No one really knew what to expect. North Carolina needed six hours and 18 innings to get past NC State on Saturday night after going 14 innings against Clemson the night before. The pitching staff was spent with only a handful of pitchers available and even the everyday players had to be feeling the fatigue facing a hot hitting and well rested Virginia Tech team.
Enter Taylore Cherry who, coming into the game, had pitched a grand total of 3.1 innings all season. The 6-8, 270 pound freshman dealt with baserunners in every inning but found a way to get outs including fielding a pair of comebackers, one that ricocheted off his chest. In the 5th, Cherry faced Virginia Tech's Chad Pinder who had hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam in the 10-1 win over Virginia earlier in the week. Cherry got Pinder to ground out on a 3-2 pitch to preserve UNC's 2-0 lead.
In the 6th inning Cherry gave up a lead off double and gave way to Trevor Kelley. Cherry's fellow freshman got off to a rough start with Colin Moran airmailing a throw over 1B Cody Stubbs head followed by Kelley hitting the Hokies' Chad Morgan to load the bases. The Heels gave up a run on a double play, the Hokies only one of the game. From there Kelley would retired the next ten batters he faced to get the save and seal UNC's first ACC title since 2007.
At the plate, Landon Lassiter was a constant fixture on-base going 2-3 and scoring three of the four runs. Skye Bolt bounced back from last night's poor performance at the plate with two RBIs. Moran also collected a couple of hits snapping out of his mini-slump. As was the case on Saturday night/Sunday morning, UNC benefited from an opponent's poor defense but was also a victim of some stellar defensive plays. At some level I suppose it evened out.
Cody Stubbs was named MVP for the tournament and was joined on the All-Tournament team by Chaz Frank and Kent Emanuel. The Tar Heels now prepare to host a regional in Chapel Hill next weekend which hopefully will involved some extended sleep.