Hokies swept…again

Jacob Emert, SportsWar, on April 28, 2014
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Friday night vs. North Carolina | Tar Heels 3 – Hokies 2

WP: Trevor Kelly (1-1) 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
LP: Sean Keselica (3-3) 8 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO

Sean Keselica gave the Hokies his fourth consecutive ace-like start in the month of April, but the Hokies were unable to capitalize on the eight strong innings from the lefty from New Jersey as they fell 3-2 to North Carolina.

The Hokies and the Heels moved into the sixth inning of a scoreless game after the Hokies failed to convert on a pair of two-on, one-out situations and Keselica limited UNC to just two base runners.

In the sixth, the Hokies jumped out to a 2-0 lead after Kyle Wernicki and Logan Bible singled with the bases loaded and one out. It was one of three hits for Logan Bible on the night. Ricky Surum grounded out into a 5-1-3 double play with the bases loaded and one out to end the inning.

Tech’s lead didn’t last long.

Two walks and a single loaded the bases for UNC with no outs in the bottom of the sixth, but Keselica looked like he was going to miraculously work out it unscathed. After striking out Landon Lassiter looking on three pitches for the first out, he forced Skye Bolt to hit a ground ball to second baseman Alex Perez. Perez fielded and flipped to Surum at short, who jumped over a sliding Tar Heel and fired to first base. The throw, a little low but perfectly manageable, was dropped by first baseman Brendon Hayden, allowing two Tar Heels runners to cross the plate and the game to be tied.

After a scoreless seventh, a strikingly similar situation led to the UNC lead in the bottom of the eighth. With the bases loaded and one out, Bolt again grounded to Perez. Perez did his part on the middle infield transfer, but this time Surum’s throw to first base was too high, forcing Hayden off the bag and allowing Adam Pate to touch home safely.

The Hokies have lost six Friday night affairs this season by one run.

Keselica has grown into a legitimate ace since the beginning of April. In his first six starts this season, Keselica never threw more than 5.0 innings in a start and had a 6.23 ERA. All four starts since, three of them coming on Friday nights, have been quality starts. He’s lasted 6.1 innings, 7.1 twice and 8.0 innings with an ERA of 2.15.

Here are the results in those four games:

L (4-3 loss, Miami)
W (3-1 win, Maryland)
ND (3-2 loss, Duke)
L (3-2 loss, UNC)

Saturday vs. North Carolina | Tar Heels 6 – Hokies 4

WP: Benton Moss (3-2) 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO
LP: Brad Markey (2-6) 6 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO

In the first inning of Saturday’s contest the Hokies broke a negative trend that has hurt them most of the year. A pair of two out singles by Hayden and Keselica, both with runners in scoring position, gave the Hokies an early 2-0 lead and reversed the trend of leaving multiple men on base in the early innings of games.

UNC matched the task with two two-out runs of its own in the bottom of the first en route to a 6-4 victory. Markey retired the first two batters of the inning, but surrendered three hits and a walk before retiring the final out of the frame.

The fifth inning was a similar story, with the Hokies scoring a pair of two out runs in the top of the frame and UNC counter-punching in the bottom half. This time, the counter-punch struck a little harder. Five singles and an intentional walk in the bottom of the fifth gave UNC a 5-4 lead, but a 6-3 double play with the bases loaded in which Surum tapped second and fired to first kept Tech’s deficit at one.

The Hokies wouldn’t score again, though. Tech had men on first and second with one out in the eighth, but Logan Bible struck out and Phil Sciretta, pinch-hitting, flew out to center.

Sunday vs. North Carolina | Tar Heels 5 – Hokies 4

WP: Reilly Hovis (6-1) 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO
LP: Luke Scherzer (2-2) 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO

For the third consecutive day, Tech held a lead over the Heels. For the third consecutive day, the Heels beat the Hokies, this time 5-4 on a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.

The Hokies pieced together a run in the first two innings, but gave up three runs and the lead in the bottom of the third.

Neither starting pitcher (for Tech it was Jon Woodcock) was particularly inspiring; both were chased by the end of the fifth inning.

In the top of the fifth inning the Hokies had the bases loaded with one out. Down one run, Wernicki’s sacrifice fly tied it up. Logan Bible then grounded out, the only time he got out in a 3-for-4 day, stranding two men on base.

He had six hits on the weekend — three in Friday night’s game and three on Sunday.

In the top of the eighth inning, again down a run after Tyler Ramirez smacked a solo shot off of Kit Scheetz, the Hokies were poised, not only to tie the game, but to take the lead after having the bases loaded and no outs.

Phil Sciretta singled, moving every runner up one base, keeping the bases loaded and tying the game at four. UNC then went to Trevor Kelley out of the bullpen. Kelley got Miguel Ceballos and Saige Jenco to fly out to shallow outfield, not nearly deep enough for Wernicki to try and tag from third. With two outs Perez flied out to left field for the third out.

The Hokies missed a prime opportunity, not only to take the lead, but to burst it open and crush the Tar Heels’ spirits. Instead, allowing Tech to tie the game but getting out of the jam seemed like a win for UNC.

In the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, one out and the game still tied at four, Tyler Ramirez was able to do his job at the plate. He hit the first pitch he saw to centerfield. Wernicki caught and fired from the outfield, but the throw was a little wide as the fleet-footed Michael Russell slid in safely.

Tech has lost eight straight games, and the Hokies have been swept in four of the past five ACC series.

Here’s what the ACC looks like after this weekend:

Atlantic Division

1: Florida State, 17-7, 33-11
2: Clemson, 12-11, 25-19
3: Wake Forest, 12-12, 26-21
4: Maryland, 9-14, 25-18
5: NC State, 9-15, 24-19
6: Boston College, 8-16, 17-27
7: Notre Dame, 4-17, 17-26

Coastal Division

1: Miami, 19-5, 32-13
2: UVA, 18-6, 37-8
3: Duke, 15-9, 28-17
4: UNC, 13-11, 27-18
5: Georgia Tech, 12-12, 26-19
6: Pitt, 9-12, 19-23
7: VT, 7-17, 18-25-1

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