BLACKSBURG, Va. – The University of North Carolina used back-to-back three-run innings and solid pitching from Patrick Johnson to hand Virginia Tech a 10-4 loss in the opening game of a three-game ACC series Friday evening at English Field.
Center fielder Ben Bunting got the Tar Heels (16-3, 2-2) off to a quick start, leading off the game with a double into the right field corner. Bunting moved to second on a groundout to second by Tommy Coyle and came home on a grounder to third off the bat of shortstop Levi Michael.
Jesse Wierzbicki delivered the big blow for UNC in the fourth inning when he smashed a two-out, three-run homer to left center off Tech starter Joe Mantiply. It was first baseman Wierzbicki’s fifth round-tripper of the season. The Tar Heels extended their lead to 7-0 an inning later on the strength of a two-run triple by Coyle and a sacrifice fly from Michael.
Tech (12-8, 0-4) managed just two base runners over the first four innings against Johnson, but the Hokie bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth, plating three runs on five hits. A one-out single by freshman right fielder Chad Pinder preceded a towering homer by senior designated hitter Matt Blow.
Consecutive two-out singles from Tony Balisteri, Michael Seaborn and Ronnie Shaban produced another run before Andrew Rash flew out to the warning track near the left field foul pole.
Johnson settled back into his early inning form working two more scoreless innings before being lifted in the top of the eighth with a runner on and nobody out. The senior right-hander picked up his fourth win without a loss. He allowed seven hits and three run over seven full innings, striking out two batters and walking two.
Mantiply took the loss in the contest, falling to 2-3. The sophomore lefty allowed eight hits and eight runs during his five innings on the mound.
UNC, which got a run on a bases-loaded walk in the top of the sixth and capped its win with a two-run ninth, finished with an 11-9 edge in hits. Bunting and catcher Jacob Stallings led the way with three hits each.
Blow, who tripled and scored the Hokies’ final run in the ninth, joined catcher Chris Kay with two hits in the game.
A couple of streaks of note that continued on Friday for Hokie hitters included Seaborn extending a hit streak to a career-high nine games and Tim Smalling reaching base now for 18 straight games.
On the mound, Manny Martir threw three innings of relief and did not allow a run extending his scoreless innings pitched to 14 straight.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday.
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