One out away from a dramatic win in the ACC baseball tournament in Salem, Va., Virginia allowed three straight hits in the bottom of the ninth and absorbed a sudden 6-5 loss to North Carolina State yesterday that knocked it from the tournament.
Second-seeded Virginia (42-13) pulled ahead in the top of the ninth on a two-out, RBI single by No. 9 hitter Tim Henry, but the sixth-seeded Wolfpack (36-20) rallied in the bottom of the inning against senior reliever Canon Hickman.
Hickman retired N.C. State's first two batters before Dustin Knight lined a base hit through the left side. Eric Taylor followed with a fly ball to deep left-center that fell just out of Henry's reach, blown away from him by the stiff wind that had challenged outfielders all day. It fell for a double, scoring Knight to tie the game.
Jake Muyco brought Taylor in with the winning run moments later, slapping a 1-2 pitch down the first base line, where it bounced over Joe Koshansky's glove and into right field.
"That's a tough one to lose," said Virginia Coach Brian O'Connor, whose team lost to No. 7 seed Duke by the same score on Wednesday. "We have taken a tremendous amount of pride all year long in winning those kinds of games."
Seeded higher than fourth for the first time in 19 years, the Cavs entered the tournament with a 12-2 record in one-run games and with 18 wins after trailing or being tied in the late innings.
Up against N.C. State senior Vern Sterry, the most dominant pitcher in the ACC, Virginia scored the first two runs, watched the Wolfpack tie it and take the lead, then scrapped back with single runs in the sixth and seventh to push ahead again, 4-3.
N.C. State chased Virginia starter Andrew Dobies by opening the eighth with a single and a double. Hickman came on, hit a batter and walked in the tying run, but he recovered to get three straight outs to preserve the tie and set the stage for Henry in the top of the ninth.
No. 9 seed Maryland was knocked from the tournament as well with a season-ending, 14-0 loss to fifth-seeded North Carolina.
-- Jim Reedy