CHAPEL HILL – Late season action continued to plague the No. 2 UNC baseball team as No. 7 UVA delayed a division title for the Tar Heels with a 10-4 decision Thursday night. The win also keeps the division championship alive for the Cavaliers.
The teams that are similar on paper started off step for step. After a 2-2 tie after two innings of play, Carolina jumped out to its first lead in the bottom of the third when senior Chaz Frank scored on a single from junior Colin Moran, and freshman Landon Lassiter crossed home off a fielders’ choice by fellow freshman Skye Bolt.
Virginia followed with two runs of its own, and the floodgates opened. After that pair in the fourth, the Cavaliers scored two in the fifth, one in the sixth, two more in the eighth, and one in the ninth to extend the lead to the final decision of 10-4.
Head Coach Brian O’Connor and the Virginia coaching staff trusted their starter, freshman Brandon Waddell, through the early innings as he threw seven while walking three and striking out two. The Carolina rotation was a different story. Junior Kent Emanuel threw five innings and gave up ten hits, four earned runs, two walks, and struck out six. He was followed by sophomore Trevor Kelley, sophomore Mason McCullough, and junior Shane Taylor.
With the loss, Carolina fell to 46-7, 20-6 in the ACC; Virginia improved to 44-8, 21-7. Game two of the series begins Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium. A Carolina win secures the Coastal Division championship for the Tar Heels, and they can accomplish that in either of the last two meetings of the series. You can hear all the action on WCHL and by clicking here immediately following the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/virginia-keeps-coastal-title-hopes-alive/
For the first time all season, Carolina is not in the top spot of any of the four national baseball polls; the National College Baseball Writers’ Association dropped the Tar Heels to seventh this week after falling from the top spot last week.
However, the coaches still think highly of the top-scoring team in the land. Though the pitching staff has dropped to fifth in its team earned run average with a still-impressive 2.44, the offense has not slowed down. The Tar Heel bats are bringing in an average of 8.5 runs per game.
UNC head coach Mike Fox says when it all comes down to it, you can leave the numbers behind.
“Potential is potential, as they say,” Coach Fox says. “That’s how coaches think. We’ve still got to go get it done on the field, but what we’ve done to this point has been exciting to watch. Our players have just been ready to play every single game, and we do have a good club, but the ball’s bounced our way at times.”
Virginia’s a high-scoring team as well. The Cavaliers are fourth in the country in runs scored, averaging just more than eight runs per contest. The UVA pitching staff is also quite strong throwing an ERA .55 points higher than UNC at 2.99.
Coach Fox says those numbers are not to be takeen for granted.
“Virginia’s going to run three pitchers out there against us who are as good as we’ve faced all year,” Coach Fox says. “They’re known for their pitching, and their numbers are as equal or better than ours in that regard. It’s going to be a classic matchup between two teams that are very, very similar.”
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday’s contests feature the top two teams in the Coastal Division with Carolina holding a two-game lead. One win by the Tar Heels guarantees the outright division crown as Monday’s contest against Florida State will not count as a conference game. UNC Head Coach Mike Fox said the addition of FSU was made since both teams had an open slot and the Seminoles were going to be in town practicing for the ACC tournament next week which will be held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. You can hear all the action live on WCHL and here immediately following the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/consecutive-coastal-crowns-up-for-grabs/