For the second time in as many days, Virginia Tech baseball found itself with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game with the No. 6 Miami Hurricanes and a freshman coming to the plate.
This time, though, it was Mark Zagunis facing the Hurricane closer E.J. Encinosa, who quickly got the Hokie catcher into an 0-2 hole. Zagunis fought back to even the count at 2-2, then laced a single through the right side to score Gabe Ortiz with the game winner as Tech posted a 3-2 victory on Sunday at English Field.
The win gave the Hokies the series win over the visiting Hurricanes and marked their first ACC series win over a top 10 team since April 2010, when they took two-of-three from then No. 9 Miami. Tech improved to 25-13, 7-11 ACC with the victory as Miami dropped to 25-11, 12-6 in the conference.
The thrilling end to the game – in fact the entire ninth inning – was totally opposite of the afternoon’s first eight frames.
Both team’s starters, Miami’s Steven Ewing and Tech’s Andrew Aizenstadt did very little wrong in a total of 16 innings pitched for the pair.
Ewing allowed just one run on one hit – a solo home run to Brendon Hayden with one out in the third frame – while retiring 17 of the last 18 batters he faced. He struck out seven and issued one walk, to Zagunis in the eight, which extended his reached base streak to 30 in a row.
On the other side, Aizenstadt allowed just one ball to reach the outfield through the first five frames – a single to Chantz Mack. In eight frames, he struck out seven batters, both season-highs, while surrendering just three hits and one. No Hurricane touched third base in those eight innings.
In the ninth, though, he walked Dale Carey, which ended his day and brought in Tech closer Jake Joyce. In a controversial call, Peter O’Brien was hit by a pitch, and the bases were then loaded on a sac bunt attempt, that failed to get an out.
Mack then roped the first pitch he saw into right field, scoring a pair to give Miami a 2-1 lead and putting runners on the corners, still with no outs.
Joyce ended the threat without another runner scoring as he struck out the next two Hurricanes and got the final out with a grounder to second.
Saturday’s hero Alex Perez opened the ninth against Encinosa with a single and moved to second when Ortiz was hit by a pitch. After a strikeout, Johnny Morales reached first to load the bases when his sac bunt attempt just rolled untouched between the pitcher and third baseman.
Looking to tie the game however he could, Tyler Horan stepped to the plate and didn’t even get a chance to swing the bat as Encinosa’s first pitch hit Horan on the leg, his team-leading 10th HBP of the season, which set up Zagunis’ heroics.
Neither starter figured in the decision, as Joyce picked up the win and is now 3-0 out of the pen, while Encinosa falls to 2-2 with the loss.
Tech will take a day off before getting back to the field to face Coastal Carolina on Tuesday at English Field. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Additional Notes: Johnny Morales had eight assists at shortstop, one shy of the school record done just three times. Andrew Aizenstadt’s day pushed his season total to 40 strikeouts, the most on the team, while Jake Joyce’s 35 is tied for third. Mark Zagunis also stole a base in the eighth, his 12th of the season. The team is 18-6 this season when a player steals a base. Brendon Hayden’s home run was his second of the season, the team’s 32nd of which 21 have been solo shots. With the win, the 2012 Hokies become only the third team since 2000 to have at least 25 wins before its 40th game played, tying the 2010 squad at 38 games. Today’s win was the team’s 14th at home, tying last year’s mark. This was the team’s 18th comeback win of the season, the 13th when trailing as late as the fifth inning. It’s the fifth walk-off win of the season and the third victory when trailing heading into their at-bat in the ninth.
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