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'Air hammer' time as Virginia Tech beats Oklahoma for Game 2 win

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BLACKSBURG — It was not “hammer time” at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

But it was “air hammer” time.

The Hokies belted five homers and had to resort to swinging an imaginary sledgehammer to celebrate them in a 14-8 win over Oklahoma on Saturday in Game 2 of an NCAA Super Regional at English Field.

Facing elimination, No. 4 overall seed Virginia Tech (45-13) forced a decisive Game 3 of the best-of-three series. The teams will meet at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the winner advancing to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Omaha, it’s one of the dreams that I’ve had, and I’m sure a lot of other guys share the same dream,” said Tech’s Carson DeMartini, who had three hits and one RBI. “The game will probably be a little emotional. We’re going to play with some fire.”

The five homers were the most Tech has ever smacked in an NCAA tournament game.

Nick Biddison hit a pair of solo homers, tying the Tech record for the most homers by a player in an NCAA tournament game. Gavin Cross and Cade Hunter each belted a two-run homer. Tanner Schobel had a solo homer.

The Hokies had been allowed to bring their sledgehammer in front of their dugout to celebrate homers during last weekend’s NCAA regional, but they were informed by the NCAA that they could not do it during the Super Regional.

“That’s total crap from the NCAA,” DeMartini said. “You see Tennessee hit their home run and put their fur coat on. You see Texas hit their home run and put their helmet on. But what’s the NCAA got to do to come over here and tell us that we can’t slam our own hammer at our own park?

“There’s some guys on the team that kind of talk like it’s almost like being in a prison in your own ballpark. The NCAA likes to control things.

“The fans come out for the hammer. They want to see us slam the hammer. I think it’s total crap that we can’t slam the hammer. But we’re not going to let that affect us. We’re going to slam an air hammer.”

Tech coach John Szefc said it was DeMartini’s “good idea” to have the Hokies swing an imaginary sledgehammer this weekend.

NCAA baseball secretary and rules editor Randy Bruns had said in a statement Friday that there had been “potentially volatile situations” at various regionals last weekend and so “in the interest of promoting good sportsmanship, participants at all locations were asked to restrict any activities that use props of any kind to within the dugout.”

According to Bruns, an NCAA baseball rule states that “any orchestrated activities by dugout personnel designed to distract, intimidate, or disconcert the opposing team or reflect poor sportsmanship shall not be allowed.”

Instead of scrapping the celebration altogether, the Hokies who homered Saturday swung a pretend sledgehammer instead — just as the two Hokies who homered in Game 1 on Friday had done.

“If you’re going to take away what the Hokies are, we’re just going to do it anyway, in a kind of sarcastic fashion,” Hunter said. “But it’s got the same feel.”

The Sooners (41-22) won 5-4 on Friday, so they would have advanced to the College World Series with a victory Saturday.

But Tech, which was designated as the visiting team Saturday, jumped out to a 5-0 lead midway through the third inning and led the rest of the way.

One-third of Tech’s 15 hits were homers.

“We were disciplined, swinging at pitches that we should, looking for balls over the heart of the plate,” said Hunter, who had three hits and two RBIs. “We can put the ball out pretty much any part of the field, and that’s what we did.”

Biddison began the game with a leadoff homer.

And then he celebrated.

“I’ll keep swinging the air hammer,” said Biddison, who had three hits and two RBIs. “We got that [sledgehammer] taken away from us, so we just decided we don’t need the hammer, we’ll just do an air hammer. We still get fired up, the crowd still gets fired up.”

The Hokies scored four more runs off Sooners starter David Sandlin (8-4) in the top of the third to extend the lead to 5-0.

After DeMartini doubled, Cross belted a two-run homer. After Jack Hurley walked with two outs, Hunter smacked a two-run homer.

The Sooners scored three runs off Tech starter Drue Hackenberg in the bottom of the third. With the Tech lead cut to 5-3 and the bases loaded, Hackenberg was pulled in favor of Christian Worley. Worley struck out Jackson Nicklaus to end the third.

In the fourth, Brett Squires hit a solo homer off Worley to cut the lead to 5-4. After walking the next batter, Worley was pulled for Jonah Hurney.

The Hokies answered with four runs in the top of the fifth. Schobel started the outburst with a solo homer.

After a bunt hit by Hurley, Hunter singled. Carson Jones reached base on a fielder’s choice grounder, with Hurley out at third. The runners advanced on a passed ball. Another passed ball enabled Hunter to score. After Conor Hartigan walked, Eduardo Malinowski brought home a run with a safety-squeeze bunt. DeMartini then had an RBI single.

Hurney (6-1) got the win in relief, allowing one earned run and two hits in four innings. He struck out seven and walked none.

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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