Tar Heel Baseball Outlasts Virginia Tech in Wild 11-10 Win
Brian Miller’s sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning broke a 10-10 tie, and helped the #23 Tar Heel baseball team pick up a wild 11-10 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday afternoon in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Carolina moves to 24-15 on the season, with an even 10-10 mark in the ACC, while the loss sends the Hokies back to 19-21 overall and 8-12 in the conference.
On a day that included three bases loaded hit-by-pitches, four multiple run rallies, 14 walks, and saw neither starting pitcher make it longer than two innings, UNC held on at the end thanks to Miller’s sac fly and a strong 4.1 inning relief performance from Trent Thornton (2-4).
Brian Miller’s eighth inning sacrifice fly provided the difference. (UNC Athletics)
Like a young kid on a swing-set, this game was back and forth all day long.
In a rather bizarre turn of events, the Tar Heels scored four runs in the top of the first inning without even getting a hit against Virginia Tech starting pitcher Jon Woodcock. After getting the UNC lead-off man, Miller, to fly-out to begin the game, Woodcock walked the next five men he faced, and then hit the sixth–allowing Skye Bolt, Landon Lassiter, and Tyler Ramirez to come all the way around and score.
Woodcock was then done for the day after picking up just one out, with the junior credited with a fourth earned run in the frame when Carolina freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth hit a sacrifice fly off his replacement, Chris Monaco.
The Hokies were not rattled though, as they answered back immediately against super freshman JB Bukauskas with four runs of their own.
Four of their first five batters reached base against Bukauskas, with left-fielder Erik Payne’s two-run single cutting the lead in half, before first baseman Brendon Hayden’s second two-run homer in as many days erased the whole thing, making it a whole new ball-game tied at four apiece–after just one inning.
Brendon Hayden hit a two-run homer for Virginia Tech on Friday, and then again on Saturday. (Virginia Tech Athletics)
Crazily enough, the teams each tacked on a few more runs in the third in similar fashion, with the Hokies eventually snatching the lead and chasing Bukauskas from the game.
In Carolina’s turn at the plate Chris Monaco hit Tyler Ramirez with a pitch, allowed a single to Korey Dunbar, and walked Joe Dudek–all with the bases loaded–to put the UNC small-ball attack in business.
Second baseman Eli Sutherland hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Ramirez, and then Dunbar scored on a sacrifice bunt by Logan Warmoth, because of a fielding error on Virginia Tech catcher Andrew Mogg at home plate, putting the Tar Heels back in front– even though they had amassed their six runs with just one hit.
But the Brendon Hayden show was not done yet, as the 6’6″ senior out of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin followed a pair of no-out walks with a game-tying two-run double. Hayden would then score to put his team ahead on another RBI double, this one by designated hitter Sean Keselica.
Seven runs was enough for UNC head coach Mike Fox to end the shakiest start of Bukauskas’ young career after just two innings.
UNC second baseman Eli Sutherland had three RBI on the day, two coming from bases loaded hit-by-pitches. (UNC Athletics)
He replaced the freshman with his go-to relief man, senior Trevor Kelley, who allowed another run to cross the plate before getting out of the inning– on a controversial bases loaded hit-by-pitch call, which ended up getting Coach Fox ejected from the game, after Fox unsuccessfully argued that Tech’s Mac Caples was not hit, but actually tipped the ball foul.
So of course, the Tar Heels went ahead and put together a rally for their leader.
Loading the bases in the top of the fifth with no outs, Carolina got one run back on Skye Bolt’s ground-out, and then followed up with a two-run single to left-field by Landon Lassiter. The inning wasn’t done until the Tar Heels scored a fourth time after Eli Sutherland was plunked by reliever Luke Scherzer (1-3) for the third bases loaded hit-by-pitch of the game, swinging momentum back into the visiting dugout yet again.
The Hokies got one run back in their next time at the plate, when center-fielder Saige Jenco drove in a run to make it 10-9, but that play spurred the Tar Heels to pull Trevor Kelley in favor of Trent Thornton, who put an end to the fifth with UNC still ahead.
Keeping with the theme of the game though, Virginia Tech made sure to tie the game against Thornton in the bottom of the sixth on Sean Keselica’s second RBI of the day–making it an outrageous 10-10 tie entering the seventh inning stretch.
Finally though, the game would be decided, when Eli Sutherland doubled off Scherzer to lead off the Tar Heels’ eighth inning effort, and later scored on Miller’s sacrifice fly, while Thornton settled down after the sixth to pitch three straight scoreless innings to keep the Hokies offense at bay the rest of the game–earning a crucial win for his team–and avoiding the first series loss to Virginia Tech since Mike Fox took over as head coach in 1999.
