The Jackets (20-9, 7-5) came home from a dominating win at Auburn with serious ACC work to do. The UNC Tarheels (22-7, 7-5) came in tied with Tech atop the Coastal. Both had similar RPI’s, but the visitors had more pollster love in the low teens range while the home team only “received votes.
Amos Willingham (4-0, 3.27) faced Junior RHP Tyler Baum (5-2, 3.63). Curry had been questionable earlier this week, and must not be ready yet. This was the first game he hasn’t started since opening weekend of his freshman season. Tonight, Willingham never looked comfortable and the Tarheels seemed to get clutch hits all night after being set up by Jacket walks and errors. It was a forgettable loss.
After two quick outs in the top of the 1st , things went bad quickly with a walk and two singles. The second scored a run from second on a close play at home. Coach Hall challenged it, but the run counted to make it 1-0. The top of the 2nd was worse, with a leadoff walk followed by a two run homer to right by Carrolton’s Jackson Hesterlee. That was followed by another single and a potential double play ball that English threw into the back of the runner going to second, putting runners at 2nd and 3rd, still no outs. A ground ball out and sac fly scored those two, and Tech was in a deep hole early, 5-0.
In the top of the 3rd, it again looked like Willingham would put up a zero, but another two out walk was followed by a RBI double down the left field line to make it 6-0. Tech at least got that one back in their 3rd when Austin Wilhite was hit by a pitch and driven in from second by Waddell’s single.
Willingham finally put up a zero in the 4th, aided by a caught stealing and double play, and after the Jackets went down in order in their half of the 4th, Will Shirah relieved on the mound. The Jackets looked ready to do some damage in their 5th when Waddell hit a ground rule double to score Serratos and put Nick Wilhite on third with one out. But Baum struck out Guldberg and McCann to keep it at 6-2. Wilhite would have easily scored if the ball hadn’t bounced over the wall.
Sadly, the lead was soon increased with leadoff homer to right in the UNC 6th that was just the beginning. After two outs with one on, Micah Carpenter relieved Shirah on the mound and first pitch was hammered over the left center wall to make it a daunting 9-2.
In their half of the 6th, the Jackets put runners on the corners with nobody out. It looked like Baum would get out of it again when he struck out Serratos and Hall, but Austin Wilhite’s RBI double scored English and kept the mini-rally alive. Baum was relieved by sophomore RHP Joey Lancellotti to face Nick Wilhite, whom he got out to keep the lead at six.
Walker Barlow pitched the first two outs of the 8th and Robert Winborne got the third out for another rare scoreless inning, but UNC put up two more on Winborne in their 9th to make it 11-3. Junior RHP Andrew Grogan came in to close in the Tech 9th. Austin Wilhite hit his second double of the night to lead off and brother Nick quickly drove him in (for the umpteenth time in their young lives), hopefully a sign of life for tomorrow. The game ended 11-4, Willingham with his first loss and Baum the win. The only positive sign is that Tech’s previous two home ACC series started with losses and ended with 2-1 series victories.
Connor Thomas (4-1, 2.42) faced junior RHP Austin Bergner as Tech tried to even the series. They would do so after way too much late drama.
The Jackets scored first in their 2nd when Tristin English tripled to lead off and Colin Hall doubled with one out. Austin Wilhite’s two out single scored Colin, giving Tech its first multi-run inning this series.
They added a third run when Nick Wilhite singled Austin to 3rd, from where he scored on a wild pitch. UNC immediately showed how dangerous they are when the bottom of the order singled, doubled, and singled to make it 3-2.
Tech bounced right back in their half of the 3rd when Guldberg doubled and moved to third on McCann’s single. A grounder by English to third looked to be a double play, but Guldberg played it perfectly, waiting until the throw to second to get McCann before breaking for home. The throw home was wide, allowing Guldberg to score and English to reach second. Radcliff then doubled him in and UNC brought in Ben Casparious, a sophomore righty. Colin drove his first pitch to right for an RBI single.
In Tech’s 4th, Guldberg singled and McCann walked with one out. English was hit by a pitch, but the ump disallowed it and was upheld on review. Tristin got some payback by singling in Guldberg to make it 7-2.
They brought in sophomore lefty Caden O’Brian, who walked the bases loaded before getting Hall out. He was relieved by freshman righty Josh Dotson. He walked Serratos to make it 8-2 before striking out Austin Wilhite to end it.
The Tarheels loaded the bases with one out in their 5th, but Thomas pitched out of it. He again stranded a runner at 3rd in the 6th. In Tech’s 6th, English led off with a double and Hall doubled him in.
In the Tarheels 7th, a single, double, single, and sacrifice fly scored two to make it 9-4. Nick Wilhite’s great catch in center kept it from being worse. Hugh Chapman relieved Connor, who had pitched very well and Chapman got a popped up third out after falling behind 3-0 in the count.
Connor Ollio, a freshman righty, pitched to Tech in their half of the 7th without trouble and Luke Bartnicki pitched to UNC in the 8th with much trouble. Two singles and then a double by Serretti made it 9-6.
After Luke got a strikeout, but walked the next batter, Keyton Gibson relieved Bartnicki with two on and two outs. Keyton coaxed a popup that was caught by McCann to maintain the much diminished lead.
Tristin English restored some of the lead immediately by completing his cycle of all four types of hits with a homer to the scoreboard.
The 9th began in typical Yellow Jacket fashion with Gibson walking the first two batters and being relieved by Jonathan Hughes with a ball on the batter. A single scored one, and then a weird double that took a funny hop past Serratos made it 10-9 with the tying run on second. After one out, four for four hitter Serretti came up and almost inevitably doubled in the tying run with his fifth hit, the Tarheels coming all the way back. Hughes at least managed to get out of the inning, setting up the bottom of the 9th with it tied.
The “Cardiac Jackets” appeared against freshman righty Austin Love in the 9th as Austin Wilhite singled, was bunted to second by brother Nick, and went to third on Waddell’s single. Michael Guldberg drove a sacrifice fly ball deep enough to score Wilhite for the walk-off 11-10 victory. Hughes got the pretty undeserved win, Love the loss, as Tech improved to 21-10 (8-6) and the Tarheels fell to 23-8 (8-6). The rubber game is Sunday. Tristin English with four hits for the cycle, four runs scored, and three RBI.