Jake Knapp of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates a strike out against the Virginia Cavaliers in the fourth inning during the ACC Baseball Championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on May 25, 2023 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
DURHAM, N.C. – Jake Knapp threw 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out five as North Carolina topped Virginia 10-2 in the second game of Thursday’s action at the ACC Baseball Championship.
Knapp utilized a changeup, a pitch usually outside his repertoire, to keep the Virginia hitters off balance.
“The change up I haven’t used much all year. So that, I think, is something that wouldn’t show up normally on a scouting report when looking at my own game,” Knapp said. “So that was big, just to kind of get them thinking a little more and able to land the slider for a strike. Everything, when I do that with my off-speed pitch, my fastball can play up a little bit and that’s my best pitch. So landing the off-speed for a strike really opened things up for me.”
Knapp walked just two batters, and despite allowing five hits and two runs, kept the top of Virginia’s powerful batting order at bay and North Carolina’s hopes of repeating as ACC champions alive.
“Knapp was really, really good. His change up to our left-handed hitters was good,” said Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor. “He was locating all of his pitches. For him to go into the sixth inning was an impressive performance by him. And it felt like we were behind in the count all the time and couldn’t get a lot of advantage counts against him.”
The top of the Cavaliers lineup, including highly-ranked MLB prospects Jake Gelof and Kyle Teel, along with Griff O’Ferrall and Ethan O’Donnell, mustered just one hit and two walks in 14 at-bats in the game.
“When I’m looking at this box score, the key is that those first four guys, I mean, not that Anderson and Saucke are bad, but those first four, they’re tough as anybody in the country. And to only give up one hit to those first four, that was a big deal for us to have success,” said North Carolina head coach Scott Forbes.
North Carolina capitalized on eight walks handed out by Virginia’s pitchers, pushing five of those base runners across the plate.
Tomas Frick had three hits and five RBI, including a three-run double in the bottom of the eighth that missed being a grand slam by little more than a foot, to lead the Tar Heels over the Cavaliers. Patrick Alvarez, Alberto Osuna, and Colby Wilkerson each had two hits and an RBI in the win.
“I feel like all together, we’ve had a good approach the past couple weeks,“ Frick said. “And we just work hard before games, and really hone in on what our approach is, and sticking with it. And today, everyone was trying to be as calm as possible in the box and put up good at bats.”
Virginia leaves the ACC Championship with a 45-12 record and will have to wait to see if they will host a regional when the NCAA Tournament seeds are revealed on Monday, May 29.
The win puts North Carolina (35-21) into the 5 p.m. semifinal on Saturday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
NOTEBOOK – Only one semifinal berth remains to be determined tomorrow, when Boston College faces Clemson at 11 a.m. … North Carolina has won seven consecutive games in the ACC Championship. Their last loss in the tournament was two years to the date – a 5-3 loss to Pitt at Truist Field in Charlotte, N.C. on May 25, 2021.
Friday at the ACC Baseball Championship
11 a.m. – (7)Boston College vs. (3)Clemson (Pool C)
3 p.m. – (5)Duke vs. (4)Miami (Pool D)
7 p.m. – (8)Notre Dame vs. (1)Wake Forest (Pool A)
All games during pool play and both semifinals will be carried on the ACC Network. Each game will air live on Sirius XM ACC Radio channel 371.