UNC holds off Virginia Tech 5-3, advances to pool play
Posted May 19, 2015
Durham, N.C. — North Carolina got the recently elusive timely hits Tuesday and took advantage of a host of Virginia Tech miscues to advance to pool play of the ACC baseball tournament with a 5-3 win.
Virginia Tech committed two errors on the day leading to four unearned runs for the Tar Heels and the Hokies were unable to take advantage of early baserunners of their own.
UNC sophomore Zac Gallen gutted-out 6.2 strong innings to earn the win before turning it over to Trevor Kelley who threw 2.1 innings to pick up the save.
"My goal was to get us as deep as I could because I know we have a long week ahead," Gallen said.
North Carolina (33-22, 13-16 ACC) had struggled to score runs late in the season, tallying more than two runs just once in their final five conference games. They scored three times in the fourth on Friday to build a lead they never looked back from.
"We needed a break and we took advantage with some two-out hits," said UNC head coach Mike Fox. "We haven't had three runs in an inning in a while so that was big for us."
Landon Lassiter’s seemingly harmless fly ball to center field to lead off the inning was dropped by Saige Jenco, allowing Lassiter to get to third and leading to a big inning. Skye Bolt delivered a sacrifice fly just two pitches later to tie the game at 1.
A double by Adam Pate later in the inning ignited the offense again. After advancing to third on a passed ball, Pate scored on a two-out infield single by Logan Warmouth. Warmouth scored a couple pitches later on a single to right by Zack Gahagan.
UNC tacked on an important fourth run in the fifth inning on some more Virginia Tech miscues. A single to left by Alex Raburn was misplayed by Erik Payne, allowing the Tar Heels second baseman to reach second. Raburn moved up to third on a wild pitch and was then able to jog home on a RBI groundout by Bolt.
"When we get runners on thried and have the bases loaded, we need to score," Fox said. "That's what good teams do."
Lassiter and Raburn combined for five hits on the afternoon, helping Bolt to a two-RBI game.
The Tar Heels added their fifth run in the eighth inning on a Elijah Southerland bunt single that scored Korey Dunbar from third after Dunbar led off the inning with a double.
The right-hander Gallen saw his pitch count elevate early with a pair of walks and allowed seven Virginia Tech baserunners through the first four innings. He stranded six of them, four in scoring position.
"The main thing was to keep my composure and make my pitches," Gallen said. "Luckily for me, I was able to make my pitches and the defense made the plays behind me."
Virginia Tech (27-27, 13-16 ACC) was able to grab a 1-0 lead in the second inning on an RBI single by Jenco, but Gallen escaped further damage by leaving the bases loaded. His exit was forced with two outs in the seventh after an Alex Perez RBI single to right brought the tying run to the plate. Kelly ended the threat by striking out Payne.
Gallen finished the day with seven strikeouts and two earned runs, throwing an even 100 pitches.
"I don't think he had his best stuff earlyon, but he got us to the seventh," Fox said.
Virginia Tech made it a 4-3 game in the eighth inning on a pair of UNC errors, but Kelley got Hokies pinch hitter Phil Sciretta to strike out with runners on the corners to end the threat with no further damage.
"He struck out the right guys," Virginia Tech head coach Patrick Mason said of Kelley who sat down five of the 11 batters he faced. "He did a great job. I thought his slider was better than when we saw him in Blacksburg."
Virginia Tech starter Kit Scheetz was the tough-luck loser as all three of his runs surrendered in four innings of work were unearned. Luke Scherzer allowed the unearned run in the fifth.
"I think in that fourth inning, they started to see the ball," Mason said. "They did a good job of getting their pitches early in the count."
The game was delayed roughly 45 minutes in the seventh inning as a storm passed through Durham. When play resumed, UNC loaded the bases with one out forcing the Hokies to go to the bullpen. Reliever Aaron McGarity forced Tar Heels pinch hitter Brian Miller to ground into a double play to end the threat.
"We liked that matchup," said Mason. "We knew they were going to pinch-hit Miller and felt like he was a good ground ball guy with that inside-out swing. It's not often you draw something like that up and it happens."
With the win, UNC advances to the pool play round of the tournament at DBAP. The Tar Heels will play top-seed Louisville Wednesday night at 7 p.m. They will then play No. 4 seed Florida State Thursday at 7 p.m. and No. 5 Clemson Friday at 3 p.m.
"Obviously we are playing one of the best teams in he country," Fox said. "We will have to play pretty much a perfect game."
Virginia 11, Georgia Tech 0
Tuesday’s tournament opener was all Virginia as they run-ruled the defending tournament champs and nearly got a perfect game from starting pitcher Josh Sborz in the process.
Pitching with a comfortable lead all day, Sborz needed just 89 pitches to complete seven innings of work. He was perfect through six innings before Georgia Tech pinch hitter Ryan Peurifoy led off the seventh with a double. Sborz then pitched around two walks to preserve the shutout.
Virginia bats hit two home runs on the day. A pair of two-run shots by Daniel Pinero and Pavin Smith provided four of the Cavaliers runs. Pinero finished with four RBIs on the day.
Virginia advances to Pool B and will play No. 2 seed Miami Wednesday at 3 p.m. They will have Thursday off before playing No. 3 Notre Dame Friday morning at 11 a.m. and NC State Saturday at 7 p.m.