If you've seen the movie "Moneyball", you may remember when Brad Pitt - who portrays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane - masterfully delivers this blunt quote in the middle of the film:
“If you lose the last game of the season," Beane says, "nobody gives a s***.”
While this quote oversimplifies every team’s season but the one left standing at the end, the sad reality is that there is some truth to it. No matter how outstanding a team may play for a majority of the year, losing the last game of the season puts a damper on everyone's memories of the journey to get there.
Virginia Tech baseball is experiencing this sad truth right now. The Hokies’ 11-2 defeat to Oklahoma in Game 3 of their NCAA Super Regional series will probably leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of everyone associated with the program. Fans will undoubtedly be disappointed in how things ended, but nobody will be more upset than the players and coaches who lost the game.
Sunday’s loss was inevitable to a degree — Virginia Tech’s historically explosive lineup was bound to have a clunker of a game at some point, and the Hokies’ pitching staff, which had plenty of its own struggles throughout the season, failed to pick them up. Tech had just two hits and scored just two runs, while every Tech pitcher allowed at least one run to score.
The loss stung Sunday and it still stings now. And while it’s worthy to talk about why Virginia Tech lost the final game of their season, it’s also worthy to remember what this season meant for the Hokies’ baseball program.
For most of my adult life, Virginia Tech baseball has been a doormat. The Hokies never made any noise in the ACC and they were nationally irrelevant. Chuck Hartman built a very solid program in the 1990s and Pete Hughes took the Hokies to two NCAA Regionals in the 2010s, but the program largely failed to put themselves on the map.
John Szefc was hired to change that. He was put in a position to take advantage of a massive English Field renovation by recruiting better talent and building a program capable of developing that talent. Szefc left a solid program at Maryland to build something on his own and through four seasons, it was unclear as to how much success he was having in that endeavor.
This year was proof that Whit Babcock’s patience and faith in Szefc was well-founded. Tech finished first in the ACC regular season standings, winning 45 games overall. Not only did Tech make their first NCAA Regional since 2013, but the program played in a Super Regional for the first time in the school’s history. They hosted both of those regionals, too, something that wasn’t realistic just a few short years ago.
Back then, Virginia Tech was losing the last game of the season, too. But there is no comparison from now to then.
The Hokies will rebound. Plenty of talent returns for another season in Blacksburg and with some hard work and a little bit of luck, Virginia Tech will be in contention for another NCAA Regional appearance.
So yes, it’s alright to be upset about losing the last game of the season. But I’m reminded of another Moneyball quote that addresses just that sentiment.
“I want it to mean something,” Beane says.
While Tech didn’t win it all, this season did mean something. And that’s a damn good consolation.
Hokie teams have celebrated some great wins & championships in various sports during the 2021-2022 school year. Tho' I am a UVA alumnus, I've always pulled for Tech & other Virginia teams against "outsiders." Virginia Tech's accomplishments in many men's & women's sports this past season have reflected quite positively on the Commonwealth. Congrats.