BLACKSBURG, Va. – For the second time this weekend, Virginia Tech entered the bottom of the ninth down three and were able to push two runs across and have the tying run on base. However, also for the second time North Carolina was able to get the final out and the win, taking the final game of the three-game ACC series, 7-6, at English Field Sunday afternoon.
Tim Smalling, Ronnie Shaban, and Michael Seaborn opened the final frame with three straight singles – Seaborn’s driving in Smalling – before the Tar Heels went to their pen, brining in Chris Munnelly for Cody Penny, who got the save Saturday.
After getting one out, Chad Pinder, who had four hits on the day, singled home to load the bases. One out later, Jake Atwell drew a bases loaded walk to bring in Shaban and pull Tech to within one.
Tony Balisteri, who reached base all five times prior with three hits and two walks, laced a ball into centerfield, but it would not drop, ending the game and earning Munnelly his first save of the year.
As has been the case in their prior five ACC games, the Hokies found themselves trailing after the top of the second. They had a chance to end the inning, but couldn’t complete the double play. Seth Baldwin then singled home the first run and a double steal made it 2-0.
Tech (12-10, 0-6) answered in the bottom of the frame with three straight hits to start the inning. Seaborn singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Matt Blow’s double. Pinder then brought home Blow with a single and Balisteri hit a two-out double to plate Pinder.
The lead was short-lived as the Tar Heels scored on in the third and two in the fourth with Jesse Wierzbicki singling home Jacob Stalling and Tommy Coyle knocking in a pair with a double.
The Hokies got one back in the fifth, but it could have been more. With Atwell and Balisteri each singling to lead off the inning, Johnny Morales laid down his second sacrifice bunt of the game, but as UNC starter Michael Morin came up to field the ball, he fell to the ground hurting his leg, but still tried to make the play. He threw wide, allowing one run to score and put runners on second and third.
Three batters and three relief pitchers later, the Tar Heels got out of the inning without another run crossing the plate.
North Carolina (18-3, 4-2) then tacked on single insurance runs in the sixth and ninth to pad its lead, while it used two more pitchers to keep the Hokies off the scoreboard.
Tech left seven runs on base in the fifth, sixth and seventh, while stranding 13 total.
Along with Pinders four hits, four other Hokies had multi-hit games, including Balisteri and Seaborn with three, and Shaban and Atwell with two.
The Hokies will play one games this week – at Liberty, Tuesday with a 3 p.m. start – before heading north for their next ACC series against Boston College.
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