Day 2 at the 2013 ACC Baseball Tournament provided just as much excitement as Day 1 did, with the top seed in the tournament in action and other big-time programs vying to make it out of pool play and into the tournament final.
North Carolina was that top team, in action against Miami, while Virginia was also taking on Georgia Tech while Virginia Tech ended the day's action with a showdown against Florida State.
Needless to say, the stakes have never been higher for many of these players in their collegiate careers. Guys are leaving it all on the field, and that's led to an exciting two days of baseball in Durham.
Let's take a look at how Day 2 unfolded.
Virginia defeats Georgia Tech, 8-2
Virginia dominated Georgia Tech on Thursday in Durham behind a superb pitching performance from senior Scott Silverstein, who struck out six and allowed just two earned runs in nearly nine innings of play.
Georgia Tech took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after Kyle Wren tripled to right center field, as noted by Georgia Tech Baseball on Twitter:
GeorgiaTech Baseball @GTBaseball
Kyle Wren smashes his 18th career triple to the wall in RC and the Jackets are off and running in B-1. #GoJackets #ACCBase5/23/2013, 3:15:23 PM
Senior Brandon Thomas would then single down the infield line to bring home Wren.
Following a scoreless second inning, a fielding error by Georgia Tech in the third inning opened the door for Virginia, as Nate Irving scored from third to tie the game at one run apiece. After a Reed Gragnani double to right field pushed Mike Papi to third base, freshman Joe McCarthy flied out deep to center field, bringing home Papi to give the Cavaliers a lead they would never surrender.
Virginia went yard twice in the fourth inning as sophomores Nick Howard and Kenny Towns homered to center and left field respectively. As Virginia Baseball on Twitter pointed out, it was the first time the team had hit back-to-back homers this season:
Virginia Baseball @UVABaseball
Howard and Towns hit back-to-back HR in 4th to give #UVABase 4-1 lead. It's the 1st time this year UVa has gone back-to-back.5/23/2013, 4:13:40 PM
Zane Evans would single and go on to score a run for Georgia Tech in the bottom of the fourth to narrow the gap, but it would prove meaningless after Virginia poured in three more runs in the top of the sixth inning to increase its lead to five.
The Cavs began the sixth inning with a bang, as Brandon Downes homered to left-center field to fire up Virginia's offense. Soon after Downes' monster shot, freshman pitcher Joe Wiseman was called on to replace Dusty Isaacs on the mound for the Yellow Jackets.
Before Georgia Tech ended the inning, Cole Pitts would replace Wiseman and Virginia would build a 7-2 lead.
Downes would add another run to the scoreboard for Virginia in the seventh inning after a throwing error by the Yellow Jackets allowed him to reach third base after stealing second.
Silverstein proved too good to beat over the final three innings. Freshman Josh Sborz would ultimately replace him on the mound for Virginia's final out but there's no mistaking who was the most valuable player for the Cavaliers on Thursday.
Here's a look at Silverstein, Nick Howard and coach Brian O'Conner meeting with the media after the win (via Virginia Baseball):
Virginia Baseball @UVABaseball
#UVABase meets w/media following 8-2 win over Ga Tech. @UVACoachOConnor @silvertweet29 @HowieBallGame33 http://t.co/zRJKvZxMyl5/23/2013, 6:36:14 PM
Next up, Georgia Tech will play Virginia Tech on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.
Virginia will have Friday off before taking on Florida State at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday morning.
North Carolina Pummels Miami, 10-0
North Carolina's first taste of the ACC tournament couldn't have been any better. Getting three runs in the first inning and a dominating, complete game performance from left-handed pitcher Kent Emanuel, the Tar Heels never looked back from a hot start and defeated Miami 10-0 in the second game of the day.
The Tar Heels are the ACC's No. 1 seed in the tournament for a reason, scoring a 10th run in the bottom half of the 8th inning to invoke the mercy rule and avoid playing the final inning.
All in all, it was an impressive display on both sides of the ball for UNC.
Emanuel set down the side in order in the first inning, and North Carolina's bats were chomping at the bit to get going against Miami starter Andrew Suarez. Three straight singles opened up the scoring, the last of which came off the bat of third baseman Colin Moran—North Carolina's new all-time single-season RBI leader.
Moran's single gave North Carolina a 1-0 lead without an out in the bottom half of the first frame, and as Harold Gutmann reported on Twitter, it gave Moran one of North Carolina baseball's most impressive records:
Harold Gutmann @haroldgut
Colin Moran sets the single-season school record with his 84th RBI. UNC up 1-0 over Miami in the 1st5/23/2013, 7:21:57 PM
It didn't get any better for Miami from there.
