Mike Papi ninth-inning grand slam lifts #4 UVa. baseball to comeback win at Wake Forest
Down to its final strike with two outs in the ninth inning, the No. 4 Virginia baseball team rallied for a 7-6 victory over Wake Forest Saturday afternoon at Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park. Mike Papi (So., Tunkhannock, Pa.) hit a two-out grand slam off Wake Forest closer Connor Kaden to give UVa a 7-6 lead, capping a five-run, ninth-inning comeback.
Virginia (28-3, 10-3 ACC) now has won all five of its ACC series openers. Game two of the series is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday, while the finale is set for 7 p.m. Monday and will be televised by ESPNU.
Virginia trailed 6-1 after the fourth inning, but the Cavaliers’ pitching staff shut out the Demon Deacons (17-15, 4-9) on four hits over the final five innings to set up Papi’s heroics.
The Cavaliers’ three through five hitters, Joe McCarthy (Fr., Scranton, Pa.), Brandon Downes (So., South Plainfield, N.J.) and Papi, had six of Virginia’s nine hits as each picked up a pair of hits. Until the ninth inning, UVa had been frustrated offensively with seven hits and eight men left on base.
UVa reliever Whit Mayberry (R-Jr., Alexandria, Va.) worked two scoreless innings to claim the win and improve to 3-0. Kyle Crockett (Jr., Poquoson, Va.) struck out the side in the ninth to earn his fifth save.
Virginia starting pitcher Brandon Waddell (Fr., Houston, Texas) had one bad inning but still went six innings. He gave up six runs (five earned), nine hits and one walk while striking out four.
Kaden (0-2) took the loss after giving up a pair of ninth-inning runs. Wake Forest starter Matt Pirro pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs, five hits and four walks while striking out four.
Trailing 6-2 entering the ninth inning, Virginia’s dramatic rally started with patience at the plate, as the Cavaliers loaded the bases with none out when reliever Nico Spezial walked the bases loaded. Jared King (R-Sr., Radford, Va.) hit a sacrifice fly to deep right against Kaden to bring in Reed Gragnani (Sr., Richmond, Va.) and cut the lead to 6-3.
The Cavaliers again loaded the bases on a McCarthy infield single, but Kaden got the second out by inducing Downes to pop up. In a quick 0-2 hole, Papi fouled off a pair of pitches before cranking the next offering over the right-center field wall for a grand slam to give UVa the 7-6 advantage. It marked his third home run of the year and his second game-winner; he also hit the go-ahead solo home run in the 11th inning at Clemson on March 15.
Crockett then needed just 13 pitches to strike out the side in the bottom of the ninth
The teams traded runs in the first inning. The Cavaliers produced a run as King drew a one-out walk, advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by McCarthy and scored on a single by Downes. Wake Forest countered with an unearned run as Evan Stephens reached on a throwing error by Nick Howard (So., Olney, Md.), moved to second a sacrifice bunt and scored when Pat Blair singled to right.
UVa failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities in the third and fourth innings. UVa put runners on first and second base with none out in the third inning and a runner on second to start the fourth, but in each instance failed to score after not getting a bunt down.
The Demon Deacons moved ahead by sending eight batters to the plate and scoring five times in the fourth inning. Blair and Matt Conway hit back-to-back singles to start the frame and then combined on a double steal. Waddell got Jack Carey to ground out weakly to first base, and Kevin Conway followed with a dribbler to first, with Blair scoring as the out was recorded. Brett Armour then cranked a single through the left side of the infield to score Matt Conway. Conor Keniry followed with a single and Joey Rodriguez took a hanging breaking ball and lined it over the left-field wall for a three-run homer to give Wake a 6-1 edge.
The Cavaliers chipped a run from the lead in the seventh inning when King hit a sacrifice fly to score Gragnani.