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Middleborough’s Horan powers Virginia Tech baseball into NCAA tourney

Middleborough’s Tyler Horan has had a breakout year for Virginia Tech.

David Knachel

Middleborough’s Tyler Horan has had a breakout year for Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech placing hopes on Tyler Horan

With his thunderous power and sweet stroke, Tyler Horan has the ability to put a team on his broad shoulders for a long run. The Virginia Tech baseball team hopes to ride his hot bat all the way to the College World Series.

A junior left fielder from Middleborough via Boston College High, Horan will carry a 12-game hitting streak into Friday’s NCAA Division 1 regional first-round matchup against visiting Connecticut. The regional winners will advance to the World Series, which starts June 15 in Omaha.

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The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Horan hit at a .411 clip (7 for 17) in the recent Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, in which the Hokies (38-20) suffered a 4-1 defeat to North Carolina in the championship game.

“He’s about as hot as you can be,” said Virginia Tech seven-year coach Pete Hughes , who won 250 games in an eight-year run as head coach at Boston College prior to his hire in Blacksburg.

“He has that ability to carry a team for a two-week stretch. At one point he was 10 for 12 with five home runs and two more balls off the top of the wall.”

The 2009 BC High grad is batting a team-high .349 and also paces the Hokies in hits (84), doubles (24), triples (4), home runs (11), and slugging percentage (.618).

Last year Horan belted 15 home runs and finished second in the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby held in Omaha. This year, he is determined to be there with the rest of his teammates.

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“The goal is to win the regional tourney and get to Omaha,” said the 22-year-old Horan.

“That’s always the main goal. Going to Omaha last year for the Home Run Derby was an unbelievable experience, but to go there as a team would be exciting.”

Horan, a football/baseball standout at BC High, was recruited to Virginia Tech as a long-term project. Hughes knew that Horan focused primarily on football at BC High, and thought he could develop into a premier player by devoting himself to baseball year-round.

A red-shirt as a freshman in 2010, Horan played sparingly as a sophomore. But he burst onto the scene last year, when he batted .282 and led the team with 45 runs and 41 RBI. His success continued during the summer with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League, where he hit .343 and slugged 16 home runs in a league renowned for tough pitching.

He certainly has put himself in a favorable position for Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft June 6-8, likely in rounds 5-10.

“He has another year of college eligibility but he needs to sign,” said Hughes.

“These guys get to be 21 or 22 and the clock starts ticking. He needs to sign and see how far he can go in this game. Whatever round he is chosen in, somebody is going to get a really good player who will exceed their expectations. He’s improved every single year he’s been here, and he’ll do the same thing in the pros.”

For now, however, the focus is on winning a national title.

“We’re about the hottest team in the country right now and Tyler is a big reason why,” said Hughes, whose club has won eight of its last nine games, and 13 of its last 15.

“We need to get him cranked up again to make a run to Omaha.”

Here and there

Rockland’s Terrence Gibson sprinted to a fourth-place finish in the 110 meter hurdles Saturday to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Division 3 Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted by Wisconsin-La Crosse. The Worcester State sophomore posted a time of 14.68 seconds, 0.25 seconds off the winning mark. The All-American honors are the second for Gibson, who captured the 60-meter hurdles title during the indoor season. His time of 8.04 seconds was the ninth-fastest split in Division 3 history. . . .

Pembroke’s Amanda Clafin earned two more All-America honors at the D3 championships. She was part of the Wheaton College 4x100 relay team that finished third in the country (46.85 seconds). She also ran a leg of the 4x400 team that earned All-American honors by turning in a season-best time of 3:46:75. Weymouth’s Samantha Bennett also ran a leg on the 4x400 relay, earning her second All America honor. Clafin previously earned All-American honors with her sixth-place finish running the 60 meters indoors in March. . . .

Endicott College senior first baseman Brett Holmgren (Middleborough) has been named to the Rawlings Division 3 All-America Gold Glove team. In 45 games, Holmgren made just two errors in 478 total chances for a fielding percentage of .996. He set a school record for most putouts in a season (443) and his career fielding percentage (.996) is second best all-time at Endicott. He led the Commonwealth Coast Conference in putouts, chances, and fielding percentage. At the plate, he hit .354 with 28 RBIs and a .435 on-base percentage. The Gulls won a record 35 games this season, capturing their first CCC title since 2006 and coming within one game of the College World Series. . . .

The deadline is approaching for the Future Leaders Scholarship offered by the Bay State Games. Student athletes who wish to receive one of the scholarships must be in the 11th grade as of the 2012-13 academic year. Applicants also must agree to participate in the 2013 Bay State Winter or Summer Games. Application deadline is June 12. For more information call 781-932-6555 or e-mail Taylor Kale at taylor@baystategames.org.

John R. Johnson can be reached at jjrfid@gmail.com.

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