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Virginia Tech on brink of elimination after losing to Oklahoma

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BLACKSBURG — The Virginia Tech baseball season could end Saturday.

Oklahoma fended off the Hokies 5-4 on Friday in Game 1 of an NCAA Super Regional at English Field, putting the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA tournament on the brink of elimination.

The Sooners (41-21) can wrap up the best-of-three series and advance to the College World Series by beating the Hokies (44-13) in Game 2 at noon Saturday. A third game, if necessary, would be held Sunday.

“We’ve got plenty of good players and plenty of good arms to come back and even this thing up tomorrow and win this thing on Sunday,” said Tech coach John Szefc, whose team trailed 5-0 midway through the sixth inning.

“You’ve got to win two games here. You don’t have to win three. You’ve got to win two. So we’ll come back tomorrow and strap it up and go.”

The Hokies went 3-0 to win their NCAA regional last weekend, so they never faced elimination en route to that crown.

But the Hokies did lose the first game of an ACC series against Pittsburgh in March before winning the final two games of that series. They also lost the first game of an ACC series with nationally ranked Louisville last month before winning the final two games of that series.

“We’ve been here before. We were here against Pitt, we were here against Louisville and we ended up winning those series,” Tech reliever Henry Weycker said. “Everybody’s calm. … We just kind of need to move forward.”

Sooners starter Jake Bennett (9-3), an All-Big 12 first-team pick, got the win. The left-hander allowed four runs (one earned) and eight hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked two.

“That’s probably one of the best lefties we’ve faced this whole year and he was at his best today,” Szefc said.

“He was hitting his spots,” Tech left fielder Jack Hurley said. “He was pitching it where the umpire was calling strikes.”

Bennett was rated by Baseball America as the No. 61 prospect in the country for next month’s major league draft.

“I actually worked some left-on-left change-ups today, which I hadn’t really done a whole lot this season,” Bennett said. “[I also was] moving the fastball in and out and then also the slider.

“[The home-plate umpire] was giving me a little bit off the plate and I tried to take advantage.”

All-Big 12 second-team pick Trevin Michael earned his 10th save. He pitched two hitless innings, striking out four.

“The scouting report on him was when it all comes down to [it] he’s going to throw you sliders and that’s exactly what he did,” Szefc said.

Kendall Pettis, who is the No. 9 hitter in the Oklahoma batting order, had a pair of RBI singles.

“I’m not a home-run hitter or anything, so I’m just looking for a pitch to drive up the middle,” he said. “I’m really trying to take the pitcher’s head off.”

The bottom three hitters in the Sooners’ batting order combined for six hits, three RBIs and four runs scored.

“One through nine can all hit,” Pettis said.

Tech starter Griffin Green (7-3) had his second straight subpar outing. After lasting only two innings in last Saturday’s win over Columbia, he was pulled in the second inning Friday. He allowed three earned runs, one hit and one walk and also hit two batters.

“He probably wasn’t at his best,” Szefc said. “He wasn’t throwing a ton of strikes at that point [when he was pulled]. He’s had some issues with [the middle finger on his pitching hand], so I think that probably got him a little.”

The Sooners, who entered the game ranked fourth nationally in stolen bases, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. John Spikerman walked, stole second and scored on Blake Robertson’s RBI single to left.

Oklahoma extended the lead to 3-0 in the second. After hitting the first two batters of the inning, Green was pulled in favor of Weycker.

Brett Squires reached base on a fielder’s choice bunt, with the runner out at third. Pettis and Spikerman then hit back-to-back RBI singles.

Oklahoma scored two more runs in the sixth.

Jackson Nicklaus doubled and scored on Squires’ RBI single. Weycker was pulled in favor of Graham Firoved. Pettis then hit an RBI single.

Tech cut the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth. After Cade Hunter reached base on an error, Carson Jones belted a two-run homer.

Bennett gave up another homer in the seventh. After Tanner Schobel reached base on an error, Hurley smacked a two-run homer.

Jones and Hurley were not able to celebrate by swinging the team sledgehammer, though.

The NCAA dropped the hammer on the sledgehammer, so Jones and Hurley had to merely pretend they were swinging a hammer.

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

NCAA baseball secretary and rules editor Randy Bruns said in a statement provided to The Roanoke Times by NCAA on-site representative Carey Harveycutter: “During last weekend’s NCAA Division I Regional baseball games, a number of potentially volatile situations were observed at various sites.”

“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,” Bruns said in the statement.

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.”

Bennett pitched out of several jams.

The Hokies had men on first and third in the second inning, but Eduardo Malinowski struck out and Carson DeMartini grounded out.

Tech also had men on first and third in the third, but Hunter struck out.

The Hokies had men on first and second in the fifth, but Gavin Cross popped up and Schobel and Hurley struck out.

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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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