Fauber: Hokies may be worth a look

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^ Posted Apr. 5

By Brad Fauber

As I mentioned last week, baseball has been on my mind since January, and with the start of the Major League Baseball season this past weekend, the sport has completely taken control of my thoughts.

But while I follow the MLB to the point where it could almost be called an obsession, I can't say the same for college baseball.

I have never been a huge fan of the MLB's collegiate counterpart, and I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because the sport itself doesn't dominate mainstream media like other college football and basketball. College baseball games occasionally appear on national television, and the College World Series definitely gets its fair share of publicity, but most of the time the regular season games are relegated to online viewing on ESPN3.

Or perhaps my lack of interest in college baseball is simply the result of the fact that I haven't really had a good, competitive team to cheer for.

I can't explain it, all I know is that I am not up to date on the goings on of college baseball -- which is why I was completely shocked, in a good way, when I saw that Virginia Tech's baseball team finds itself ranked in the top 25 in the Baseball America poll and knocking on the door of the USA Today top 25 at this point in the season.

The Hokies (21-9, 7-5 ACC) have never been known as a baseball powerhouse, and while they are still very far from earning such a title, being nationally ranked entering the month of April is certainly a step in the right direction.

I know what you're thinking -- sitting in the back end of the top 25 probably isn't something to get too worked up about. True, but for a program that has consistently struggled for any sort of relevancy, the 2013 season has been monumental.

Since joining the ACC in 2004, Tech had never been over .500 after 12 conference games prior to this year, and the Hokies had won 20 games before the month of April just twice in the program's 120-year history.

Tech also won its first series over a top-five program at English Field last weekend, when the Hokies took two of three games from No. 4 Florida State.

Tech's presence in the Baseball America poll has been far from consistent, however. A solid opening week for the Hokies helped them crack the poll for the first time since the end of the 2010 season, but they soon dropped out after losing a pair of games to ACC rival Georgia Tech.

Then a three-game sweep of Duke in mid-March bumped Tech back into the poll before a pair of losses at Miami sent them back out.

Last weekend's performance against FSU has the Hokies currently ranked 22nd in the Baseball America poll, and they will have a chance to improve upon their ranking this weekend as they face No. 25 North Carolina State for a three-game set in Raleigh, N.C.
This weekend's games will be available to watch on Raycom Sports Network and ESPN3, and you can bet that I will check in on them once or twice to see how the Hokies are faring.

While Tech has had trouble maintaining a footing in the national polls, the same can't be said for Virginia, which has been a familiar name in the rankings all season long. That shouldn't come as a surprise, as the Cavaliers seem to have one of the better programs in the nation on a yearly basis.

Virginia, which was ousted in regional play at last year's NCAA Baseball Championship tournament, opened the season ranked 25th in the nation and currently finds itself fifth in the Baseball America poll and eighth in the USA Today poll.

The Cavaliers (27-3, 9-3 ACC) are also on the road this weekend as they play a three-game set with Wake Forest. Virginia is currently second in the Coastal behind North Carolina.

Tech's quiet rise this season could lead to an interesting match-up with the Cavaliers when the two rivals meet in Blacksburg on April 26-28. Should both teams continue to play well for the next few weeks, that showdown could have an impact on the regular-season conference standings.

A strong baseball rivalry between the schools is something that has been lacking over the years as the two programs have been on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of competitiveness.

But this year could be the start of something, and if the Hokies can continue to build on what they've been able to do this season, a meaningful rivalry between the Hokies and 'Hoos may not be too far off.

That may just give me something worth watching.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com


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