With its postseason hopes likely riding on the outcome, Monte Lee took a chance against top-seeded Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament.
Instead of going with left-handed pitcher Geoffrey Gilbert, who would have been going on a full five days rest, against a predominantly left-handed-hitting Hokie lineup, the Tigers chose to start Billy Barlow.
Starting in the midweek role for much of the season before moving into the Sunday slot late, the freshman hurler had been one of the Tigers' most consistent starters throughout the season. Although, starting Thursday against Virginia Tech meant going on short rest, and the results were not what anyone had hoped for, as the Hokies pummeled the Tigers 18-6.
"Virginia Tech, tremendous job tonight, swung the bats exceptionally well," Lee said. "We struggled out of the gates a little bit, they took advantage of the free 90. Just looking at their lineup going into the game, we knew that we were going to have to execute pitches and do all the little things against one of the best lineups in the country and they certainly swung the bats that way tonight."
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Barlow struggled from the outset, walking the very first batter he faced. The freshman never made it out of the third inning, allowing 5 runs (3 earned) on 3 hits, while walking 3 against the high-powered Virginia Tech offense. However, due to Gilbert not feeling fully recovered from his previous start, Lee said the coaching staff felt going with the freshman was the better option.
"Obviously, had a conversation with Geoff, and transitioning from reliever to starter is taking a little bit of toll on him from a recovery standpoint," Lee said. "He did not feel comfortable starting. He felt like he could probably give us two to three innings and he felt more comfortable coming out of the bullpen where he'd have a little more time during the game to get ready to come in and pitch. So that was the decision as to why we started Barlow instead of Geoff."
"His last two starts he went pretty deep and just the transition from the bullpen to starter is taking his toll a little bit on him. You guys remember, he had to take some time off earlier in the year because of some shoulder fatigue. So he just didn't feel quite at 100%."
With the loss, the Tigers will likely miss out on the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season, something that has not happened since 1982-86, when the program went five consecutive years without making an appearance
"I mean it's really hard, it's really hard, "Lee said. "It's tough to end the season. It's really hard to put into words the way that the end of the season feels. I've been coaching now for 22 years, played baseball. I've had my heart broken at the end of the year a lot of times. More than half my life I have been in this situation where your hearts broken at the end of the season. So it's really hard to put into words."
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