Zagunis’ Homer Lifts Hokies to 2-0

Virginia Tech's Mark Zagunis slugged a walk-off home run in the Hokies' win over Florida State.
Virginia Tech’s Mark Zagunis slugged a walk-off home run in the Hokies’ win over Florida State.

Pool A
#1 North Carolina – 1-0
#4 NC State – 1-0
#5 Clemson – 0-1
#8 Miami – 0-1

Pool B
#6 Virginia Tech – 2-0
#3 Virginia – 1-1
#7 Georgia Tech – 1-1
#2 Florida State – 0-2

Virginia 8, Georgia Tech 2: Scott Silverstein tossed a gem to lead Virginia to a bounce-back win over Georgia Tech. The senior pitched 8 2/3 innings, striking out six batters and allowing 10 hits and two runs.

The Yellow Jackets needed just three pitches to score on Silverstein to start the game, as a Kyle Wren triple was followed by a first-pitch RBI single by Brandon Thomas.  However, that was the only scoring GT would muster outside of the fourth inning, when Zane Evans singled and eventually scored after a walk and two sacrifices.

Scoring was not an issue for Virginia one day after suffering a 10-1 loss to Virginia Tech.  The Cavaliers scored eight runs on 10 hits, including three home runs.  Nick Howard and Kenny Towns hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning to push Virginia ahead 4-1.  Brandon Downes’ leadoff blast in the sixth inning extended that lead to 5-1 and sparked a three-run inning.

The effort was particularly rewarding for Silverstein, whose path to yesterday has been long and winding.  The southpaw was touted as one of the top pitching prospects in the class of 2008, along with fellow Maryland native Danny Hultzen. Hultzen’s career at Virginia led to his selection in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners with the second overall pick. That year, Silverstein was finally getting to pitch for the Cavaliers after two shoulder surgeries had put his career on hold.

North Carolina 10, Miami 0 (8 innings): It was not nearly as dramatic as the nightcap’s walk-off, but it served the same purpose.  Cody Stubbs’ RBI double to score Colin Moran in the eighth inning gave the Tar Heels a ten-run lead, triggering the ACC Tournament mercy rule and handing UNC the win.

North Carolina had no problems scoring against Miami. In the first inning, the Tar Heels strung together three runs on five singles. Stubbs’ two-RBI single in the third inning scored Moran and freshman Skye Bolt.

The game could have ended in the seventh inning had Bolt shown a little more discipline.  The outfielder led off the inning with a single, but was caught stealing second base despite the 7-0 lead at the time.  Stubbs’ ensuing double would have likely scored Bolt, if Michael Russell’s ground ball afterwards did not (he reached on an error).  When the inning ended, UNC’s lead was only 9-0.

While Stubbs was producing with his bat (4-for-5, two doubles, three runs batted in), Kent Emanuel silenced the Miami bats. The ACC Pitcher of the Year pitched all eight innings, allowing four hits without a run.  Oddly enough, Emanuel did not strike out any Hurricane batters, but his ability to get ahead in the count and force Miami batters to swing at tough pitches made up for it.

Virginia Tech 3, Florida State 2: In easily the best game of the day, Mark Zagunis hit a walk-off solo home run to improve the Hokies to 2-0. It also marked the second time in as many days that Florida State was victimized by ninth-inning homers, as the Seminoles lost 4-3 to Georgia Tech on Wednesday on back-to-back home runs by AJ Murray and Mott Hyde.

Neither team scored until the seventh inning, as FSU’s Luke Weaver and Virginia Tech’s Brad Markey dominated through the first two-thirds of the game.  The sophomore Weaver struck out nine Hokies over 6 1/3 innings, allowing five hits.  However, his game unraveled in the seventh, as Tyler Horan’s swinging bunt single set up an RBI triple for Mark Zagunis and an Andrew Rash sacrifice fly to give VT a 2-0 lead.

The Hokies almost extended that lead in the eighth inning, but Florida State’s Jameis Winston had other plans. With Sean Keselica on second following a two-out double, shortstop Chad Pinder drove a single into right field.  Keselica went home, but the right-fielder Winston gunned down Keselica and prevent the run.

Markey pitched 8 1/3 innings, striking out 10 Florida State batters.  His time also came to an end after a couple of rough at-bats, as a Casey Smit ground-rule double plated Stephen McGee in the ninth inning to bring Florida State within a run, 2-1.  Pinch-hitter Josh Delph singled to score Smit and tie the game.

This set the stage for Zagunis’ heroics.  With one out following a Tyler Horan fly ball, Zagunis worked a 2-0 count, then crushed a high breaking ball over the Blue Monster in left field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park for the game-winner.

Today’s Games: Miami hopes to keep its title hopes alive with a win over NC State … Virginia Tech can clinch a spot in Sunday’s ACC championship game with a win over Georgia Tech … North Carolina and Clemson will meet to close out the Friday tripleheader.

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