#8 UVA rallies, tops Virginia Tech, 7-6
The No. 8 UVA baseball team rallied from a three-run deficit in the eighth inning to top Virginia Tech, 7-6, Friday afternoon at Davenport Field as part of the Commonwealth Clash presented by Virginia529. Jack Gerstenmaier (So., Richmond, Va.) drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning as Virginia (35-18, 18-11 ACC) walked off with the victory and clinched the series against the Hokies (19-35, 6-23).
Winners of 10 of their last 11 games, the Cavaliers go for the series sweep in the regular-season finale at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“It was a great win for us, a come-from-behind victory,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “Winning the series is certainly important. We have a great opportunity in front of us tomorrow. I was proud of Alec Bettinger. Certainly in the first inning, having four walks, was difficult to stomach and to watch. But I think Alec lasting through the sixth inning is what won us the ballgame. He really buckled down his last five innings. I was proud of our team to fall down three runs and come back with a four-spot and take the lead. We’re winning games in different forms and I like where we are at right now and how we are playing.”
UVA reliever Tommy Doyle (So., Vienna, Va.) pitched the ninth inning and was credited with the win to improve to 2-5 on the year. Virginia Tech reliever Cole Kragel allowed an unearned run in the ninth inning to take the loss and drop to 2-4.
Virginia starting pitcher Alec Bettinger (Jr., Woodbridge, Va.) bounced back from a tough first inning to give UVA six solid innings. He allowed three earned runs, two hits and six walks while striking out seven. After allowing four walks and three runs to the first six batters of the game, he allowed only three baserunners over his final 5 1/3 innings.
Virginia Tech starter Packy Naughton worked seven innings, giving up two earned runs, eight hits and a walk while striking out three, but the Hokies were plagued by three errors, including a pair in the final two innings that both led to runs.
UVA finished with 13 hits, with Daniel Pinero (Jr., Toronto, Ontario) matching a career high by going 4-for-5. Charlie Cody (So., Chesapeake, Va.) homered as part of a three-hit day, while Ernie Clement (So., Rochester, N.Y.) and Matt Thaiss (Jr., Jackson, N.J.) each had two hits.
Bettinger struggled with his control as Virginia Tech scored three runs in the first inning, walking four of the first five batters, with his free pass to Nick Anderson forcing in the game’s first run. Sam Fragale followed with a two-run double to left-center field for a 3-0 lead.
UVA got a run back in the third on a Thaiss single to center to bring home Clement. Bettinger retired a dozen straight batters before walking Saige Jenco with one out in the fifth inning.
Virginia cut the Hokies’ lead to 3-2 with two outs in the seventh when Thaiss doubled to left to plate Clement, but Virginia Tech got back-to-back homers from Anderson and Fragale in the eighth inning off David Rosenberger (Sr., Bethlehem, Pa.) to push the lead back to three, 5-2.
UVA mounted a comeback in its half of the eighth inning, scoring four runs off reliever Chris Monaco to grab a 6-5 lead. With one out, Cody launched a two-run blast into the bleachers in left-center field, his third homer in the past five games. Gerstenmaier then singled and Cameron Simmons (Fr., Royersford, Pa.) hit a ground-rule double, prompting Virginia Tech to bring Kragel into the game. Clement hit a fly ball to left field on the first offering, with Gerstenmaier sliding home safely just before the tag to tie the game on the sac fly. Justin Novak (So., Tokyo, Japan) then grounded to third base, but Fragale’s throw sailed wide, allowing Simmons to score for a 6-5 lead.
Virginia Tech did not go away, as Rahiem Cooper hit a leadoff double in the ninth off Doyle and scored on Tom Stoffel’s two-out double to center to tie the game.
With one out in the ninth, Pinero hit an infield single for his fourth hit of the day. Adam Haseley (So., Windermere, Fla.) drew a walk, and Virginia Tech went to reliever Ryan Lauria. Pinch hitter Nate Eikhoff (Fr., Bristow, Va.) hit a grounder to shortstop, but Ryan Tufts booted it to load the bases. Gerstenmaier then drew a five-pitch walk to force in the winning run for UVA’s second walk-off win of the season (Monmouth, March 5).
With the series win, Virginia clinched a point in the Commonwealth Clash. UVA finished with a 14-7 advantage in the overall competition in 2015-16 to win the Commonwealth Clash for the second straight year.