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Baseball strikes out against Tech

One step forward, two steps back. The Virginia baseball team's frustrating dance around the .500 mark continues.

Tuesday afternoon the Cavaliers pounded out an 11-2 win at Richmond, but yesterday at the U.Va. Baseball Field, Virginia Tech eased to a 7-3 victory.

Hokie righthander Jason Bush met with great success against the same Cav bats that pounded out five home runs Tuesday against the Spiders. Bush allowed only one run before Virginia first baseman Jon Benick tagged him for a two-run homer in the eighth.

But Benick's blast was too little too late as the Cavaliers (14-15-1, 2-4 ACC) could not contain the Virginia Tech offense. Three RBIs from Hokie freshman Jed English helped make up for the absence of designated hitter Larry Bowles and right fielder Chris Hutchison. Virginia pitchers issued eight walks, enabling the Hokies (14-12-1) to score seven times on only nine hits.

"Virginia Tech outplayed U.Va. in every aspect of the game today," Cav coach Dennis Womack said. "Sometimes a wounded animal is very dangerous and Virginia Tech's a wounded animal. I was disappointed we didn't play better against an in-state rival."

The Hokies roughed up Cavalier starter Alexander Starr, who lasted just 3.2 innings, and held a 3-1 lead at the end of the fifth.

They added another run in the sixth, as Tech junior Kevin Bice drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored when Virginia shortstop Tim LaVigne could not handle Spencer Harris' bad-hop grounder. Bice was actually caught off first soon after he reached base, but he stayed alive by beating Benick's throw to second and sliding under LaVigne's waist-high tag.

Seventh-inning RBI doubles by English and right fielder Chris Winterfeldt gave Bush a 6-1 lead, but the 6-foot-3 sophomore left soon after surrendering Benick's two-run bomb an inning later. Bush notched a pair of strikeouts and did not walk a batter in 7.1 innings.

"He did a pretty good job of mixing it up," Virginia catcher Mark Rueffert said. "It was clear he had a plan about what he was going to do."

The four young men the Cavaliers sent to the mound did not fare as well as their Hokie counterparts. Sophomore righthander Chris Marinak pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in relief of Starr, but senior southpaw Will Parker allowed three runs in only two innings. LaVigne finished off the eighth and ninth, giving up an unearned run.

"Sometimes the ball got up and when it got up, it got hit," Rueffert said. "Virginia Tech did a good job of hitting our mistakes."

With No. 1 Florida State steaming into town Saturday for a three-game weekend series, the Cavaliers sorely needed to establish some confidence with a strong showing in their two in-state matchups this week. Squashing the Spiders was a good start, but the Cavaliers regressed yesterday.

"You'd like to put together some momentum, but in one aspect or another, we just haven't done it," Womack said. "We're going to have to swing the bats better against top pitchers if we're going to have a chance."

Rueffert agreed that losing to the Hokies is particularly frustrating after playing so well in Richmond.

"It's tough because we hit five home runs [Tuesday] and then [Bush] comes in and pitches pretty good against us," Rueffert said. "It's like night and day"