Built it in Blacksburg: The Rise of the Hammerin' Hokies

Once a doormat in the ACC, Hokies baseball is now a force to be reckoned with. How America's pastime is thriving in Blacksburg according to the Virginia Tech coaches.

[Virginia Tech Athletics]

"Build it in Blacksburg."

That was the motto when head coach John Szefc took over the Virginia Tech baseball program in 2018. What was once an idealistic slogan is now a reality: Virginia Tech baseball has arrived, and they are here to stay.

Consider everything the program achieved last year. The 2022 Hokies set a school record with 45 wins, claiming the ACC regular season championship. They made the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time in program history, falling one game shy of the College World Series.

Over time, Szefc has built the Tech program quite literally from the ground up. But the turnaround would not have been possible without support from the administration. The ascension of Virginia Tech baseball is the result of having the right head coach with the right staff in place, supplemented by an administration that provided them the resources they needed to be successful.

It took awhile to come to fruition — as most good things do — but in the end, the process was validated by the results.

This is the story of how the Hammerin' Hokies came to be.

Understanding the Game

Historically, baseball has been an afterthought in Blacksburg. Prior to Szefc's arrival, Virginia Tech had made the NCAA Tournament six times in 40 years. The Hokies had never advanced to the Super Regionals, nor won an ACC championship. Their .352 all-time win percentage in ACC play is an accurate summation of their ineptitude.

But what Tech did have was an athletics director in Whit Babock who was undeterred in his effort to bring winning baseball to the New River Valley. Babcock has been around the game for a long time: he played collegiately at James Madison, and his father was a college coach. Even before Szefc took the Virginia Tech job, he could sense the administration's commitment to the sport.

"There's a lot there beneath the covers that maybe people don't understand," Szefc said. "[Babcock] understands college baseball. He grew up in the midst of college baseball. I think he saw what other programs in this league have. Once you see this kind of thing going up — I read about it from afar, before I ever even talked to anybody from Virginia Tech — that just screams commitment."

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