GREENSBORO, N.C. – The No. 17 Virginia baseball team scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning to rally and defeat fifth-seeded Clemson Thursday afternoon in the Cavaliers’ opener at the ACC Baseball Championship at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C. Virginia (37-16-1) captured its eighth-consecutive win against Clemson (32-25).
The No. 4 seed in the tournament, Virginia next will play No. 8 seed Georgia Tech at 11 a.m. Friday in the pool-play format. The Cavaliers conclude pool play at 3 p.m. Saturday when they take on top-seeded Florida State. Clemson plays the Seminoles at 3 p.m. Friday.
Runs were tough to come by, despite both teams having plenty of opportunities. Clemson put runners on base in every inning and left 11 runners on the basepaths, while Virginia stranded a dozen baserunners.
Kyle Crockett (So., Poquoson, Va.) tossed 1.1 innings in earning the win and improving to 5-2. Justin Thompson (Sr., Danville, Va.) got a game-ending double-play ball to notch his 12th save. Mike Kent (1-2) gave up both runs in the eighth inning for Clemson and took the loss.
Both starting pitchers were excellent while receiving no decisions. UVa’s Branden Kline (Jr., Frederick, Md.) worked seven innings, giving up one earned run, four hits and five walks while striking out five. Clemson’s Daniel Gossett pitched 6.2 innings, allowing an earned run, four hits and six hits while fanning six.
Virginia struck for the game’s first run in the third inning. With one out Branden Cogswell (Fr., Ballston Lake, N.Y.) was hit by a pitch. He advanced on a wild pitch as Stephen Bruno (R-So., Audubon, N.J.) struck out. After Derek Fisher (Fr., Rexmont, Pa.) walked, Jared King (R-Jr., Radford, Va.) singled to left field on an 0-2 pitch to plate Cogswell and give UVa a 1-0 edge.
Clemson tied the game in the sixth inning when Jon McGibbon crushed a solo home run to right field with one out.
The Tigers took advantage of Virginia miscues to take the lead in the eighth. On a swinging third strike to start the inning, Brad Felder reached base on a passed ball by Nate Irving (Fr., Yonkers, N.Y.). With one out Felder stole second base, and he scored when McGibbon’s grounder to shortstop went through the legs of Chris Taylor (Jr., Virginia Beach, Va.), giving Clemson a 2-1 lead.
Virginia countered with a two-out rally to take the lead in its half of the ninth. Brandon Downes (Fr., South Plainfield, N.J.) singled to left against Kent and was replaced by pinch runner Mitchell Shifflett (So., Midlothian, Va.). Irving was hit by a pitch, and pinch hitter Kenny Towns (Fr., Burke, Va.) walked to load the bases. Taylor then was hit by a pitch to force in Shifflett. Reliever Scott Firth entered the game and walked Cogswell on five pitches to bring in Irving with the go-ahead run.