2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 13 Virginia Tech
Last season: 45-14 (19-9 ACC); lost in super regionals
Final ranking: No. 10
Coach (record at school): John Szefc (130-104, 5 seasons)
The good news: Outfielder Jack Hurley and third baseman Carson DeMartini return to Blacksburg as one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in the country. As true freshmen, neither missed a beat and turned in stellar 2022 seasons. Hurley hit an astounding .375 with 23 doubles, 14 home runs and an OPS over 1.000. Not to be outdone, DeMartini hit .341 while also proving to be a legitimate power threat, slugging 14 doubles and 15 home runs. After starting every game in left field last year, Hurley will make the move to center field this spring, where his speed and athleticism will allow him to shine. DeMartini will once again man the hot corner and anchor the left side of the infield. Virginia Tech also returns workhouse righthander Drue Hackenberg, who in 2022 started 16 games and compiled a 3.30 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 92.2 innings. He will attack hitters with a bowling ball-like sinker that will sit anywhere from 92-95 mph. Junior righthander Griffin Green will be the Hokies’ Friday night starter after a respectable 2022 season where he posted a 4.83 ERA and 63 strikeouts. Szefc opted to dip into the transfer portal to round out his weekend rotation, and he added righthander Anthony Arguelles, a graduate transfer from Miami. Arguelles had a fantastic summer in the Cape Cod League, pitching his way to a 1.76 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 15.1 innings.
The bad news: With the 2022 draft came the departures of Gavin Cross (first round), Tanner Schobel (second round), Nick Biddison (fourth round), Cade Hunter (fifth round) and Graham Firoved (16th round). Returning most of their pitching depth will mitigate the loss of Firoved, but replacing the firepower of Cross, Schobel, Biddison and Hunter is a tough task for the Hokies. Hurley and DeMartini should produce at impressive clips, but the offense will need a bat or two to emerge in order for the Hokies to once again get within striking distance of Omaha.
Player to know: Carson Jones, OF.
Albeit in a small sample size, Jones demonstrated the monster raw power he possesses by crushing eight home runs in 55 at-bats during the 2022 season. This season will be the first time in his career that he is consistently in the starting lineup and his offensive upside will provide a much-needed spark to a lineup that lost a lot of production to the draft. He will be the everyday right fielder this spring and projects to slot in the top half of the lineup.
Path to Omaha: Much of last year’s success was due to a starting lineup that led the ACC in both doubles and home runs—while finishing second in total bases. The offense was the heartbeat of the team and one of the main reasons it was 27 outs from Omaha. This year might provide a change of pace as its depth on the mound is one of the team’s strengths and in order to reach the promised land of college baseball, its lineup will need to rise to the occasion in the wake of its multiple losses from the 2022 group.
2023 Preseason Projected Field of 64
The college baseball season has nearly arrived. Opening Day is a little more than a week away and around the country teams are getting ready to start on the Road to Omaha.