UNC knocks Virginia out of ACC Tournament
DURHAM, N.C. (theACC.com) – North Carolina may be the No. 7 seed in this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship, but the Tar Heels issued another not-so-subtle reminder on Thursday afternoon that they are also the defending champions.
Tomas Frick drove in five runs, including a bases-clearing double in the top of the eighth inning, as UNC broke away from second-seeded Virginia for a 10-2 win at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
As Pool B champions, the Tar Heels (35-21) earned a semifinal spot opposite the Pool C winner – third-seeded Clemson (40-17) or sixth-seeded Boston College (35-17). Those teams are slated to meet Friday morning at 11 a.m. for the right to advance.
Virginia (45-12) completed play in this year’s tournament and will await what it still hopes will be a national NCAA tournament seed. The Cavaliers entered Thursday’s game with a No. 9 NCAA RPI and ranked among the nation’s top 15 in every national poll.
UNC, which won the title last year as the No. 8 seed in Charlotte and in 2019 as the No. 5 seed in Durham, has now reached the semifinals of three of the last four ACC Baseball Championships (no tournament was held in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic).
After fielding errors led to unearned runs for both teams through three innings of Thursday’s contest, UNC scored three runs in the top of the fourth to go up 4-1. A leadoff single by Frick and a walk to Johnny Castagnozzi helped set the table, and an RBI single by Hunter Stokely, a run-scoring double by Alberto Osuna and Colby Wilkerson’s sacrifice fly plated the runners.
Osuna made a bid for another run-scoring double in the top of the sixth, but Virginia’s perfect relay of his towering shot off the outfield wall – left fielder Colin Tuft to shortstop Griff O’Ferrall to catcher Kyle Teel – nailed UNC’s Patrick Alvarez at the plate as he tried to score from first.
A one-out solo home run by Ethan Anderson with one out in the bottom of the sixth brought the Cavaliers to within 4-2.
But UNC countered with three runs in the top of the seventh and three more in the top of the eighth to put the game away. Frick capped the seventh-inning flurry with a two-run single and then closed out his big afternoon with the three-run double in the eighth.
While UNC scored in double-digits for their second straight tournament game, the Tar Heels also received stellar pitching efforts from starter Jake Knapp (5-3) and reliever Dalton Pence.
Knapp threw a career-high 105 pitches in 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and just one earned run while walking two batters and striking out five.
Pence worked a final 3.1 scoreless innings for his first career save, allowing just two ninth-inning hits and striking out three.
Connelly Early (10-2) started and took the loss for the Cavaliers. UNC collected a total of 10 hits off six Virginia pitchers while drawing eight walks.