By: Greg Waters
Will Roberts went five strong innings over a nine-hour period and Branden Kline pitched the final inning and 2/3 as the Virginia Cavaliers (47-9) improved to 2-0 in pool A of the ACC Tournament.
Kenny Swab paced the hot-hitting Cavaliers going 4-for-5 including two doubles while delivering 4-RBI.
Justin Thompson (3-1) picked up the win in relief of Roberts working 2.1 and yielding two earned runs on five hits.
“We had many guys contribute to our success this morning and tonight,” said Virginia skipper Brian O’Connor. “Roberts coming back after throwing an inning at 11:00 AM and then coming back and pitching us into the sixth inning was really something that you rarely see. The fact that he was able to do it and keep us in the game was pretty amazing.”
The Canes used seven different pitchers who combined to give up five earned runs off 15 hits and striking out 6 Virginia batters. But when Head Coach Jim Morris needed it, his pitchers struggled to get key outs and the defense floundered at inopportune times.
“We didn’t pitch as well as we needed to pitch, and we made some crucial errors,” Morris stated. “We did some things offensively that we’ve got to do better if we’re going to beat a club as good as Virginia. We had a chance to win tonight if we would have played the game as good as we could play.”
The Hurricanes opened up the scoring in the first inning when Zeke DeVoss reached after being hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count. The next batter Rony Rodriguez crushed Roberts hanging breaking ball 400 feet over the Durham Bulls Park’s Blue Monster.
The dormant Cavalier offense which woke up Wednesday against Wake Forest got one of the runs back in the top of the third and took its first lead in the top of the sixth.
With one out Danny Hultzen reached on a throwing error by DeVoss and stole second when the first pitch to Swab sailed out of catcher Shane Rowland’s glove. Two pitches later Swab laced a single through the right side of the infield for his first RBI as Hultzen beat a laser throw from Hurricane right fielder Dale Carey. David Coleman and Jared King singled to load the bases for Keith Werman. The Virginia second baseman chopped Andrew Miller’s sinking fastball just in front of the drawn in centerfielder Nathan Melendres’ for the second run of the frame. Miller fanned Chris Taylor and John Barr to end the threat as the Hoos stranded three.
Miami quickly responded in its half of the inning as the Cavalier defense imploded beginning with rightfielder John Barr losing Harold Martinez deep fly ball in the rain. Martinez scored when Werman misplayed a choppy ground ball by Chris Pelaez. Brad Fieger singled and Pelaez advanced to third on shortstop Chris Taylor’s throwing error.
But after allowing the Canes to knot the score at 3 Thompson and the defense responded with no outs and runners at the corners. Steven Perez lined out to Werman and Thompson fanned Dale Carey and Jacob Stalling swinging to keep the score tied.
Virginia would answer in the seventh.
Hicks opened the inning by beating out an infield single to third. Steven Proscia followed with a single through the hole on the right side of the infield and Danny Hultzen reached on ball bunted just in front of the plate and Hicks beat the throw to third to load the bases for Kenny Swab with no outs.
Unlike the sixth inning, the Hoos did not leave bases loaded, as Kenny Swab tattooed a Sam Robinson pitch to clear the bases and stake the Hoos to a 6-3 lead.
It was bases loaded and I was trying to get the job done for my team,” said Swab. “Everybody stepped up before me. Two guys got on before me – [John Hicks] and [Steven] Proscia and then Danny [Hultzen]laid down a great bunt. I just wanted to lift the ball to score the run and move the guy from second to third and get another guy in tagging position.”
But as they did against UNC Thursday night the Canes would go away easily. DeVoss and Nathan Melendres opened the Miami half of the seventh with back-to-back bunt single putting two on Rony Rodriguez. But Thompson again bore down and got the Hurricane left fielder swinging with a tailing fastball. On a 3-1 count the Cavalier fireman forced Harold Martinez into a pop out to David Coleman and got Pelaez to foul-off his 0-1 offering into shallow right to keep the lead at three.
The Hoos surrendered an additional run in the bottom of the eighth and Kline retired the side in order in the ninth for his 16th save.
#4 North Carolina vs. #8 Wake Forest
The North Carolina-Wake Forest game was suspended in the top of the seventh inning at 1:55 AM with the Tar Heels leading 5-0. The game will be completed Saturday after Game 2.
DAYS BIGGEST WINNER: Not sure if Mother Nature or Virginia can claim the prize but well go with the Hoos who by virtue of their win over the Hurricanes have two chances to earn a berth in Sunday’s title game. If Miami beats Wake Forest the Cavaliers become the Pool A representative even if they lose to the Tar Heels based on the tournaments tie-breaker rules. Wins by Miami and North Carolina would lead to a three-way tie among the Heels (2-1), Hoos (2-1) and Hurricanes (2-1) with Virginia having the edge under that scenario as the top seed. If Wake can pull off an upset over Miami, the Cavalier could still win their way into the title match by defeating North Carolina.
DAY’S BIGGEST LOSER(s): Because of the 10 ½ hour marathon that was the Miami – Virginia contest, and an additional hour rain delay after game one, Wake Forest and UNC began their Friday matchup just after midnight Saturday which ending at 2:00 AM Saturday morning. The bad news, both teams get to play again this afternoon with Miami facing Wake Forest at 4:00 PM and North Carolina tangling with the Cavaliers this evening at 7:30.