Miami, Fla. native Alex Perez stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out. The ACC game between the No. 6 Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies was knotted at 4-4 on Saturday afternoon at English Field.
The freshman just stood there and never took the bat off his shoulder, not because he was overwhelmed by the situation, but because he watched four straight pitches fail to find the strike zone. He then just trotted to first, forcing home Chad Pinder with the winning run to give the Hokies a 5-4 win.
It marked the fourth walk-off win of the season for the Hokies and the 17th comeback win of the year, 12 of which have now come when the team has been behind as late as the fifth inning.
In beating No.6 Miami, it was the highest ranked team Tech has defeated in the regular season since beating No. 3 Georgia Tech on April 24, 2010. Ironically, it is now the highest ranked team Tech has beaten at home since also knocking off the No. 3 Yellow Jackets on March 21, 2009.
The game started, though, with the Hurricanes jumping out to a 2-0 lead as they plated a single run in the first on a Peter O’Brien double scoring Tyler Palmer and in the third on a bases loaded walk by Palmer scoring Stephen Perez.
The Hokies (24-13, 6-11 ACC) tied the game at two in the bottom of the fourth with Ronnie Shaban singling home Tyler Horan, who led off with a double, and later he came home on a Brendon Hayden RBI single.
Miami (25-10, 12-5) responded with a pair of its own in the top of the fifth with Jarred Mederos notching an RBI on a fielder’s choice, which scored Brad Fieger, and another fielder’s choice brought in a second run with Michael Broad getting credit for the RBI when Chantz Mack came home.
Tech cut its deficit to 4-3 in the home half of the fifth when Horan, who was 3-for-3 in the game, hit his second double of the afternoon to score Perez, who led off the inning with a double.
The Hokies then tied the game in the eighth. Andrew Rash singled to lead off the inning, moved to second on a bunt from Horan, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Shaban’s sac fly, his second RBI of the day.
The team was able to make the comeback thanks to its bullpen throwing 4.2 innings of scoreless ball, allowing just one hit and one walk over the span. Tyler McIntyre relieved starter Marc Zecchino, who went 4.1 innings, and finished off the fifth and sixth. Clark Labitan (5-1) retired the last seven Hurricanes which included three strikeouts to pick up the win in relief.
The bottom of the ninth started with Pinder doubling to right field – his 19th of the season – and moving to third on Hayden’s second single of the afternoon. Gabe Ortiz worked a walk to load the bases for Perez.
Adam Sargent (0-2) suffered the loss for Miami, who used four pitchers after the sixth inning. Starter Eric Whaley went six frames, before relievers AJ Salcines (1 IP), Eric Nedeljkovic (0.1), Chris Diaz (0.1) and Sargent (0.1) took over.
The two teams will play the rubber match of the series on Sunday with first pitch from English Field scheduled for noon.
Additional Notes: The team’s largest crowd of the year – 2,645 – watched the Hokies register the win. An interesting trend that continues is that Tech is 13-1 when Chad Pinder doubles. Mark Zagunis singled in the third to extend his reached base streak to 29 straight, the longest since 2009 (Anthony Sosnoskie, 41). Tech has registered nine walk-off wins under Coach Pete Hughes, four this season. Tanner McIntyre has now inherited 11 runners this season, with just three scoring. Tech’s bench has outplayed its opponent all year, hanging nine losses on relievers, while its pen is a combined 16-2 with eight saves.
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