Behind stellar pitching and capitalizing on situations with runners in scoring position, the No. 7 seed North Carolina baseball team (35-21) beat the No. 2 seed Virginia Cavaliers (45-12), 10-2, to advance to the ACC tournament semifinals and retain a chance to defend their title.
After a dominant performance to begin the ACC Tournament in their win over Georgia Tech to begin pool play, the Diamond Heels used that offensive momentum and took an early lead against the Virginia Cavaliers. Junior Mac Horvath drew a walk and stole second, junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake then reached on an error, scoring Horvath and notching the Tar Heels their first run of the game.
UNC starting pitcher Jake Knapp was the story of the bottom of the first frame. Knapp struck out the ACC Player of the Year Kyle Teel to end the inning as well as UVA’s leadoff hitter.
UVA was able to plate a run on an error by Van De Brake on a routine ground ball to second.
The Tar Heel bats woke up in the fourth frame, fueled by big swings and base hits from junior catcher Tomas Frick, junior designated hitter Alberto Osuna and junior first baseman Hunter Stokely. Frick singled on his first-seen pitch to left field and advanced to second as junior third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi drew a walk. Both players were moved and eventually scored by a Stokely single and an Osuna double. Junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson upped the Tar Heel lead to three for the final score of the frame on a sacrifice fly, scoring Stokely.
While UVA never found any lasting offensive momentum, Ethan Anderson lit the eyes of the bull at the Durham Athletic Park with a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth, closing their gap to the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels responded to UVA by capitalizing on a situation with runners in scoring position, as Wilkerson singled to right, Horvath was intentionally walked and Van De Brake drew a walk, loading the bases with one out. Frick hit a two-RBI single to left field past the outstretched glove of UVA shortstop Griff O’Ferrall, sending Wilkerson and Horvath home and bumping the Tar Heel score to six. Junior outfielder Patrick Alvarez continued his offensive rhythm by chipping in an RBI infield single, scoring Van De Brake and increasing the Tar Heel lead.
In a bout of deja vu in the eighth, Wilkerson singled, Horvath was intentionally walked and Van De Brake drew a walk, bringing up Frick. The catcher smashed a ball off the top of the left-center wall — inches from a grand slam — in a two-RBI double on a full count-breaking pitch bringing UNC’s total up to 10.