The series rubber match is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m, with Carolina senior Benton Moss (5-0, 3.25 ERA) set to take the mound. Virginia Tech’s starting pitcher is yet to be announced. The game will be shown on ESPN3 and broadcast live on WCHL.
- Prior to today, JB Bukauskas’ worst start was against UCLA, currently ranked #3. In that, just his second career start, Bukauskas lasted 4.2 innings and gave up five earned runs.
- Brendon Hayden extends his Virginia Tech team lead in home runs with today’s being his ninth of 2015.
- Freshman infielder Zack Gahagan, who has started in 30 of the Tar Heels’ 39 games, was not in the lineup,with junior Alex Raburn getting the start at third base.
- Virginia Tech’s pitchers hit five Tar Heel batters and walked 10.
FINAL BOX SCORE
Hokies Stun UNC Baseball: Just Second Loss to VT in Fox Era
On the strength of a five-run sixth inning, the Virginia Tech Hokies rallied to defeat the #23 UNC baseball team by a score of 8-3 on Friday night for a surprise upset victory in Blacksburg, Virginia at English Field.
Coming into the game, UNC head coach Mike Fox boasted a 27-1 record all-time against Virginia Tech, but on this night the Hokies’ huge inning gave them their elusive second victory against Fox. Their last win over Carolina came in 2007.
The Tar Heels fall below .500 in the ACC with the loss, dropping to 9-10 in the conference, while their overall record slips to 23-15. Virginia Tech jumps to 8-11 in the league and 19-20 in total after the big win.
Zac Gallen cruised through the first five innings, but found trouble in the sixth. (UNC Athletics)
Trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Hokies struggled to string together hits against UNC starting pitcher Zac Gallen (2-3) through the first half of the proceedings–but everything changed when shortstop Alex Perez stepped to the plate to lead things off.
Perez hit a solo shot to tie the game, giving new life to the Virginia Tech dugout.
Then the floodgates opened up.
Erik Payne singled in the next at-bat, before immediately coming home on a home run by first baseman Brendon Hayden. When Sean Keselica singled to mark the fourth consecutive hit for the Hokies, Gallen’s outing was done.
Coach Fox turned to his NCAA leader in relief appearances, senior Trevor Kelley, to try and get out of the inning without any more damage, but two wild pitches by Kelley, along with an RBI single by third baseman Ryan Tufts, led to two more Hokie runs–with the Tar Heels all of a sudden finding themselves in a four-run hole.
Leading the charge for UNC on offense was junior left-fielder Landon Lassiter, who went 3-5, with an RBI triple in the top of the seventh, which scored Skye Bolt and brought Carolina back within three.
Landon Lassiter accounted for three of the Tar Heels 10 hits on Friday. (UNC Athletics)
However, that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.
A two-run double by the Hokies’ second baseman Sam Fragale off of UNC reliever Spencer Trayner in the bottom of the seventh increased the lead to five, where it would stay until the finish.
Two scoreless innings from Luke Scherzer and Aaron McGarity kept the Tar Heels from putting up a late game fight, allowing singles to Brian Miller and Skye Bolt, but nothing more–sealing the upset win for the home team.
Carolina gets a chance at redemption in Game Two of the series on Saturday, as they’ll send freshman phenom JB Bukauskas (3-1, 2.68 ERA) to the mound to face off with Virginia Tech left-hander Jon Woodcock (2-2, 3.66 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on WCHL’s airwaves.
- Tyler Ramirez doubled in the top of the third inning off of Tech starter Kit Scheetz (2-1), scoring Landon Lassiter to give the Tar Heels the first lead of the game.
- Virginia Tech’s Alex Perez, who homered to begin the sixth inning rally, went 2-4 with two RBI, also driving in a run with a double in the bottom of the third.
- Tar Heel pitchers struck out only two batters for the entire night (Gallen and Kelley each had one).
- UNC continued to struggle with runners in scoring position, going 1-11 in that situation on Friday.
ACC Race Heats Up As UNC Baseball Visits Virginia Tech
As one of five teams tied at 9-9 in the ACC, the UNC baseball team hopes to distance itself from the crowd this weekend, heading to Virginia Tech to face the Hokies in an important three-game conference series.
Overall, the Tar Heels are 23-14 this season, while Virginia Tech is 18-20, with a 7-11 mark in league play.
