Junior starting pitcher Tyler Baum was able to get out of some tough spots on the day for North Carolina, including back-to-back strikeouts in the bottom of the fourth with a runner standing on second base.
After Virginia Tech designated hitter Luke Horanski broke open the game to make it 4-0 in the fifth inning with a two-run home run, UNC wasn’t able to answer the Hokies.
The only three hits on the day for the Tar Heels came in the ninth inning, when second baseman Danny Serretti hit a one-out single to start the North Carolina rally. One batter later, Serretti was ruled out on a fielder's choice, but pinch hitter Brendan Illies reached first base safely on the play.
Illies was then removed for pinch runner Dallas Tessar, who stole second and was brought home by a single from center fielder Dylan Harris to shorten the lead to 4-1.
With the hit, Harris extended his streak reaching base to 19 consecutive games.
With two outs and Harris on first, shortstop Ike Freeman hit a single to right field that allowed Harris to reach third base. Busch represented the tying run at the plate, but hit a hard grounder to first that ended game one of the series.
Saturday — UNC 7, Virginia Tech 5
Starting pitcher Austin Bergner’s shaky start in game two allowed Virginia Tech to put numbers on the board first. Three runs scored off the junior before the third inning, including a solo home run in the second to make it 3-0.
But North Carolina seemed to turn its at bats around from the day before. Busch struck on a bases-loaded opportunity in the third inning with a single to send two runners home.
Bergner was then able to settle down with three consecutive scoreless innings. The Tar Heels evened things up at 3-3 in the fifth when a single by Freeman was followed by an RBI double from Busch.
More North Carolina damage was done in the top of the sixth. Outfielder Ashton McGee hit an RBI double that gave UNC the go-ahead run. Later in the inning, Busch hit a two-run double to give UNC a 6-3 lead.
Later, with a 6-5 lead, North Carolina was looking to add some insurance runs in the top of the ninth. The Tar Heels managed to add one when McGee grounded out into a double play that brought left fielder Dylan Enwiller in from third. The Tar Heels left game two with a 7-5 win to tie the series up.
Sunday — UNC 5, Virginia Tech 2
Sunday’s rubber match kicked off with a long three-run home run from Enwiller, a senior, in the second inning.
Busch was next to add to the North Carolina lead in the fifth with a solo home run to make it 4-0, while first-year starting pitcher Will Sandy shut down the Hokies with 5.2 scoreless innings pitched.
After Virginia Tech scored two runs in the seventh inning to cut the lead in half, UNC added one more run from a Jackson Hesterlee sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to end the game at 5-2 and take the series.
Who stood out?
First basemen Busch made the difference in Saturday's game and went 3-for-4 with two doubles and drove in five of the seven runs for the Tar Heels.
Sunday's finale was highlighted by an impressive outing from the first-year Sandy. He pitched a career high 5.2 innings while allowing only three hits to earn his second win of the season. The first-year looked seasoned on the mound and was able to get out of a third-inning jam to remain scoreless on the day.
Enwiller was able to back Sandy up with a three run shot in the second inning of game three to give the Tar Heels an early lead.
Why does it matter?
After losing to Liberty earlier on Tuesday in a 2-0 shutout, coupled with a tough offensive start on Friday, North Carolina needed to get its bats going in order to take the series.
The stellar performance from newcomer Sandy also provides more depth to the Tar Heel rotation as the season progresses. The bullpen was also able to hold Virginia Tech at the plate and has continued to help UNC this year.
When do they play next?
UNC returns to Boshamer Stadium to play Tuesday night against Campbell at 6 p.m., before taking on Duke in a three-game weekend series in Chapel Hill starting Friday.
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org