Cody Stubbs singled to load the bases, and Ben Holberton got the first two of his three RBI on the day with a single back up the box to give the Tar Heels a 3-0 lead and a commanding presence in this game that they never gave up going forward.
Stubbs added two more runs with a two-RBI single in the third, giving the Tar Heels a 5-0 advantage after three innings of play.
The big story for the early part of the game was Emanuel, who had a no-hit bid going through 4.2 innings of play. After it was broken up by Brandon Lopez, Wade Rogers felt no need to stick around for any more of the action:
Wade Rogers @WadeRogersGT
Miami gets their first hit off of Kent Emanuel with two outs in the 5th and it's time to head back to the hotel.5/23/2013, 8:15:05 PM
Rogers was right, as North Carolina tacked on two more runs in the sixth and seventh innings before reaching the final frame. Stubbs, who would finish 4-of-5 with three RBI, ended the game with a double down the line that scored Moran and let the Tar Heels get an extra inning of rest before tomorrow's matchup with Clemson.
Holberton was also a standout at the plate, finishing 3-of-4 with three RBI, while new RBI king Moran was 2-of-4 with an RBI and three runs scored. The Tar Heels would finish with 18 hits and a clean zero in the error department—representative of the stellar defense all afternoon by all nine players in the field.
Only four Miami players registered a hit off Emanuel in the disappointing defeat. First baseman Brad Fieger earned high honors for reaching base twice, once on a hit and once on a walk, but the Hurricanes couldn't do anything with runners in scoring position in the rare chances they had to do so.
Miami will take on North Carolina State on Friday morning at 11 a.m. ET, while North Carolina will return to the field on Friday night against Clemson at 7 p.m. ET.
Virginia Tech Walks Off Over Florida State, 3-2
We've already seen a team (Georgia Tech) win in dramatic fashion in the opening days of the ACC tournament, but Virginia Tech decided to add its name to the list of teams who want to add flair to the characteristics they possess.
Specifically, Virginia Tech right fielder Mark Zagunis did it all for the Hokies in this one.
Zagunis was involved in all three of the Hokies' runs (two RBI, one run) on Thursday evening, and hit the walk-off home run that Virginia Tech fans will remember for quite some time to give his team the 3-2 victory and a shot at making it out of the pool with a win over Georgia Tech on Friday.
Thru the first two thirds of the game, it looked like neither team would score at all.
In what was a pitcher's duel through the first six innings, both Virginia Tech starter Brad Markey and Florida State starter Luke Weaver refused to budge. Both guys were pitching a shutout thru the first six frames, and Markey got thru seven unscathed.
Virginia Tech would break through in the bottom of the seventh.
A leadoff single from Tyler Horan helped the Hokies get going, and Zagunis started his heroics with a triple that scored Horan from first and opened up the scoring. He would come around to score after a sacrifice fly from Andrew Rash, and the Hokies would have to settle for just two in the inning.
The Hokies threatened again in the bottom of the eighth.
Sean Keselica doubled with two outs in the inning, and a Chad Pinder single to right figured to give the Hokies some more cushion heading into the final inning. With FSU's likely starting quarterback for the upcoming season lurking in right field, though, it was hardly a sure thing at all.
Jameis Winston fired a bullet to the plate to cut down Keselica, keep the score at 2-0 and give the Seminoles the momentum they needed to mount a comeback in the top-half of the ninth inning against the Markey—who did not give up a run through eight innings of work.
Florida State didn't care in the ninth.
Backs against the wall, Stephen McGee doubled to open up the inning. A groundout moved him to third, where he would score off of a ground-rule double from Casey Smit just one batter later.
Josh Delph, pinch-hitting for Winston, would then line a single thru to the outfield to bring pinch-runner Brett Knief around to score, and give the Seminoles some life heading into the bottom half of the frame.
Unfortunately, Zagunis still had an at-bat left.
He blasted a pitch from Gage Smith over the Blue Monster in left center field, and the Hokies then walked away with the win and the chance to move along after Friday's slate of games are completed.
As Jeff Fischel put it, Zagunis' home run was a thing of beauty:
Jeff Fischel @JeffFischel
Must See Moment: Mark Zagunis hits walk-off HR. #Hokies win 3-2 & teammates douse him with H2O afterward. http://t.co/ichnP4OrUc @theACCDN5/24/2013, 2:15:20 AM
It also was the second time Florida State, who fell victim to the late home run bug against Georgia Tech on Wednesday, was unable to close out a close game in the final few frames. The two losses mean that the Noles will not be able to win their pool or move on to the championship round.
Virginia Tech will get back on the field Friday at 3:00 p.m. ET against Georgia Tech, while Florida State won't return to action until Saturday, when the Noles will battle Virginia at 11:00 a.m. ET in their final game of pool play.
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