Virginia falls to Carolina, 3-2, in CWS walk-off thriller

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

The way both Virginia and North Carolina provided late-inning drama in postseason play in order to advance to the College World Series, it figured Friday’s opening game between the ACC rivals would come down to the wire.

Vance Honeycutt, the Tar Heels’ most dangerous hitter, wasn’t having a very good day against UVA pitching until it counted most. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Honeycutt collected his only hit of the game, a walk-off single to left that scored Jackson Van De Brake from third to give No. 4 North Carolina a 3-2 win over No. 12 Virginia.

Van De Brake, a pinch-hitter, had doubled down the right-field line to lead off the ninth and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt before Honeycutt delivered the winning hit off UVA side-armed reliever Chase Hungate.

The Cavaliers dropped into the elimination bracket and will face the loser of Friday night’s game between top-seeded Tennessee and No. 8 Florida State on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

Virginia had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth when leadoff batter Henry Godbout walked and advanced to third on Eric Becker’s double to left with no outs. After Bobby Whalen struck out, Griff O’Ferrall brought in Godbout on a sacrifice fly to center field for the 2-1 lead.

Carolina tied it at 2-all in the seventh when Alex Madera led off with a single down the third-base line, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and then scored when Casey Cook singled to left. UVA left fielder Harrison Didawick was charged with an error on his throw home, as the ball slipped out of his hand.

That was the end for Cavaliers starter Evan Blanco, who pitched 6.2 innings of solid baseball before giving way to Hungate.

In all, Virginia’s pitchers gave up nine hits, including the two in the bottom of the ninth. Carolina’s pitching staff scattered five hits.

UVA trailed 1-0 going into the third inning when Ethan Anderson singled up the middle, moved to third on Casey Saucke’s double down the third-base line and scored on freshman Henry Ford’s RBI single to right.

We’ll have reactions from Virginia coach Brian O’Connor and Cavaliers players in an upcoming update.