CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The last time Virginia Tech played at Virginia, the Hokies scored five runs in the top of the ninth to erase a two-run Cavalier lead and pull out a victory. Flash forward two years, and the Hokies need four runs in the top of the ninth to force extra innings, then plated two in the top of the 11th to register a 10-8 victory in their ACC opener over No. 27 Virginia on Friday evening at Davenport Field.
The big hit for the Hokies in the ninth was a bases loaded two-out single by Chad Morgan which tied the game at 7-7. Then, in the final inning of the night, a Sean Keselica RBI double followed by a Morgan sacrifice fly gave Tech a two-run lead and Clark Labitan finished the game for his third pitching victory of the season.
With the victory, Tech improves to 12-2 on the season, wins its seventh straight and improves to 3-5 in ACC season-opening games, while Virginia falls to 7-5-1 on the season.
Nine of the 10 Hokies that came to the plate in the game registered hits, the only one – Marc Zagunis – actually reached base four times, though, as he drew four walks and scored two runs. Atwell, Johnny Morales, Tyler Horan and Keselica all had a pair of hits, while Andrew Rash crossed the plate twice as well and Morgan, with three, was the only Tech player with more than one RBI.
Manny Martir started for the Hokies and went four frames, allowing just two hits, one run and struck out four. Eddie Campbell (1.1 IP) and Jake Joyce (0.2) worked the middle innings, before Andrew Aizenstadt worked 3.1 innings and struck out three. Labitan allowed just one hit over the final 1.2 innings of the game.
Alex Perez jump-started the Hokie offense, lacing a triple to center in the third and scoring on an Atwell RBI double to tie the game at 1-1. In the fourth, Rash tripled and scored on Horan’s RBI single, who then came around to put the Tech up 3-1 on a Perez sacrifice fly.
Virginia, who scored single runs in the second, fifth and 10th frames without the aid of a hit, took command of the game with a four-run sixth inning. They tacked on a seventh run in the seventh before the Hokies rallied in the ninth.
Against the Cavalier closer Branden Kline (2-2), Atwell and Zagunis started the frame with back-to-back walks, which was followed by an RBI double from Chad Pinder, who extending his hitting streak to 12 games with his 10th double of the season.
Morales would plate another run with a groundout, but runners were on the corners after Rash was hit by a pitch. Kline would get the second out of the inning on a strikeout, but – after a wild pitch – intentionally walked Keselica to face Morgan, who came through with his single.
In the 10th, Virginia looked to get out of trouble as Morales lofted a ball to right field, with Zagunis on second, but an error allowed the run to score. The Cavaliers, though, answered back in the bottom of the frame.
Kyle Wernicki, who was inserted for defensive purposes, led off the 11th with a single and scored on Keselica’s double into the right-field corner and he moved to third as the right fielder struggled with the ball. He scored an insurance run on Morgan’s third RBI of the game, and his team-leading 13th of the season.
Labitan allowed a lead-off single to start the bottom of the 11th, but a bunt attempt was popped right to him for out No. 1. Then he got Derek Fisher to ground into a double play, the Hokies’ 15th turned this season to end the game.
The two teams will continue the three-game ACC series with single games on both Saturday and Sunday with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. each day.
Additional Notes: Only three players who had appeared in tonight’s game – Rash, Martir and Joyce – had played at Virginia two years ago. Martir had gone 10 straight innings without allowing an earned run and also went 39 straight batters without allowing a hit, both dating back to the Bradley game to open the season. Tonight marked the sixth straight game Tech has reached double figures in hits and it’s the fifth time in those six games the Hokies scored at least 10 runs. Tech is now 2-8 all-time at Virginia in ACC play. The last time the Hokies played an 11-inning game was April 23, 2012 – a 3-1 win at Georgia Tech. The game lasted four hours and 36 minutes, the longest game ever played by the Hokies as a member of the ACC. Since 2005, the longest game prior was a 4:04 on March 22, 2006 at VCU, an 8-6 win in 12 innings.
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