DURHAM — It wasn’t the most dramatic walkoff win ever. In fact, it was rather anticlimactic.
But when it comes to the postseason, how you win doesn’t matter just as long as you do.
For the North Carolina baseball team on Wednesday, victory came in the bottom of the 10th inning when Caleb Roberts — a freshman barely hitting his weight — got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
His unlikely RBI forced in the decisive run and lifted to the Tar Heels a 3-2 win against Virginia at Durham Bulls Athletic Park that keeps them in contention to advance out of pool play at the ACC tournament.
“I’ve never been in a game with a walk-off hit by pitch, but a win’s a win,” said UNC third baseman Ike Freeman, whose walk to load the bases set the stage for Roberts’ final at bat. “We e just keep trying to put quality at-bats together. That’s what we did. So we got it done.”
Seeded fifth, UNC (39-17) would have been eliminated from this weekend’s championship phase of the tournament with a loss to the Cavaliers. It can now advance to the semifinals with a win against No. 4 Miami on Friday.
The Tar Heels are in that advantageous position because of their ability to wiggle out of trouble and find a way to win on a night in which hits were hard to come by.
They extended the game into extra innings when reliever Joey Lancellotti escaped a bases loaded, one out jam in the top of the ninth. They ended it an inning later with a rally pieced together without anyone putting their bat on the ball.
Newly minted ACC Rookie of the Year Aaron Sabato got things started with a four-pitch walk that signaled the end of the night for Virginia pitcher Andrew Abbott. He advanced to second on a wild pitch by reliever Daniel Ortiz, prompting the Cavaliers to intentionally walk the next hitter, Danny Serretti.
After Freeman worked out his traditional walk to load the bases, UNC coach Mike Fox sent the light-hitting Roberts up to pinch-hit for left fielder Dylan Enwiller.
“Caleb doesn’t strike out very much. Out of all of our guys, he’s probably got the least number of strikeouts per at-bats,” Fox said of the 190-pound Roberts, who has fanned only 19 times in 134 at bats but is hitting just .209 for the season.
“Caleb runs pretty well, not that a double play was in order there because they had the infield in, but I just felt like he would move the ball. He looks at the ball pretty good.”
In this case, he watched an inside slider ride in on him and plunk him on the hip and win he game.
“We did just enough,” Fox said. “We’ve certainly gotta be a little better offensively to keep winning.”
UNC was outhit 9-8 in what turned into a pitcher’s duel between Tyler Baum and the Virginia duo of starter Chesdin Harrington and reliever Abbott. The Tar Heels go their runs on a two-out single by Freeman in the fourth and a Serretti double just inside the line at first in the sixth.
The Cavaliers finally broke through against Baum in the seventh on a solo homer by Nate Eikhoff before tying the score in the eighth when Brendan Rivoli greeted Lancellotti with an RBI single.
That set the stage for the Tar Heels’ walkoff win in the 10th, a victory that helped erase the sting of a series loss to rival NC State on the final week of the regular season,.
“It’s a new season. It’s the postseason, whatever happened in the past,” Freeman said. “I mean, we did come off a tough weekend, but you’ve just gotta let that go. The postseason is when you step up and you play your best game.”
Here’s a recap of the rest of Wednesday’s ACC tournament action:
Boston College 5, Louisville 1
Dan Metzdorf threw a three-hitter, Jake Alu drove in three runs as the 12th-seeded Eagles (31-26) upset the tournament’s top seed and became the first team in the field to earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
BC’s win was its second in as many days after beating eighth-seeded Clemson in 11 innings on Tuesday.
Metzdorf struck out seven with four walks and allowed only one extra-base hit during his first career complete game. He got plenty of offensive support from Alu, who had a two-run single in the fourth inning and an RBI double in the eighth.
Louisville has the tournament’s top seed for the third time in five years, but has yet to win the championship.
Georgia Tech 12, Notre Dame 6
Jackson Webb hit a two-run double and scored twice, Amos Willingham allowed six hits in six innings and Georgia Tech eliminated Notre Dame.
Webb’s hit down the right-field line ignited a five-run fourth inning that broke the game open for the second-seeded Yellow Jackets (39-16). Tech also got a run-scoring double from Kyle McCann while Nick Wilhite (2 RBIs) and Luke Waddell knocked in runs for a 6-1 lead.
The Yellow Jackets scored in all but the first, second and fifth innings while getting 13 hits. Five Notre Dame errors also helped, including a muffed two-out pop-up in the seventh that fell between three players near home plate and led to two unearned runs.
Willingham (7-2) allowed two runs and struck out four for Tech, which meets Duke on Friday with a chance to reach Saturday’s semifinals. Keyton Gibson got the save.