By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — In front of the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game at Davenport Field, Danny Hultzen turned in a performance that, by his lofty standards, was not especially memorable.
Hultzen, an All-America candidate, issued a career-high four walks Saturday afternoon and lasted only five innings in UVa’s 3-2 victory over ACC rival North Carolina. A so-so day for Hultzen, however, would qualify as a keeper for many pitchers.
The sophomore left-hander struck out five, scattered three hits and allowed only one run before freshman Branden Kline took over to start the sixth.
Virginia, ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, led 2-1 at that point, and the score was unchanged when junior closer Kevin Arico replaced Kline to start the ninth.
Arico struggled with his control, and UNC (11-14, 32-18) eventually pulled even on a fielding error by second baseman Keith Werman. The Tar Heels left two runners stranded in the ninth, though, and could only hope for extra innings.
Coastal Division leader UVa (19-6, 41-9) didn’t cooperate. Jarrett Parker led off the bottom of the ninth with a single that somehow stayed fair down the third-base line. Tyler Cannon’s sacrifice bunt moved Parker to second.
Carolina starter Matt Harvey intentionally walked John Hicks and then fanned pinch-hitter Reed Gragnani. That brought up designated hitter John Barr.
A junior from the Philadelphia area, Barr had entered the game hitting .384. He was 0 for 3 when he came to the plate in the ninth, but Barr got the better of Harvey when it counted most.
On a 3-2 pitch from Harvey, who struck out six, Barr ripped a single between shortstop and third. Parker easily beat the throw home and then, after touching the plate, sprinted toward first, ahead of a pack of teammates, to mob Barr.
This was the opener of a three-game series, and it was originally scheduled for Friday night. Mother Nature intervened, however, and so the teams got ready for a Saturday doubleheader.
The second game started around 4:45 p.m. and wasn’t nearly as well-attended as the opener, for which the attendance was 4,257.
That broke the previous Davenport record of 4,219. With the record addition of 606 seats, the stadium’s capacity is now 4,825.
After a 10-day break for final exams, UVa, predictably perhaps, looked out of sync at times Saturday. In the Cavaliers’ first 49 games, they’d committed 39 errors. They had three against the Heels.
They weren’t as sharp as usual at the plate, either. Virginia came in hitting an ACC-best .345. Against Harvey, who was still throwing nearly 95 mph in the ninth, the Wahoos were 7 for 31.
During one stretch that started in the third, Harvey retired nine batters in a row.
In the end, though, the ‘Hoos got the hits they needed to stretch their winning streak to 12 games. Parker had an RBI single in the first, and classmate Phil Gosselin added one in the second.
UVa got another strong outing from Kline, who retired the first eight batters he faced. After giving up an eighth-inning single, the 6-3 right-hander got pinch-hitter Seth Baldwin to fly out.
The game marked the return of senior catcher Franco Valdes from arthroscopic knee surgery. Valdes drew a huge ovation in the eighth when he made a sliding catch of a foul ball in front of UNC’s dugout.