The Tar Heels sit tied for second in the ACC Coastal Division with Georgia Tech, while Wake Forest, Clemson, and Notre Dame are all tied for third in the Atlantic division.
As tight as the standings are, that’s not the main focus for UNC head coach Mike Fox.
“We don’t focus on any of that. We don’t put the standings up [in the clubhouse], we don’t put the statistics up there, [the players] have all that stuff if they want it,” Fox says.
The Tar Heels know each game at the end of the season will be a battle. (UNC Athletics)
“But they’re silly if they start looking at all of that, we’ve just gotta get better as a team game by game, and do what we can to play a little bit better.”
Sophomore first baseman Joe Dudek shares similar thoughts when he says that it’s all about keeping a focused mindset in a league as competitive as the ACC.
“We understand how competitive this league is, and having to go out there and be focused every pitch, from the first one to the last one, is important,” says Dudek.
“I think we have good focus. As long as we keep doing the little things right, I think we’ll win some games.”
Although UNC has won six of its last seven games, and three of its last four in the conference, Coach Fox still sees one glaring problem that needs to be fixed as the games gain more significance from here on out.
“The frustrating thing is we just don’t move the ball as much as we need to,” says Fox, “Strikeouts are strikeouts, they happen, but we seem to strikeout a lot with people in scoring position.”
For them to improve, Fox says his hitters can’t rely on just one player to do all the heavy lifting.
“We can’t rely on one or two guys in our lineup. We’ve gotta have some production from the bottom of the order. We’ve been really streaky offensively. Guys get hot and then they go in the other direction,” Coach says.
Despite a recent slump offensively, Zack Gahagan has remained sharp at third base. (UNC Athletics)
“Our freshmen are really facing that time of the year where I don’t know whether they’re tired, or if they’re pressing a little bit. Other teams watch and know your weaknesses, and you have to make adjustments. So we’ll have to get those guys going.”
Freshmen infielders Logan Warmoth and Zack Gahagan started off the year hot enough to where Coach Fox was hitting them in the number three and four spots in the batting order as recently as March 28th at home against #10 Miami. But recent struggles have pushed Warmoth (.254, 1 HR, 18 RBI) into the ninth, and final, spot in the order, while Gahagan (.239, 2 HR, 27 RBI) has been hitting fifth.
The man who’s had the hot bat for UNC recently, though, is Joe Dudek, with a .317 batting average, and a team-leading slugging percentage of .585–including going 4-9 with two RBI in his last three games. Dudek says he’s confident that this team has the right attributes to make a run late in the season.
“I think this team’s got a lot of fight,” Dudek says, “We’re a gritty team. I think this month is just gonna show. We’ve been putting it together–haven’t had exactly the results we were looking for in some games, couple tough losses here and there–but I think it’s all coming together well, and I think it’s gonna translate into a lot of wins down the stretch.”
Trevor Kelley has been hailed as the team’s “savior” by Coach Mike Fox for his ability to pitch in nearly every game. (UNC Athletics)
Unfortunately, Carolina’s bullpen took a hit on Tuesday when it was announced that junior reliever Reilly Hovis, the 2014 closer, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, putting even more pressure on senior Trevor Kelley (the NCAA leader in relief appearances with 26) to continue carrying the load, says Coach Fox.
“[Kelley’s] been invaluable for us because he’s pitched well, but also because our bullpen’s somewhat kinda been in flux, and hasn’t been as deep as we want it to be, and need it to be, so we’ve used him probably more than we would have liked to have.”
Zac Gallen (2-2, 2.92 ERA) will make the start for the Tar Heels on Friday against the Hokies’ Kit Scheetz (1-1, 6.31 ERA), with first pitch set for 5:30 p.m.
- UNC is 27-1 against Virginia Tech under Mike Fox.
- Former Tar Heel starting pitcher Robert Woodard, the winningest pitcher in UNC baseball history (34-5), is in his second season as the pitching coach for the Hokies.
- First baseman Brendon Hayden leads the Virginia Tech offense, with seven home runs and 33 RBI, along with a .301 batting average.
Carolina Baseball Completes VT Series Sweep
The North Carolina baseball team is rolling once again. With a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium, the Tar Heels completed a series sweep over the Virginia Tech Hokies and improved to 27-18 overall and 13-11 in league play.
With the loss, the visiting Hokies dropped to 18-25-1 on the year and 13-11 in the ACC.
Carolina was made to work in all three games of the weekend, but earned gutty come-from-behind victories in every one of them, including on Sunday, when Tyler Ramirez’s sacrifice fly sent Michael Russell across home plate in the bottom of the ninth to snatch the sweep.
