Mike Smith won the battle of damage control in the first inning, enabling Richmond to defeat Virginia Tech, 5-3, yesterday in Winston-Salem, N.C., in the opening round of the NCAA baseball tournament.
Navy was defeated by top-seeded Alabama, 16-3, last night in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The fourth-seeded Midshipmen fell behind 6-1 after one inning and trailed 13-1 after the fourth as Alabama (47-14) won its 11th straight, the nation's longest current streak. Starting pitcher Shane Groover (8-3) gave up 13 runs (eight earned) on 12 hits in 3 2/3 innings for Navy, which made five errors in the game. The Midshipmen (27-21-1) will play South Alabama at 11 a.m. today in the double-elimination tournament. Southern Mississippi defeated South Alabama, 20-13.
Richmond and Virginia Tech loaded the bases with no outs in the first, but Richmond got the better of it, taking a 3-1 lead. Josh Lamberg's two-run single -- despite catcher's interference -- was the key hit off starter and loser Pat Pinkman, who had allowed only two earned runs in his last 32 innings before yesterday's outing.
Once given the lead, Smith (11-2) settled into a grove, scattering six hits and striking out seven in a 143-pitch effort against a Virginia Tech team that hit .322 during the season.
"He won't be coming back on three days' rest," Richmond Coach Ron Atkins said when informed of Smith's pitch count.
Smith's victory total tied a school record, while the second-seeded Spiders (39-15) have outscored opponents 69-15 in the first innings of games.
Leadoff hitter Nate Rewers was 3 for 5 with one run scored and one RBI for Richmond. The second baseman also made a diving stop in the first that saved two runs.
"It gave us a lot of confidence to get ahead of a team, and then we had the momentum on our side," Rewers said. "We just tried to drive that momentum throughout the rest of the game."
The right-handed Smith retired 12 of 13 batters after allowing single runs in the first and second innings, changing his style midway through from a lot of curveballs to mostly fastballs and change-ups.
After surrendering a single and RBI double to Addison Bowman in the seventh, Smith closed the game out by retiring seven of the final eight hitters.
"Give Mike Smith a heck of a lot of credit," said Virginia Tech Coach Chuck Hartman, whose club fell to 41-16 and into the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament. "He didn't really finesse us a lot. He came right after us. He was throwing in the low nineties and he was just a little quicker than some of our hitters thought."
The heart of third-seeded Virginia Tech's order was a combined 0 for 10.
Cleanup hitter Larry Bowles had his 27-game hitting streak come to an end after going 0 for 3.