#13 UNC clinches series with 2-1 win over #1 UVa., Hultzen

No. 13 North Carolina scratched across two runs in the eighth inning to rally and defeat the No. 1-ranked Virginia baseball team, 2-1, on Friday night at Boshamer Stadium. UNC (43-12, 19-10) clinched the series, marking the Cavaliers’ first series loss this season and breaking a streak of 15 straight ACC series wins, dating to 2010.

Despite the defeat Virginia (45-8, 22-7 ACC) clinched a share of its second-consecutive ACC Coastal Division championship as well as the No. 1 seed in the ACC Baseball Championship next week. Virginia Tech topped Georgia Tech, 7-5, Friday evening. If UVa and Georgia Tech finish tied in the standings, the Cavaliers hold the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed based on their series win over the Yellow Jackets in April in Atlanta.

Virginia starting pitcher Danny Hultzen (Jr., Bethesda, Md.) pitched brilliantly, tossing seven shutout innings before the Tar Heels touched him up for two runs in the eighth. Hultzen (9-3) pitched 7.2 innings, allowing two earned runs, four hits and two walks while striking out 10 in taking the hard-luck loss.

Hultzen struck out nine of the Tar Heels’ first 12 batters and retired UNC’s first 14 hitters before Tommy Coyle’s two-out single to left-center in the fifth inning. He now has 361 career strikeouts as he moved into eighth place in ACC history in career strikeouts, passing Clemson’s Kris Benson (356) and Ryan Mottl (360).

UNC reliever R.C. Orlan (1-0) notched the win after recording the last two outs in the eighth inning. Tar Heel starter Kent Emanuel worked around six walks to allow just an earned run and two hits over six innings.

Despite finishing with only five hits, UVa had plenty of opportunities and put runners on base in every inning but stranded 11, including six in scoring position. Kenny Swab (Sr., Kernersville, N.C.) hit a pair of doubles to pace the Cavaliers’ offense.

Virginia manufactured its lone run in the second inning. Swab led off with a double to left-center. Colin Harrington (So., Johnstown, Pa.) sacrificed him to third, and Reed Gragnani (So., Richmond, Va.) hit a sacrifice fly to center to easily score the run.

After cruising through the first five innings, Hultzen escaped his first big jam in the sixth. With one out Matt Roberts coaxed a walk. Chaz Frank followed with a looping liner which shortstop Chris Taylor (So., Virginia Beach, Va.) dove for and could not quite reach, moving pinch runner Jeff Bouton to second. Levi Michael fouled out to deep right, advancing both runners, before Colin Moran grounded out to second to end the threat.

He again escaped trouble in the seventh, after Jesse Wierzbicki reached on a two-base throwing error by Taylor to lead off the inning. After a UNC sacrifice bunt, Coyle popped up to Taylor. After going 3-1 to Greg Holt, Hultzen rebounded to strike him out to maintain the lead.

Hultzen was not as fortunate in the eighth. Ben Bunting singled to right on the first pitch of the inning. Parks Jordan bunted Bunting to second. Frank drew a walk, and Michael followed with a single to center to plate Bunting. On the play Swab made a diving attempt but the ball fell just under his glove and trickled away, allowing Frank to move to third. Moran then lifted a fly ball to right field for a sacrifice fly and the go-ahead run.

UVa again threatened in the ninth when John Barr (Sr., Ivyland, Pa.) blooped a 2-out, 2-strike double down the right-field line. John Hicks (Jr., Sandy Hook, Va.) hit a rocket on the next pitch to Moran at third base, who dropped the ball but recovered to throw to Wierzbicki at first, who made a great pick on the short throw to save the error and finish off the win.

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