A top-15 matchup at Boshamer Stadium turned into a convincing win as the No. 15 North Carolina baseball team defeated No. 11 Virginia, 9-4, in its ACC opener. UNC (11-3, 1-0 ACC) used two huge offensive outbursts in the third and fifth innings to get by the Cavaliers (12-2, 0-1 ACC).
Cavalier shortstop Ernie Clement’s fly-out in the bottom of the first was a highlight in a game that started without much action. As he chased after the foul ball, he ran into the brick wall of Boshamer Stadium but was still able to extend for the catch.
The game remained scoreless until the top of the third when UNC junior righty pitcher J.B. Bukauskas — who drew a huge crowd of scouts to Friday’s game — allowed a solo home run to Virginia’s Andy Weber. Bukauskas finished the third strong with two more strikeouts, bringing his total on the day to four.
First-year second baseman Ike Freeman was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the third and advanced to second after junior center fielder Brian Miller was walked. Two batters later, Freeman tied the game at 1-1 off first-year designated hitter Ashton McGee’s RBI single.
The Tar Heels weren’t done. Junior first baseman Zack Gahagan crushed a three-run home run into left field on North Carolina’s next at-bat. Fans cheered as the ball left Boshamer, hit an equipment shed’s roof and gave UNC a 4-1 lead.
Two innings later, Kyle Datres stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered. His two-run RBI to center field gave UNC a 6-1 lead. Gahagan added another run off a bunt on the very next pitch.
The onslaught continued. Brandon Riley’s single brought two more runners home, gave the Tar Heels a 9-1 lead and forced Virginia to make a pitching change.
The Cavaliers scored three more runs in the top of the ninth, but it wasn't enough.
Who stood out?
UNC’s offense was balanced and efficient. Eight Tar Heels had hits on Friday; Datres' three led the team. Seven scored at least one run.
Bukauskas shut out the Cavaliers after allowing the third-inning home run. He finished his day with seven strikeouts and 93 total pitches in 6.0 innings.
When was it decided?
North Carolina’s momentum was already building after McGee’s game-tying RBI. Gahagan’s home run sent it through the roof.
He turned what was shaping up to be a low-scoring game into a North Carolina rout. UNC’s five-run spurt in the fifth gave cushion to an already comfortable lead.
Why does it matter?
In its first ACC game, UNC showed its potential against the No. 11 team in the country.
The Tar Heels struggled against strong opponents earlier this season, losing two games to Long Beach State and one to St. John’s. This consistency against Virginia is something UNC must keep going for success in ACC play.
Where do they play next?
UNC and Virginia will finish their three-game series tomorrow with a double-header beginning at noon.
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