CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina (32-12, 14-9 ACC) evened the series against Virginia (26-19, 10-13 ACC) with a 5-4, walk-off victory in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday (April 27) at Boshamer Stadium. The two teams will play a rubber match on Sunday (April 28) at 1 p.m.
In the fateful ninth, the first two batters drew walks on 3-2 counts and a successful sacrifice bunt attempt moved the winning run to third base. The Cavaliers elected to intentionally walk Ike Freeman to setup a force play at the plate. Ashton McGee lifted an 0-2 pitch in front of left fielder Brendan Rivoli for the game-winning hit.
The loss snapped a four-game Virginia win streak.
The Cavaliers received a standout performance by reliever Chesdin Harrington (Montpelier, Va.) who took over in the top of the third inning. The right-hander did not allow a run over a career-high five innings pitched. He struck out three batters and retired the final nine batters he faced.
Harrington settled down what was a back and forth battle over the first four innings of play. Virginia grabbed the initial lead in their first turn at the plate on a one-out, two-run double by Cameron Simmons (Royersford, Pa.). It marked the second-straight day the Cavaliers scored in their first turn at the plate. The double for Simmons was his ninth of the year.
North Carolina scored four runs over the first two innings, including three in the bottom of the second. The Tar Heels sent nine batters to the plate in the second inning and took the lead on an RBI double by Aaron Sabato. A bases loaded walk drawn by Freeman gave North Carolina a 4-2 lead.
Lead-off runners in both the third and fourth innings allowed Virginia to knot the game at four. Tanner Morris pulled the Cavaliers within a run when he drew a walk to lead off the top of the third. He moved to second on a wild pitch and over to third on a fly ball by Nic Kent. Another wild pitch by North Carolina starting pitcher Austin Bergner allowed Morris to score from third, Morris’ second run of the game.
Senior Nate Eikhoff (Bristow, Va.) led the fourth inning off with an RBI double and later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Cameron Comer (Powell, Ohio) to level the game at four. Eikhoff went 2-for-3 with a walk and run scored, his fourth multi-hit performance in the last five games.
Morris reached base four times and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a pair of walks. He is 5-for-8 with four runs, four RBI and three walks in the first two games of the series. Morris upped his season batting average to a team-best, .347.
Sunday’s rubber match will feature freshman righty Mike Vasil on the mound opposed by North Carolina lefty, Will Sandy. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.
• Comer’s sacrifice fly was the team’s 27th of the year. Coming into the contest, Virginia led the ACC and ranked ninth in the country in sacrifice flies.
• Virginia lost its first inning lead for the second-straight day. The Cavaliers are 13-6 when scoring first and 11-5 when scoring in the first inning.
• In addition to his work on the mound, Harrington recorded four assists and was responsible for one putout.