Around the Horn: A Wild, Winless Weekend
by Greg Waters
Ryan Zimmerman had 10 hits in three games against UNC.
Ryan Zimmerman had 10 hits in three games against UNC.Last week started well enough for the Virginia baseball team. The Cavaliers won a 2-1 pitchers' duel against VMI for their 11th straight victory, but things took a definite turn for the worse when the 'Hoos traveled to Chapel Hill.
The weekend series with #11 North Carolina began with a 14-inning, five-hour marathon Friday and concluded with another extra-inning affair Sunday. Thirty-four innings, 10 hours and 13 minutes of game action later, the Cavaliers had three painful losses and a 4-6 ACC record (19-9 overall).
“It was a great series,” said UVa coach Brian O'Connor. “On paper it was two evenly-matched teams, but unfortunately on Friday and Sunday we went into the final inning with the lead and couldn't hold them down.”
O'Connor got what he wanted from his pitching staff as the Virginia hurlers kept things close. Ultimately, however, it was base-running errors and an inability to capitalize on numerous scoring chances that cost the Cavs. In all, Virginia left 34 men on base during the three-game series.
“That's about as much as you could ask for,” O'Connor said. “When you're on the road, playing against one of the top teams in the league, all you want is to have a chance to win the game late and we just couldn't hold on. We missed out on way too many opportunities and part of it is because those guys are good and part of it is because we didn't rise up and get the job done.”
Virginia 2, VMI 1
Freshman starter Pat McAnaney recorded his second win and ace closer Casey Lambert picked up his seventh save as the pitching duo fanned 11 VMI hitters and allowed just four hits.
Tim Henry and shortstop Mike Campagna scored Virginia's only runs after both reached base the hard way, being hit by a pitch.
North Carolina 8, Virginia 7 (14 innings)
In a back-and-forth contest, Virginia sent Carolina ace Andrew Miller to the showers early, but could not capitalize on Miller's unusual wildness (seven hit batters). The Cavaliers left eight men on base, six in scoring position.
Matt Avery made his first Friday night start of the season, allowing six runs (four earned) and sitting down six Tar Heels via the strikeout in six innings of work. Robert Poutier's streak of 20.1 scoreless innings ended and the Virginia freshman took the loss, yielding the game-winning run on Jay Cox's RBI single in the bottom of the 14th.
Ryan Zimmerman led the offensive effort for the Wahoos, going 5 for 6 and reaching base with two walks. Zimmerman scored three times and added an RBI.
North Carolina 10, Virginia 5
The Tar Heels used a four-run seventh to stretch a 6-5 lead to 10-5 and take the second game in the series. Zimmerman continued his hot hitting with a 3-for-4 effort, adding three RBI and scoring twice, including a two-run homer in the first. Freshman first baseman Sean Doolittle mashed his team-leading fifth home run in the first inning.
Mike Ballard (5-2) lasted just three innings, allowing six earned runs on five UNC hits. Mike Schwimer and Alex Smith combined for four innings of relief, giving up four runs on four hits and walking five batters.
North Carolina 3, Virginia 2 (11 innings)
Virginia continued to struggle with men in scoring position, leaving 11 runners on base, including seven in scoring position. That wasted a superb outing by senior Jeff Kamrath, who allowed just one run in 8.1 innings.
Sophomore closer Casey Lambert suffered his first loss of the season, allowing the tying run in the 10th and the winning run in the 11th.
Georgia Tech 13-2 (23-6 overall)
By the Numbers
Earned Run Average 3.15
Team Leaders (Pitching leaders require a minimum of 20 innings of work and hitters require at least 20 plate appearances)
Earned Run Average - Jeff Kamrath 2.65
Coach Brian O'Connor
Coach Brian O'ConnorThe Wahoos will travel 90 minutes down Route 29 South to Lynchburg to face the Liberty Flames today. The Flames are not the typical mid-week opponent, standing at 18-8 overall. Virginia and Liberty have played six games against three common opponents, with the Flames winning all six (2-0 vs. ODU, 3-0 vs. Bucknell, 1-0 vs. JMU) while the 'Hoos have recorded a 5-1 record (1-1 vs. ODU, 3-0 vs. Bucknell, 1-0 vs. JMU).
This weekend Virginia will play a critical three-game series at home against ACC rival N.C. State. While a three-game sweep would put the 'Hoos over .500 in the league, O'Connor notes that winning three in a row is not as easy as the Cavs made it look a season ago.
“The scary thing about what happened last year is that people think that sweeping a team is easy because we did it five times last season,” he said. “It's not easy.”
O'Connor says the key is to take one game at a time and execute better in the clutch. “We just need to take advantage of opportunities and play good baseball and if we do that we'll have chance to win each of those ball games,” he said.
Liberty Flames (18-8, 4-5 Big South - 13-4 at home)
The Flames took two of three from Big South rival Winthrop and will be playing their fourth game in four days when they toss out the first pitch this afternoon in Lynchburg.
The Flames are hitting .272 as a team with a .376 slugging percentage on the strength of 43 doubles, 10 triples and nine home runs. Left fielder Phillip Laurent leads the team with a .337 batting average, while senior designated hitter Jeff Brown has 18 RBI followed by first baseman Aaron Grijalva with 16. Grijalva leads the team with a .556 slugging percentage and is tied for the team lead with three homers. Liberty has scored first in all of its 18 victories and sports a 18-2 mark when scoring first.
From the mound, Liberty hurlers have a solid 3.77 ERA and opponents are batting just .264.
N.C. State Wolfpack (21-9, 5-7 ACC)
The Wolfpack took two of three from Virginia Tech last weekend and enter the series against the 'Hoos in 7th place in the ACC standings.
On the season, the Wolfpack are hitting .315, with a .450 slugging percentage and a .409 on-base percentage. Jake Muyco is State's top hitter at .387, but the big power guy is Aaron Bates, who leads the team with four home runs, 29 RBI and a .583 slugging percentage.
N.C. State has a staff ERA of 4.63. Sophomore righthander Jeff Stallings (4-2, 4.01) will start the first game of the series, while junior lefty Branden Knapp (1-1, 4.33) will start game two and sophomore righty Gib Hobson (4-1, 4.95) will start the series finale.