After a Saturday game that nearly drove Tech fans over the edge, the teams met for a rubber game Sunday. Two last minute freshman starters, righty Cort Roedig and lefty Will Sandy faced off. Neither figured in the eventual Jacket game and series victory.
After two scoreless innings, UNC scored without a hit in their 3rd on a walk, errant pick-off, sac fly, and wild pitch. Unfortunately, they weren’t done, and Busch hit a two run homer to left center after another walk, putting them up 3-0. The Jackets didn’t much care for that, so Tristin English hit a three run homer to left in the bottom of the inning after Waddell singled and McCann walked.
The tie didn’t last long, with Sabato soon hitting a no doubter to right center, making it 4-3 in mid-4th.
After Austin Wilhite laid down a perfect bunt single to lead off the Tech 4th, Sandy was relieved by Joey Lancellotti, a sophomore RHP. After Wilhite stole 2nd, Webb appeared to beat out a grounder to short, which was reviewed and upheld, putting runners on the corners. A truly crazy play ensued when Wilhite was caught in a rundown after a failed suicide squeeze, but scored when the ball got past the player covering home. Webb tried to score in the confusion, but was also caught in a rundown that he beat going back to 3rd when the ball was dropped tagging him. The score was tied again. After Nick Wilhite walked, Waddell hit an RBI fielder’s choice to put Tech up 5-4 after four.
Roedig was pulled after getting the first out in the top of the 5th for Luke Bartnicki, who got two quick K’s. Luke didn’t fare as well in the UNC 6th, and was relieved by a surprise choice, Xzavion Curry, after a leadoff double. This was Curry’s first relief appearance, and he responded with three strikeouts around a walk and passed ball that put the runner on 3rd, preserving the slim lead.
After Curry retired the Tarheels in the 7th, Guldberg and McCann singled with one out to put runners on the corners. Austin Love, a freshman RHP, came in to pitch to English. Tristin singled through the left side, scoring Guldberg and moving McCann to 3rd. After Radcliff walked, Hall hit an RBI fielder’s choice grounder by beating a possible double play throw to first. Tech led 7-4.
Xzavion got through the 8th despite having to fight the umpire’s eccentric strike zone, leaving two on.
In the bottom of the 8th, McCann came up with two on and two out after Nick Wilhite and Waddell walked. He took a 3-2 pitch to deepest center field for a three run homer, his first since mid-March, making it 10-4. After English was hit by a pitch again, junior righty Andrew Grogan came to the mound and got out of the inning.
English came in to pitch the 9th, with Serratos coming in to play 3rd and Webb moving to 1st. There was still UNC style drama in the inning with a leadoff single, followed by a fielder’s choice out at 2nd and fly ball out before an RBI double by Hesterlee in which he reached 3rd when Wilhite bobbled the ball at the fence. A questionable walk put runners on the corners with two outs before another fly ball to center sealed the win. Tech improved to 22-10 (9-6) and 1st place in the Coastal while UNC fell to 23-9 (8-7). Curry got the win since Roedig didn’t go five innings and Lancellotti got the loss.
It was one of those rare series where the team winning 2-1 gets outscored, in the case UNC outscored Tech 26-25. I told a Tarheel Dad after the game his son’s team is the scariest I’ve seen this year and a series win over them is huge for Tech’s post season hopes. The Jackets now sport an RPI of 14 and should be ranked top 25 if there’s any justice in polls.
In the post game interviews, Coach Hall said the starting rotation for next weekend in Boston should be back to normal and that Tuesday in Athens would be another staff day like in Auburn.