Virginia Comes Up Short In 10 Innings Against UNC

By Scott Ratcliffe

The Virginia baseball team fought back to force extra innings against 17th-ranked North Carolina Wednesday night during pool play of the ACC Championship in Durham, but the fifth-seeded Tar Heels prevailed, 3-2, after a Devin Ortiz pitch hit UNC batter Caleb Roberts in the leg with the bases loaded to bring home the winning run in the 10th.

The Cavaliers (32-23) will face No. 4 seed Miami to wrap up competition in pool play Thursday at 3 p.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, then will wait for the NCAA Division I Selection Show on Monday to find out if they have done enough to punch a ticket for the Big Dance next month. No longer able to win Pool D, a Wahoo win against the Hurricanes Thursday would certainly boost their chances.

On Wednesday, senior hurler Chesdin Harrington got the start — just his third of the season after posting solid late-season performances against Louisville on Senior Day and in the series-clincher at Virginia Tech — and he didn’t disappoint.

After sitting down the Tar Heels (39-17) in order in the first inning, Harrington got a little help from his defense as Ike Freeman singled off the wall with one down in the second. Senior center fielder Cameron Simmons played the ball off the hop and fired to second, in plenty of time to gun down Freeman for the second out.

Harrington then recorded his third strikeout to end the frame. UVA picked up three hits over the first two innings but couldn’t scratch a run across, then went down in order in the third.

Carolina’s Dylan Harris notched a leadoff walk to start the bottom-half of the third, but then UVA shortstop Tanner Morris and second baseman Nic Kent, both all-conference selections, teamed up for a 6-4-3 double play before Harrington struck out Ashton McGee to end the inning, and the game remained scoreless through three.

UNC starter Tyler Baum sat down the Cavaliers in order once again in the fourth before the Heels got on the board in their half of the inning. ACC Freshman of the Year Aaron Sabato smacked a full-count double off the scoreboard in left-center field and Freeman brought him home two batters later.

Baum fanned a pair of Wahoo batters in the fifth, as he retired 11 straight before Kent drew a walk in the top of the sixth. Fellow Virginia freshman Zack Gelof doubled to move himself and Kent into scoring position with two outs, but Simmons popped up to end the top half of the inning.

Michael Busch tripled to lead off the home-half, and then the Tar Heels doubled their lead on a Danny Serretti RBI-double. Harrington gave way to Andrew Abbott after throwing 5.1 innings, giving up six hits and the two runs while striking out eight and walking two.

Abbott got out of the inning with a picture-perfect 5-3 double play, and then the Cavalier bats started to wake up in the seventh. Senior first baseman Nate Eikhoff smoked a solo leadoff shot over the wall in right-center, his third of the year and eighth as a Cavalier, to cut the lead in half, 2-1. It was Eikhoff’s 100th career RBI and gave the Wahoo dugout a much-needed lift.

Morris led off the eighth with a walk — his first time on base all night, which stretched his on-base streak to 15 games — before Kent moved him over with his ACC-leading 12th sac bunt of the season, as Baum was chased after 7.1 innings.

The next batter, sophomore Brendan Rivoli, snuck one through the hole into right field and Morris hustled home to tie it at 2-2. Rivoli was picked off during the following at-bat before Gelof was sat down by reliever Joey Lancellotti for the third out, but it was a brand new ballgame.

Abbott picked up two more strikeouts in the bottom of the eighth and another, his fifth, to fan McGee in the ninth to send the game to extras. The ‘Hoos loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth, but Lancellotti was able to escape with a strikeout and a Morris grounder to short.

Gelof notched a two-out single in the top of the 10th but Simmons flew out to center. Busch sent one deep to lead off the bottom of the 10th, but Simmons was there to make the catch at the warning track. Sabato then drew a four-pitch walk and Abbott was replaced by Ortiz, who then walked Serretti and Freeman to load the bases before the game-clinching HBP. It broke a string of 19.1 straight innings over eight appearances that Ortiz didn’t allow a run in relief.

Freeman was 2 for 2 with an RBI, while Serretti went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a pair of doubles to lead the Heels. Sabato and Busch combined for a pair of runs and a pair of hits. Baum surrendered five hits and gave up a pair of hits, striking out six and walking a pair. Lancellotti got the win in his 2.2 innings of relief work, allowing four hits and striking out three.

Gelof had a memorable ACC Championship debut, finishing the day 3 for 5 with a double. Eikhoff was 2 for 4, while Rivoli, Kent and Morris — the team’s 1-2-3 hitters — combined to go 2 for 12 in the loss. Abbott tossed four scoreless frames, allowing just two hits while striking out five and walking three as UVA falls to 6-8 this season in one-run contests.

Comments

  1. russell marks says:

    Is anyone going to address the UVA baseball situation? They have gone from National Champs and an elite program to average overnight. They had a bunch of close loses but no reason they should be average. UVA has elite coaches, some of the best facilities in the country, no major injuries, does not seem that they have lost a bunch of recruits to the MLB draft. Is it just bad luck?

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