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Cavaliers win their 2016 ACC Baseball Championship finale
DURHAM, N.C. (theACC.com) – Virginia didn’t leave this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship empty-handed.
After dropping their first two games in the round-robin tournament, the third-seeded Cavaliers took out their frustration on second-seeded Louisville on Saturday night with a nine-hit, seven-run fifth inning. That pretty much settled the issue, as Virginia cruised on to a 7-2 victory before a crowd of 5,188 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Both teams had been eliminated from tournament contention prior to the start of the game, but each has its sights set on NCAA tournament berths as they look deeper into postseason.
Despite the bump in the road against the Cavaliers, Louisville (47-12) remains in prime position for one of the eight national seeds to be announced Sunday night. Virginia (37-20) hopes to open its national title defense at home next week as a regional host. The complete NCAA Tournament field will be announced at noon on Monday.
Saturday night’s game took an unexpected turn with Virginia’s big fifth inning, which saw the Cavaliers send 11 men to the plate against ACC Pitcher of the Year Drew Harrington (11-2) and reliever Lincoln Henzman. Harrington, who entered the game with a 1.66 ERA, had allowed only a leadoff infield single to Ernie Clement and faced the minimum 12 batters through four innings prior to Virginia’s uprising.
Pavin Smith led off the fifth with a base hit, and he ended the half-inning with an RBI single to drive in the Cavaliers’ seventh run. Virginia rapped out six hits in succession – including doubles by Daniel Pinero and Charlie Cody, plus a two-run single by Jack Gerstenmaier – before Clement made the first out of the inning on sacrifice fly.
By then it was 5-0, and Virginia collected three more singles and scored two more runs before a double play finally ground the hit parade to a halt.
Louisville picked up its first run in the bottom of the fifth on Logan Taylor’s RBI single, and Corey Ray hit his 15th homer of the season to cap the scoring in the seventh.
Ironically, Virginia did not record another hit after the fifth inning and finished with 10 hits as a team. The big fifth inning also somewhat overshadowed the solid effort by Virginia pitchers Adam Haseley, Tyler Shambora, Daniel Lynch and Tommy Doyle, who combined to limit the Cardinals to four hits while walking five batters and striking out seven. Haseley, the starter, allowed two hits in five innings to improve to 9-3 on the year
The win was the 595th at Virginia for head coach Brian O’Connor, making him the winningest coach in school history as he guides his team into this year’s NCAA tournament.