BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech used a two-run rally in the ninth inning to put pressure on the Tar Heels, but closer Cody Penny got the final out for North Carolina and the visitors took the second of a three-game ACC series Saturday afternoon at English Field, 5-4.
Trailing by three entering the frame, Ronnie Shaban led off with a single, his third hit of the day, and moved to third after a pair of groundball outs. Chad Pinder drove him in with a triple to center and Chad Morgan followed with an RBI double before Penny picked up his fourth save with a strikeout to end the day.
In all, the Hokies were struck out 11 times as Tar Heel starter Kent Emanuel struck out seven of the first 10 batters he faced and through five innings allowed just two hits and a walk.
North Carolina (13-3, 3-2) gave him a four-run lead by that time, getting a timely two-out bases loaded double from Tom Zengel in the fourth inning and Levi Michael brought home Ben Bunting, who tripled to lead off the fifth, to put the Tar Heels up 4-0.
Virginia Tech (12-9, 0-5) answered back in the bottom of the fifth with a lead-off solo home run by Gabe Ortiz and Shaban plated Tim Smalling, who reached on a two-out double.
Tech started Marc Zecchino faced two batters in the sixth before Jake Joyce threw the final 3 2/3 of the game. Zecchino allowed six hits and three walks, while striking out seven.
Joyce struck out two and allowed two hits, but a costly two-out walk in the seventh was the difference in the game. Jacob Stallings drew the free pass, and on what looked like strike three to Colin Moran, Joyce was called for a balk, putting Stallings on second. Two pitches later, Moran singled home Stallings for UNC’s fifth run of the game.
Emanuel went seven innings and walked Ortiz to start the eighth, prompting the Tar Heels to go to their pen. Greg Holt finished the frame before allowing the Shaban single to lead off the ninth. Penny got the first two batters he faced before the Hokie rally, which came up short.
Emanuel improved to 3-1 after striking out nine on the afternoon, while Zecchino falls to 2-2).
The teams will complete the three-game series with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.
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