Holberton’s Homer Rallies Heels

Brian Holberton’s three-run homer tied the Tar Heels and Tigers in the ninth inning.

 NC State cruised to victory over Miami, scoring six runs over as many innings against Chris Diaz.

Four of those runs came in the second inning, although the ball never left the infield. A combination of bunts, infield singles, and errors allowed Grant Clyde, Bryan Adametz, Jake Armstrong, and Logan Ratledge to all score and give NC State a 4-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Miami failed to capitalize on several opportunities to score. In the first inning, the Hurricanes had runners on first and second with one out, but two fly outs stranded them.  Bases were loaded with one out in the third inning, but the only run came when Logan Jernigan walked Brad Fieger to bring Alex Hernandez home.  Hurricanes on first and second with no outs in the fifth nearly produced a Wolfpack triple play, erasing the baserunners.  Miami is now 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position through two games in the tournament.

The NC State win eliminated Miami and Clemson from contention for a berth in Sunday’s ACC championship game, with Saturday’s NC State-North Carolina game serving as a de facto semi-final game.

Virginia Tech 3, Georgia Tech 2: Meanwhile, in Pool B, Virginia Tech needed a win against Georgia Tech to advance to the title game. Despite their 2-0 start, a loss against the Jackets would result in either GT or Virginia advancing due to tiebreakers.

The Hokies took care of business, claiming a 3-2 win to run the table in pool play.  Chad Pinder again provided the offensive lift for Virginia Tech, driving in two of the Hokies’ three runs.

Pinder hit a one-out home run to right field in the fourth inning, the first blast of the tournament to right field in the tournament.  With the score tied 2-2 in the seventh inning, Pinder delivered a sacrifice fly to score Kyle Wernicki, which proved to be the game-winning run.

Virginia Tech also got a strong outing on the mound from Devin Burke.  The junior allowed one earned run over 7 2/3 innings, striking out four Yellow Jackets. While there was no doubting the Hokies offense entering the tournament, they needed strong pitching and defense to contend for an ACC title. VT allowed five runs during three pool games.

The wins have also put Virginia Tech in position to possibly host an NCAA Regional next weekend.  Both Perfect Game’s Kendall Rogers and Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt have the Hokies as regional hosts in their Friday updates.  While there are several teams fighting for those last spots around the nation, it is a testament to what the Hokies have accomplished this season.

North Carolina 12, Clemson 7 (14 innings): With Clemson’s fate sealed after NC State defeated Miami, there was no ACC Tournament incentive for either team in this game.  However, with Clemson fighting to be a regional host in the NCAA Tournament and North Carolina coming off a mercy-rule win against Miami, nobody convinced them this game didn’t matter.

Trailing the Tigers 7-2 entering the ninth inning, a five-run frame from the Tar Heels forced extras.  Brian Holberton capped the rally with a three-run blast to right field.

It would take five extra innings to determine a winner, as relievers Reilly Hovis and Scott Firth dominated batters and added more zeroes to the scoreboard.  Finally, Firth cracked, giving up five runs in the top of the 14th to give UNC a 12-7 win.

Cody Stubbs has another strong game at the plate for North Carolina.  After going 4-for-5 against Miami, the first baseman was 4-for-7 Friday night, driving in two runs.  He singled home Chaz Frank in the five-run ninth inning before scoring on Holberton’s homer, and led off the 14th inning rally with a single.

Today’s Games: The first two offerings on Saturday have no impact on the ACC Tournament, but there is still plenty at stake for the four teams.  Florida State and Virginia will meet in a battle of top-10 RPI teams. With the Seminoles 0-2 so far in the tournament and NC State threatening for a conference title, FSU is in danger of losing its national seed.

Similarly, Clemson could be at risk of losing a chance to host a regional with an 0-2 start to their ACC Tournament.  Miami has struggled offensively, scoring one run on nine hits, and needs a boost entering the NCAA Tournament.

Then, there’s North Carolina-NC State. The winner of the nightcap will face Virginia Tech in Sunday’s ACC Championship.  The Wolfpack will be the fresher team, having played their game against Miami early Friday afternoon while the Tar Heels battled into early Saturday morning in their extra-inning affair.  They are also expected to send Carlos Rodon to the mound for the game, who was first-team All-ACC after leading the conference in strikeouts (137).

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