make it a 7-5 game.
   The Bucs continued the rally with singles by Caleb Moore and Kirk Keithley. That loaded the bases with no outs, and the Bucs looked to be in good position.
   But that was all she wrote for the Bucs.
   Virginia Tech reliever Brett Cory settled down and got Michael Giroud to pop-up for the first. Then Bryan Crouse hit into a double play to end the inning.
   The Hokies added a run in the bottom of the eighth, and never looked back.
   "I give their kid credit," Skole said. "He hung in there. He got the infield pop-up, then he got the double play ball. Their two middle infielders are pretty good players, so they're not the guys you want to hit it to. They've turned a lot of double plays in their careers."
   Legendary Virginia Tech head coach Chuck Hartman thought getting those three outs in the eighth inning were huge.
   "The key to the game was when the kid got the pop-up, and then we got the double play," Hartman said. "We're sitting on the ropes to say the least. A base hit and it's a tie ball game. That had to take a lot out of their ball club."
   The inning that severely damaged ETSU's chances to win was the fourth, when the Hokies scored six runs.
   Virginia Tech sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, and quickly erased what was a 1-0 ETSU lead.
   "It's a game of opportunities, and when you get that opportunity, you've got to make the most of it," Skole said. "They did tonight, and we didn't."
   The Bucs did rally back to have an opportunity to win, and Hartman left the field with a lot of respect for the Buccaneers.
   "I like this club," Hartman said about the Buccaneers. "They play hard. That shows he's a good coach. Anytime the players compete every day that means he's doing a heck of a job with them."
   Moore went 3-for-4 on the night to top ETSU, while Cross, Keithley and Terry each had two hits for the Bucs.
   Chris Stanton went 3-for-3 to lead Virginia Tech.
   Jeff Landing picked up the win for the Hokies, while Jackson Simerly took the loss for ETSU.
   Matt Dalton earned the save.
   It was tough loss for Skole to take, but he was very proud of his team's effort.
   "I'm disappointed we didn't win, but I thought our kids competed and played hard," Skole said.
   * The game may have been played in ETSU's home state, but Virginia Tech was the home team on Tuesday night and hit in the bottom of inning.
   * The Kingsport Baseball Classic that features these two teams replaced the Hokie-Smokey Classic, which had Tennessee and Virginia Tech going at it for several seasons.