Diamond Heels Rally By Hokies In Series Opener
The North Carolina baseball team rallied past Virginia Tech Friday night, earning a 3-2 victory to improve to 25-18 on the season and even the ACC record at 11-11.
With the defeat, the Hokies dropped to 18-23-1 on the year and 7-15 in conference play.
In the first inning, starting UNC pitcher Trent Thornton worked his way out of a jam.
Carolina’s Wood Myers was struck in the hand by a pitch in the second inning and hit the ground for a few minutes. He recovered to take his base, but he was replaced shortly after by Alex Raburn. After the game, Myers was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture in one of his fingers and should be out at least four weeks.
Michael Russell recorded Carolina’s first hit of the night in the bottom of the third inning, slipping one up the line by the third baseman. But no runs would come off his efforts.
A double play for the Tar Heel defense put an end to the Hokie offense in the top of the fourth, but the Carolina bats continued to struggle against Virginia Tech slinger Sean Keselica.
A double by Virginia Tech’s Logan Bible put Thornton under pressure once again in the fifth inning with two men on base and no outs. But the sophomore displayed tremendous tenacity, escaping the inning with no damage.
The top of the sixth inning produced some more trouble for Thornton. This time, an error and a stolen base put runners on both corners with one out. And matters got worse when Keselica was walked to load the bases.
Thornton could not go unscathed to this challenge, surrendering two runs that gave the visiting Hokies the 2-0 advantage.
Adam Pate’s leadoff hit in the bottom of the sixth spurred on an offensive explosion from the Tar Heels with walks and base hits aplenty. The Virginia Tech first baseman dropped the ball on a chance for a double play. The Tar Heels cashed in with two runs to tie the game at 2-2.
Trevor Kelley replaced Thornton on the mound in the seventh inning, delivering some stress-free innings of work with the game hanging in the balance.
Pate once again found his way first base to open proceedings in the bottom of the eighth. Russell followed with a double, his sixteenth of the season.
The Tar Heels grabbed the 3-2 lead thanks to another blown chance at a double play for the Hokies.
Kelley was relieved of his pitching duties by Reilly Hovis in the ninth inning. Hovis closed out the tight contest in style to the delight of the Tar Heel faithful in attendance.