Carolina returned to winning ways in its first game of the ACC tournament, securing an additional three games and a chance at the ACC Championship. Zac Gallen and Trevor Kelley combined for 12 strike outs to dominate the Hokies and they got enough run support for Carolina to win a close game.
Alex Rayburn led the Heels with three hits and Skye Bolt had two RBIs. Carolina exploited some grievous Hokie errors to score four unearned runs to win. The Heels had twelve hits and snapped a 6 game losing streak in the ACC. Carolina will next face top seeded Louisville on Wednesday.
Game Summary (Inning by Inning):
Carolina's Zac Gallen took the mound in a must win game for the Heels. After allowing a lead off single to Saige Jenco Gallen struck out the next three batters to end the inning. Kit Scheetz then took the mound for the Hokies. After Tyler Ramirez flew out to deep center field, Alex Rayburn hit a single to left field and Landon Lassiter ground-rule double put two runners in scoring position for Skye Bolt who struck out swinging. Adam Pate then flew out to center field to end the inning.
Gallen allowed another lead off single to Matt Ponzurick to lead off the second inning. Gallen walked the next batter, Mac Caples, before Ryan Tufts bunted the two runners over to second and third, provoking a mound visit from pitching coach Forbes. Gallen responded by striking out the next batter Andrew Mogg but walked the number nine hitter Sam Fragle to load the bases. Lead off man Jenco then hit a single into right field to score a run for the Hokies. Alex Perez flew out to left field to end the half inning. Carolina went 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the inning.
The top of the third saw Lassiter make an excellent diving catch falling into the wall for the first out before ta fly to short for out number two. Skye Bolt then caught a Ponzurick pop up to end the inning. Zack Gahagan flew out to center to lead off the bottom of the third, Tyler Ramirez flew out to left field and Alex Rayburn followed with a fly out to center to end the inning.
Caples led off the top of the fourth with a double down the third base line. Tufts then grounded out to short, failing to advance the runner, before Mogg hit a sharp single to left to put runners at the corners, prompting another visit from Forbes. Gallen responded again with a strike out before getting Jenco to line out to Bolt to end the inning. Landon Lassiter then smoked a line drive to deep center which Jenco dropped, allowing Lassiter to get all the way to third. Skye Bolt then hit a deep fly to left center and Lassiter strolled home to tie the game. Adam Pate hit a double down the third base line beating a tag at second and then stole third on the first pitch of the next at bat. Korey Dunbar was unable to capitalize though as he struck out. But Logan Warmouth hit a grounder the shortstop had to backhand and he beat the throw to first to hit Pate in. Joe Dudek hit a single through to right field to move Warmoth to third and Gahagan hit a single to score Warmoth. Ramirez flew out to end the inning but the Heels claimed their first lead of the day, 3-1, going into the fifth.
Perez led off the fifth with a ground out to short, followed by Erik Payne hitting a line drive off the left field wall for a single. Brendon Hayden hit a grounder to first which Joe Dudek threw to Logan Warmoth who tossed it back for the 3-6-3 double play. Alex Rayburn hit a line drive to the left field gap which Hokie left fielder Payne mishandled allowing Rayburn to take second. Hokie pitcher Luke Scherzer (no relation to Max) threw the next pitch by the catcher Mogg and Rayburn advanced to third. Lassiter struck out to bring up Bolt who grounded out to second but allowed Rayburn to score. Pate then grounded out to end the inning.
Virginia Tech went 1-2-3 to start the sixth inning, including two strike outs. Carolina led off the bottom of the sixth with a Korey Dunbar single. Dunbar advanced to second on a sac bunt by Warmoth and then third on a past-ball. Neither Joe Dudek nor Zack Gahagan could exploit the runner on third as they each flew out to end the inning.
Gallen got the first two Hokies out to start the seventh but Jenco stretched a shallow line drive to left into a double--beating a Skye Bolt throw to second--to extend the inning. Jenco scored without a throw to home on a shallow single hit to Tyler Ramirez in right from Perez. This marked the end of Gallen's afternoon, as Trevor Kelley took the mound and struck out the last Hokie hitter to end the half inning with the score 4-2.
After this the game was paused due to lightening and rain for 39 minutes. When the game resumed, Tyler Ramirez led off for the Heels and promptly struck out looking. Alex Rayburn followed that up with a single before a Lassiter double moved him to third. Virginia Tech then intentionally walked Skye Bolt to load the bases. Carolina subbed in Brian Miller for Pate at DH and the Hokies changed pitchers. Miller hit into a double play to end the inning.
Kelley continued his outing into the top of the eighth; he got Hayden to pop out to first to lead off. The Hokies then hit back to back singles to put the go ahead run at the plate. Ryan tufts then hit a soft grounder to third which third baseman Alex Rayburn threw wide of first putting runners at the corners and scoring Ponzurick from second to bring the Hokies to within one. This prompted a visit from Forbes who left Kelley in the game to face the bottom two hitters in the Hokies' order. Kelley responded by striking out Mogg and the pinch hitter Phil Scrietta to get out of the jam. Korey Dunbar hit a double to lead off the bottom of the eighth for the Heels. Dunbar was then bunted over to third by Warmoth. The Hokie pitcher Aaron McGarthy then walked Joe Dudek. Elijah Sutherland then pulled off a great safety squeeze, even evading a tag from Hokie first baseman Hayden to reach first. Ramirez then lined out to short and Rayburn flew out to the infield to end the inning with the Heels up 5-3.
Trevor Kelley returned for the Heels in the top of the ninth. Kelley struck out the lead off hitter Jenco but then allowed a single to Perez to bring the tieing run to the plate with one out. Kelley struck out Payne and Hayden grounded out to second to end the game and return Carolina to winning ways.