The in-form Russell extended his career-long hitting streak to 17 games with three hits in the series finale as Carolina extended its head-to-head dominance against Virginia Tech. Head Coach Mike Fox’s team hasn’t lost to the Hokies since 2007.
The Carolina bullpen’s tenacity coupled with timely, opportunistic hitting provided the winning formula for a UNC team that has been searching for some momentum heading into postseason play.
The Tar Heels will next play host to East Carolina Tuesday at 6 p.m. before taking an exam break. Carolina will have revenge on its mind as the Pirates defeated the Tar Heels down in Greenville just last week.
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.
Diamond Heels Host Hokies With Targets On Backs
The North Carolina baseball team, 24-18 on the season, opens a three-game ACC series with Virginia Tech, 18-22-1 overall, Friday at Boshamer Stadium
The Diamond Heels are coming in to their matchup with the Hokies off a much needed Wednesday victory over an in-form Liberty team ranked No. 30 in the nation.
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Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is in desperate need of success. The Hokies are on the outside looking in right now in the ACC race. Only the top ten squads in the league standings make the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. The Hokies sit in eleventh position while the Tar Heels check in at No. 8.
One of the keys to deciding this weekend’s series will be Carolina’s run support for its pitching staff.
Head Coach Mike Fox says UNC’s offensive catalyst runs through the hard working Michael Russell.
“He started off a little slow – just trying a little bit too hard. He’s kind of settled in and is playing with a lot of confidence. He’s such a hard worker and very detailed-oriented. He wants to win,” Coach Fox says.
Coach Fox says freshman slinger Zac Gallen’s struggles from the mound this year are surprising considering how well he performed in the lead-up to the 2014 campaign.
“What’s funny about Zach is that in the fall, he didn’t walk a batter. He was the best strike thrower on our team. He’s hit a little rough patch there where he hasn’t had the command,” Coach Fox says.
Carolina’s up-and down season may have a lot to do with the extreme youth and inexperience on the roster. But Coach Fox and the players aren’t making any excuses.
Coach Fox says his guys have to be fired up and ready to compete at the highest level every outing, especially due to the name on the front of their jerseys.
“Us being the state school and obviously our history, we got a target on us no matter what. If you don’t like Carolina, you generally dislike Carolina. That’s the case. But I think once the game starts, it’s just kids competing against one another,” Coach Fox says.
The Tar Heels will have another opportunity to defend their home turf this weekend for what is shaping up to be a beautiful three days at Boshamer Stadium.
Carolina leads the all-time series with Virginia Tech 64-23-2 and has not lost to the Hokies since way back in 2007.
No. 1 UNC Baseball Takes Six-Game Winning Streak On the Road
CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 UNC baseball team returns to the road this weekend to take on Virginia Tech in a three-game ACC series beginning Friday evening.
The Tar Heels extended their winning streak to six on Wednesday with a 7-5 win over Liberty. The Hokies are coming off the same decision, but in ten innings against Longwood. Prior to that Virginia Tech had some trouble against No. 25 N.C. State dropping all three after an 8-7, 14-inning decision opened the series.
The Hokies have struggled in-conference this season as they sit 7-8, a game ahead of the Coastal Division’s last place Miami Hurricanes. The Tar Heels have held on to the ACC’s best record at 12-2 and are one game ahead of Virginia in the Coastal.
Junior Kent Emanuel will get the start for Carolina on Friday; he’s 6-1 on the season with a 1.30 ERA.
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. WCHL will join the contest in progress after the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.
No. 1 UNC Baseball Tops Liberty With Help From Colin Moran Grand Slam
CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 UNC baseball team blew past Liberty with a grand slam by its homerun leader to take win number 31 on the season, 7-5 Wednesday night at the Bosh.The Flames are one of just a few teams to have an early lead on the Tar Heels this season, but that lead didn’t last long. The 1-1 tie after three was taken over by Carolina in the fifth when junior Colin Moran hit his team-leading eighth homerun, a grand slam that batted in freshman Landon Lassiter, junior Brian Holberton, and freshman Matt Campbell.
The Tar Heels added a security run in the sixth and one in the seventh, and despite four runs by the Flames in the top of the ninth, took the 7-5 decision.
With the win, North Carolina improved to 31-2; Liberty fell to 18-16.
The Tar Heels return to ACC play this weekend with a three-game series against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia beginning Friday at 5:30 p.m. That contest will be joined in progress at 6:00 p.m. immediately following the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.