CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Brandon Downes (Fr., South Plainfield, N.J.) singled home Jared King (R-Jr., Radford, Va.) with one out in the eighth inning to lift the No. 21 Virginia baseball team to a 6-5 win over Georgia Tech Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Davenport Field. Virginia (33-14-1, 15-10 ACC) notched its ninth-consecutive win, including its sixth straight in ACC play, and in doing so clinched a berth in the ACC Baseball Championship, slated for May 23-27 in Greensboro, N.C.
Half of Virginia’s eight hits came via home runs. The Cavaliers’ four home runs were most by a Virginia team since May 1, 2010, when UVa hit four at Duke, and it was the most by the Cavaliers at Davenport Field since March 3, 2002, when UVa hit four against Seton Hall.
Stephen Bruno (Jr., Audubon, N.J.) hit a pair of homers as part of three-RBI day. Derek Fisher (Fr., Rexmont, Pa.) homered and doubled for Virginia, while Downes smacked his first career homer as part of a 2-for-4 outing.
Virginia’s bullpen again was tremendous, as UVa’s three relievers combined to toss 5.2 scoreless innings. It extended the Cavalier bullpen’s ACC scoreless innings streak to 32.2 innings.
Nick Howard (Fr., Olney, Md.) pitched a perfect eighth inning to earn the win and improve to 2-0. Justin Thompson (Sr., Danville, Va.) pitched a scoreless ninth inning to nab his ninth save. Kyle Crockett (So., Poquoson, Va.) worked 3.2 scoreless innings as well.
Alex Cruz (6-2) took the loss for Georgia Tech (30-20, 10-15) after giving up an unearned run in the eighth inning.
Neither of the staff aces figured into the final decision. UVa starting pitcher Branden Kline (Jr., Frederick, Md.) fired 3.1 innings, allowing five earned runs, five hits and three walks while striking out a pair. Georgia Tech starter Buck Farmer weathered a difficult first three innings to go six innings. He allowed five earned runs, five hits (four homers) and three walks while striking out six.
Virginia scored three times in the first inning, thanks in large part to the long ball. With one out Branden Cogswell (Fr., Ballston Lake, N.Y.) singled deep in the hole at shortstop. Bruno followed with his fifth home run of the year, a blast into the bleachers in left-center field. Fisher then took the 1-2 Farmer offering and deposited it into the first row of bleachers in right-center for his team-best seventh homer of the year. It marked the first consecutive home runs by Virginia since Jarrett Parker and John Hicks went back-to-back on June 4, 2010, against VCU.
Georgia Tech countered with two runs in the second inning. Daniel Palka was beaned by a pitch on a 2-2 count to lead off the frame. One out later Mott Hyde, Thomas Smith and Daniel Spingola hit consecutive singles, with Spingola’s hit to center scoring a pair of runs.
Downes led off the Cavaliers’ half of the second with his first career home run, a long ball over the left-center field wall.
Kline walked the bases loaded to start the third inning, but Virginia was able to escape with just one run scoring. Palka grounded out softly to first base to allow Kyle Wren to score. Zane Evans then ripped a shot to first, on which King made a diving stab; after freezing the runner at third and getting Evans at first, King caught Sam Dove in a rundown between third and home, and King tagged Dove out for the third out of the inning.
Virginia again went deep in the third as Bruno led off with his second home run of the game, a blast which cleared the wall in left-center. It marked Bruno’s first career multi-homer game and the first by a Cavalier since Hicks hit two against two against James Madison on March 16, 2011.
Georgia Tech chased Kline from the game in the fourth inning while tying the game at 5-5. With one out Smith singled, and he moved to third when Spingola doubled into the right-field corner. Crockett replaced Kline and struck out pinch hitter Chase Butler for the second out, but he walked Wren to load the bases and then gave up a two-run single to center by Dove.
The Cavaliers moved ahead in the eighth. Fisher hit a high fly to lead off which dropped in between the left and center fielder and shortstop, with Fisher hustling all the way for a double. King then reached when Dove booted a hard grounder to third base, which allowed Fisher to move to third. Colin Harrington (R-So., Johnstown, Pa.) laid down a bunt in front of the plate, but Cruz made a nice play to scoop up the ball and tag Fisher before he touched the plate for the first out. Downes followed with a solid single to left, scoring King from second to give Virginia the lead once again.
The series continues with 1 p.m. games Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday contest will be televised by the ACC’s Regional Sports Networks and will air live on these networks across the country: CSN Mid-Atlantic, FS South, Sun Sports, NESN, FS Arizona Plus, FS North and FS Prime Ticket. The Saturday game also will be streamed online via ESPN3.com.