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The sophomore's catch at the top of the wall in the 11th preserved the Cavaliers' 8-7 win over No. 2 UNC.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — If the Virginia-North Carolina baseball game actually had meant something, it might have been an instant classic.
And, don’t think that the principals will be forgetting UVa’s 8-7 victory any time soon.
North Carolina rallied from a three-run deficit to send the game into extra innings and was on the verge of overcoming a four-run deficit in the 11th inning when UVa sophomore Mike Papi caught a Skye Bolt fly ball at the top of the left-field fence.
“To be honest with you, I thought it was gone,” said catcher Nate Irving, who already had tossed his helmet toward the UVa dugout in disgust.
There was one out and second-ranked North Carolina had runners on first and third when Bolt, the Tar Heels’ cleanup hitter, came to bat. Landon Lassiter tagged up at third and scored on the play, but pinch runner Mike Massardo took off from first and never looked back.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a game end like that,” UVa coach Brian O’Connor said.
Papi’s relay came to UVa second baseman Reid Gragani, who literally walked the ball back to first base to complete the game-ending double play.
“I think the runner was all the way to third base,” first baseman Jared King said. “There was no way he could make it back. Man, that was one of the craziest double plays I’ve ever seen.”
Seventh-ranked Virginia (45-9, 22-8 ACC) had scored four runs in the top of the 11th, with the eventual game-winning RBI coming on a single to right by King, a fifth-year senior from Radford.
“I was something like 0-for-my-last 10,” King said. “I didn’t think it would mean anything at the time. Obviously, when it ends up making the difference in the game, you’re glad it happened.”
The Tar Heels (46-7, 20-6) had rallied from a three-run, eighth-inning deficit one night earlier and beaten the Cavaliers 8-5 at Boshamer Stadium. That clinched a regular-season Coastal Division title and the top seed for the ACC tournament starting Wednesday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Virginia finished with the second-best ACC record but Atlantic Division champion Florida State will get the No. 2 seed. UVa will be the third seed and will meet Virginia Tech in the first round either Wednesday or Thursday.
The Hokies and Georgia Tech were the only teams to win two games from Virginia in its 10 three-game ACC series.
“All year long, we’ve been able to win a pivotal game in a series,” O’Connor said. “Last night was as difficult a loss as you possibly could have, and I think a lot of people would have expected our team to come in here today and lay down.”
Senior Whit Mayberry, just over a year removed from elbow surgery, made his second start of the season — and second start of the week — and held the Tar Heels to a single run over the first five innings.
The score was tied 1-1 before Virginia scored three runs in the top of the eighth, a lead that three relievers were unable to protect over the next two frames.
O’Connor already had decided not to use junior closer Kyle Crockett, unhittable for most of the season but the victim of a six-run eighth-inning uprising Friday night.
Aside from junior Austin Young, who walked the only batter he faced, the Cavaliers went with three freshmen — Nathan Kirby, Josh Sborz and David Rosenberger — over the last six innings.
Rosenberger got credit for the win with a big assist, of course, to Papi.
“It was a great catch,” O’Connor said, “but Mike told me it would not have been a home run.”
Still, if all Papi had done was keep it in the park, pinch-runner Massardo clearly would have tied the score.
“Just anything to help the team,” said Papi, the ACC’s batting leader, who was 0-for-3 but walked three times.
Virginia had the No. 3 RPI in the nation prior to the Carolina series and continued to set itself up for home games in the NCAA tournament.
“We ended the season with the most wins in ACC play,” said O’Connor in reference to a pair of UNC games canceled by weather. “ I would be absolutely stunned if we are not one of the top eight national seeds.”
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